A Different Type Of Air Time.
By Matt Sullivan.
One of the conversations that regularly crops up amoungst surfers and bodyboarders in the new era of surfing is a question that runs along the lines of ” Would you rather get pitted off ya ‘nanna or fly high to the heavens and land a cleanly boosted air?”
As a predominantly dropknee rider, my opportunities to launch airs are pretty slim, so a few years back I got into Skydiving. I guess it’s a short man syndrome type a thing, since riding 99% of my time in the water is spent dialled in with my tube riding, I feel like skydiving helps me make up for my lack of air time in the water!
It’s absolutely bananas to think that when I did my skydive course, I actually took to it well after my first few jumps.
Body control in the sky while falling at an average of 220km/h in a belly to earth position, you basically arch your body hard, put your arms out like a cactus and slightly bend your knees for full stability and control. Doing 360 turns in the sky is basically as easy as shifting your hands slightly like a plane and you rotate!
One thing that’s blown my mind is how tight and quick I can turn and spin in the sky which is almost an exact replication of spinning on a bodyboard. It’s a crazy concept to think about if to you have never done it but it just has so many similarities.
There’s a phrase from Billabong’s marketing in the 80’s and 90’s that runs “Only a surfer knows the feeling”
Surfing activities are very self centred sports. Although I can paddle out with mates, share a good time together and cheer each other on, only you know what that particular wave you rode was like. From your perspective. Every bit of surfing is solely yours. It’s exactly the same with skydiving.
Even being 152 jumps in to date, When I get to the DZ (drop-zone / skydive centre) I’m a good balanced ratio of shitting bricks and pumped as FUCK!
For anyone who hasn’t jumped before, it’s not just about the jump itself. You organise the load for who you’d like to jump with, and what you want to do on the jump. It’s the moment you step in that plane and the propellers roaring and you smell something in the air, and I mean you literally smell something in the air. That smell? Aviation fuel!
When that jet fuel starts burning it’s only a very light smell and I didn’t noticed until maybe 50 jumps in. I asked someone when I was repacking my parachute, “Why does my parachute smell like the plane?” When they said it’s the aviation fuel it really blew my mind.
If your unfamiliar with it you honestly just think it’s a heightened sense of smell with crisp air or adrenalin kind of making you smell something that you don’t really know is there.
It’s hard to explain but if there are other skydivers reading this, they’ll know what I mean.
Once the engines start and the door closes you know it’s fucking on from that moment! For me it’s similar to when you’ve just pulled into an empty carpark at the beach and the waves are fuckin pumping!
At Coffs Skydivers, they run a little 206 Cessna, enough to snuggly fit 5 people at a time in. Being a smaller plane it takes about 20-25 minutes to get to a height of 12,000ft (4kms). I use this time to be kind of meditative and take in the beauty of it all. You see all this amazing scenery and can really being at peace with what the you are actually doing as a hobby.
Believe me when I say it’s more than enough time to go over very possible good or bad scenario but, that’s exactly why you are there.
One common question I get is “What if the parachute doesn’t open?” For me it’s similar to the cliche’ question we cop as surfers from outsiders “What if you get attacked by a shark?”
With both those activities you accept the risk in search of the reward.
At least with skydiving, you are well and truely prepared for it. If that shark bites in the sky and your parachute doesn’t open, the back up chute is one handle pull away.
After slowly achieving some goals with skydiving, I know where I am with it where I want to take it. It feels like a blessing to have found something so close to what I get from the ocean spiritually and physically.
After my first day of jumps, it really stuck with me how one minute you’re so high up you can’t even make out individual trucks on a highway, then after 50 seconds of freefall you’ve fallen over 4 kilometres with friends and shared an almost overwhelming amount of fun. If you think the world seems big from the ground, skydiving gives you another overwhelming perspective.
After you land you get that same feeling you get after making it back to the beach after an epic session. You see everyone else on the land around you and you think to yourself “God dammit I can do some cool shit and damn this world really is BIG”.
I think Bodhi Zephyr said it best in Point Break- “Pure Adrenalin right!? The ultimate rush. Other guys snort for it, jab a vein for it, all you gotta do is jump”.