I did the UK’s highest legal skydive. Here’s what it’s like.
On the Morning
I wake up – early – on the morning of the big day. This skydive has been booked for a couple months, and I’ve been shockingly calm this whole time. No nerves, no second thoughts, nothing.
Of course, nobody knows I’m doing a skydive. I don’t tell anyone about my travels and extreme sports until I’ve finished them. You could call me the world’s best secret-keeper. Only the girl I’m jumping with knows, and that week, my mum.
So, it’s ~7am and I need to be there around 8. It’s a 40-minute drive to the middle of nowhere in the beautiful English countryside. It’s still overcast and grey. I arrive, park up on a gravel drive, and realise there’s not much time to change my mind now. Was that… nerves?
I meet my friend and sign loads of disclaimers saying that if they push us out the plane to our death it’s our fault. She gets taken outside to try on harnesses since she’s so short they might not fit. I continue into the cafe – a huge lounge with a bar and a whole glass panoramic view of the airfield, morning light pouring in. I don’t eat anything in case I get motion sick and throw up, in case it’s anything like boats or cars. Idk what jumping off a plane is like yet! The weather still isn’t good enough, so we wait, 2 long hours, for the clouds to disperse and the sun to come out. With nothing else to think about and a huge view of the sky, which we’ll soon be in.
We watch a safety video in a shed that shows the correct form once we jump. It instructs us to immediately arch your back like the superman exercise, or a banana, he says. Once the instructor taps you, splay our in the classic skydive pose. Easy.
I place my phone and keys in a locker, zip up a thick blue onesie, and step into a harness, which they yank up into a wedgie. Then some swimming cap helmet completes the ensemble of a human cannonball. I sure am glad to have all that life insurance.
Out in the sun, a cameraman interviews me for the video. I’ve planned this skydive just before my final year, final uni presentation, to top off a travel & extreme sport montage reflecting back on the last couple years. I’ve planned it to show “how I’ve grown, developed” or whatever with get me the degree and show my horrible bosses they can’t do shit. So, to begin the montage, I tell the cameraman “this is the UK’s highest legal skydive” and that I’m nervous, and top it off with a https://youtu.be/qPA4uKurXjgsheepishly grin. As if I don’t live my life like this, on the edge, dangerously.
I get a coach onto the the runway, where an all-black, small-ish propeller plane is waiting. Inside are 2 benches which I straddle with my instructor behind me, who begins to clip himself to my back. The door slams shut, and as the propellers start spinning up, I realise there’s no going back now. It’s a weird feeling that my life is now in “Joel’s” hands. He reassures me he’s done ~1,400 jumps and it’s safe.
The plane lurches into the air, steeply climbing, with no destination except up. Five minutes – we’re above the lovely fields and countryside. Ten minutes – we’re in the clouds. Fifteen minutes – we’re well above the clouds with clear sky above. The pilot of this tiny biplane, who feels more like a taxi driver after this quarter-hour trip, announces we’ve reached target altitude – 15,000 feet.
3, 2, 1, Jump
The pilot now has nothing to do but wait for us to jump. Oh shit.
Nerves now. The side of the plane at the back slides open. It’s loud. Windy. Shit.
I’ve paid for the video footage so my personal cameraman steps forward and hangs on the outside of the plane like Tom Cruise.
Joel, attached to my back, but still not having earnt my trust, and I shuffle forward on this bench we’re straddling, toward the opening. It’s bright. Off the bench. Sitting on the edge of the plane. On top of the world. 15,000 feet up. Legs dangling in the air.
Joel bumps me an inch further so he’s sitting on the edge. Meaning I’m hanging off the edge completely. Wind, height, scary. After a moment, he pushes off.
Blue, white, blue, white. We tumble through the air, rolling. The plane shrinks to a little dot near the sun. Blue, white, blue, white. Banana pose. Joel taps me to spread my arms and legs. We stop rolling and I notice another cameraman filming. I do the world’s highest dap. The wind shmushes my face as I zoom toward the ground. The world comes toward me fast and I think of hitting the hard ground.
After 30 seconds, we pull the parachute which jerks me up and bounce a little. We glide, slowly now, into the clouds.
Joel notices I’m quite the daredevil myself, and not feeling sick yet, so tries to impress me. By spiralling clockwise steeply down through the clouds. Surrounded entirely by white. Can’t see a thing. Cold water droplets cooling my skin. Round and round. Then I emerge from the clouds, feeling sick now, above the countryside. Farmland, fields everywhere. I enjoy the view, awkwardly with this man “Joel” on my back, for 5 minutes.
Joel decides to teach me how to land. “Put your legs together, out straight ahead.” As we glide into a large green field, I follow the instruction with perfect, graceful form. Softly onto the grass as if it was a bed.
As I sit on the grass, still with jelly-legs, the cameraman asks me how it was. I quote someone from I’m a Celeb “Knew I could do it!” That clip goes at the end of the video. Boom, growth covered.
Would I recommend Skydiving?
Yes. Know that there is a risk, get your own life insurance, and then do it. If skydiving from 15,000 feet is on your bucket list, just book a skydive. If you have health conditions that deter you from bungee jumping, do this. Fly like a bird! Or at least, fall… like a bag of custard.