Skydiving in Tugerah, Memoirs of a First-Timer
Many consider skydiving a very risky and dangerous sport – and it is. A friend of mine couldn’t understand why I would do such a thing. I understand her point of view, but this was something I’ve always wanted to strike off from the bucket list. So on a glorious November morning I jumped off a plane.
Our day began at a Skydiving site in Tugerah, north of Sydney. We were instructed to arrive ahead of our schedule to fill up some mandatory paperwork and although we got there 30 minutes early, we still queued for 2 hours.
While I was watching skydiving previews at the lounge an instructor finally called out my name, I waved at him and he introduced himself. Kent my instructor was a veteran who has been jumping off planes for the past 18 years. This was very pleasant news. He and his co-instructors do 5-10 jumps per day depending on the volume of customers.
We were provided skydiving pants with fabric thick enough for a tent, but surprisingly comfortable. After a 10 minute briefing session our instructors attached the straps and harnesses and we took off.
The lounge and briefing area
A shuttle took us to an airstrip which was at least 20 minutes away from the parachute landing zone. Since we arrived at the site I didn’t feel anxious at all. But then at the airstrip the sight of our cessna plane seriously triggered my fears – It was a tiny 5-seater plane, which to me seemed like something slightly larger than a fishing boat except with wings. I’ve never felt nervous about riding commercial airplanes but getting on this tiny plane was different, I felt very uneasy.
Our petite Cessna plane
The cabin was large enough for the five of us including the pilot. Once we were all onboard the engines roared, the plane sped off and in a few minutes we were up in the clouds. Tugerah is at the Central Coast, our plane flew over vast grassland, forests and the ocean side. I was enjoying the spectacular views so much I didn’t want to get off.
My reverie was interrupted when my instructor suddenly shouted “three minutes!!” my heart started beating, “one minute!!” In a flash I see my sister and her instructor jump-off. Shortly after I was seating on the side of the plane with my feet dangling 14,000 feet from the earth. Once the door was opened the strong wind forced its way in, it was hard to move. But after a few seconds we were finally positioned on the side and then we jumped…
Based on some research, the free fall speed is about 200 kilometers per hour. In the first five seconds, my mind stopped working, I couldn’t think, I could only feel. I felt like a spectator watching something like a sack of rice fall from a plane, except that – I was that sack of rice.
In a few seconds my dive master got us in the standard eagle-like position. He tapped my shoulder which meant I should spread out my arms. I felt the cool mist on my face and realized we were falling through a cloud. As you fall the pull of gravity can be overwhelming and the air pressure begins to pound on your ears. I felt a simultaneous mix of fear, excitement and awe. The sight of the earth below was breathtaking.
The freefall lasted for at least 30 seconds. I was just getting a hang of it when my dive master released the parachute. It was an abrupt stop and I wished it could have been longer. But when you reach 5,000 feet or so they have to break the fall.
At the instant the parachute opened, our weight pulled heavily against it causing the tight strap to move up to my chest and that hurt – a lot. Fortunately my instructor sensed my discomfort and offered to loosen the straps. I was so relieved since it would take at least 10 to 15 minutes more before we landed on the ground.
With the parachute open we were falling at a more relaxed speed. The freefall was the highlight of the jump, but hanging from the parachute as the wind slowly carried us toward the landing zone was equally fun. From that height you’d be overwhelmed by the vastness of the ocean and the marvelous terrain beneath you. If I could’ve floated up there all morning to admire the rugged mountains, endless greens and incredible deep blues I would have. It was so liberating to feel the sky, the wind and the mist around you with no barriers whatsoever.
Kent seamlessly navigated toward the drop zone and we had a perfect landing. The landing process can actually be dangerous. For tandem jumps, you’d need to stretch out your legs like in a seating position, as high as you can to make sure only the instructor’s feet touches the ground. Otherwise, things can go awfully wrong.
A FEW TIPS FOR A FIRST TIMER
Our skydiving site was in Tugerah, in the Central Coast. It’s roughly 1 hour away from Sydney by car. Coming from a farther suburb it can take 1 and a half hours. Skydiving is a sport that requires wide space for landing zones and airfields. So you can expect these sites to be far-out. Some skydiving companies offer free shuttles to and from the city.
First-timers like myself will always jump with a professional skydiver or what they call dive masters. It’s called tandem skydiving. Experienced skydivers can jump on their own as long as the certifications and requirements are provided.
SKYDIVING COSTS (Australia Skydiving sites)
Tandem Skydiving Rates range from $260-$300 AUD (rates are often higher on weekends and vary with the location). We chanced upon a Groupon Special for $195 AUD.
Skydive Australia – We went with this vendor.
$30 AUD Levy to be paid at the site
$99 – $150 AUD – Photos package (photos are grabbed from the video)
$150 – $170 – Photo & DVD packages
$30 Insurance – (This is optional but I recommend it)
Wear light and comfortable clothes that you can easily move in and footwear that won’t slip off. A pair of sneakers is suitable.
You will be asked to arrive 30 minutes before your schedule for briefing and paperwork. Basically, you have to sign some papers confirming that you understand what you’re getting into and that you won’t hold the company liable in case things go wrong. This is where the insurance comes in and I highly recommend it if you are from a foreign country.
Finally, it’s a half-day activity so bring packed food, snacks and drinks because there aren’t any restaurants at the site.
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