The morning of the Skydive arrived too quickly, I hadn’t slept much and there was no time for breakfast, just a swig or two of hotel coffee, and I was at the helm of #kipsbitchbus to take me and some of the others to Langar Airfield for the dive. The drive was short, and my driving ‘terrible’ (according to Hayley), but we got there for 8.20am and checked in to reception. We all had to sign medical papers stating we were fit to dive, and give details of height and weight too. My declaration was signed and handed in. Shit was getting real.
I didn’t realise how the day would be structured, I assumed we’d turn up, get some instruction, go up in a plane and jump. It was like that, but with agggggges to wait between each stage. We weren’t the first group there, so they had to jump first, and coupled with the fact the weather was looking dodgy, it looked like a long day of waiting was ahead of us.
I was feeling nervous, very nervous, I’m not overly chatty at best of times, but I could feel myself getting quieter, and more withdrawn, lost in thoughts of ‘What if..’.
We got summoned in for our ‘training’, a rather stern and perhaps grumpy chap led us through the ropes. He emphasised the importance of listening to your instructor who would be behind you, and how important your body position was during free-fall. Dicking about and not listening could be the difference between life and death. I was feeling nervous, but the words..
“and you tuck your feet under the plane as you sit on the edge”
..hit me like the ground would if it all went wrong. I was going to be HANGING out of the DOOR of an AEROPLANE. I felt sick, I could feel the colour draining from me.
I was half considering running to my car and going, I couldn’t do this, despite the assurances, it could go wrong, VERY wrong.
I don’t think I said much between the briefing and the jump, so many thoughts flooding through my mind, I just couldn’t process it all. It was made worse by the waiting around, there was time to procrastinate and fret, I’m at my worst left sitting and brooding, I could feel tears coming once or twice, I wiped my eyes and tried to pull them back, everyone else seemed OK, but I felt like a idiot. There were lots of hugs dished out as we waited, the comradery of the team helped, I just wanted it to be done and over.
It looked as though I would be in the the first group to go up, the team would be split across two planes – I was with Hayley and Claire and Lucy, Sarah, Julie and Clare would be doing it afterwards.
Our names were called across the tannoy, it was time to get our kit and jump.
I didn’t want to go. We all hugged each other and split off to get ready. I met my instructor, who was a lovely guy, I think he sensed my trepidation, and acted brilliantly, he was asking me lots of questions, and sharing lots of tips and information. I was glad he was so nice, I was scared I’d get some idiot trying to be funny, but he was perfect.
I could feel my hands shaking violently as I put on the jumpsuit, tightening the laces on my trainers was nigh on impossible with the trembling, my body was telling me NO.
We got led out to the plane where something else had to be signed, I could have joined Readers Digest, I couldn’t really process the words, I just scrawled my signature. I met my camera guy too, he was great fun, and very reassuring, he explained what he would be doing during the jump, and indeed after. Seconds later the camera was on, and my instructor ‘interviewing me’ – I stumbled over my words, struggling with them, trying to be camera confident and failing. We walked to the plane.
This was it.
I stood and waited as Hayley and Claire got on, me and my instructor were one of the last, I knew immediately what this meant. Last in. First out.
The plane taxied across the runway, I was expecting it to be rough and bumpy, being such a small plane, it wasn’t, It was a smooth take off, and the plane started to climb.
I watched out of the window, totally silent, I thought about G and J, my family, and Matilda Mae, watching the clouds, and thinking calmed me, I’d done the hard bit, I was on the plane – there was only one way out now, the same way I came in.
Only this time at 13,000ft.
I looked out the window and guessed we were high enough, it looked pretty damned high. I glanced at the altitude readout of one of the solo jumper’s watch – we were at 7,000ft, just over half way. Dammit!
There was a bit bit more bustling and activity, helmets were being put on, gloves too, everyone moved to the front of the plane. It was nearly time.
The plastic door was opened, and a few of the solo jumpers quickly disappeared out of it. My instructor moved us forwards, towards the door, I could see clouds underneath, we were above the bloody clouds!
The rest, is a bit of a blur, I was at the door, I was out of it, seemingly in seconds, I didn’t look down as I hung there, I blinked and I was falling out of a fucking plane!!
I felt a firm tap on my shoulders, I had to get into Skydive position, arms out, and I was falling. It’s a weird sensation as you free fall, akin to plunging into water off a high diving board, but you keep going, and going… I could breath, but only just, I tried to keep calm and smile for the camera that was in my face, I’m glad I had him there, it was a distraction from the struggle to breath. I’d paid £75 for a video, I’d be buggered if I was going to look miserable for it.
The cameraman disappeared, and the parachute opened.
The deceleration is a bit of a kick, you’re pulled back by the harness, it hurt, just briefly, then, we floated.
I actually loved this bit. Just slowly meandering down, you could really take it all in, the tiny cars on the tiny road, the fields as far as the eye could see. It was breathtaking – in a GOOD way.
“Do you get travel sick?” shouted the instructor.
“No.. Not really” I shouted back.
I knew what was coming.. He pulled at the parachute, we twirled one way, and then another, I whooped and cheered it was AWESOME, so much fun, I’d gone from terrified to ecstatic in seconds. The airfield slowly came into view, I spotted the white T-Shirts of the others, all of them looking straight up at me, I had such a smile on my face.
We were a TEAM – the Matilda Mae Skydive TEAM.
I felt proud, so very proud, I’d DONE it, and I’d got some wonderful people waiting for me at the bottom ready to hug me and dying to hear all about it.
First though, was landing – I wasn’t looking forward to this – you had to hold your knees up, and try and have your legs out in front as best you can. The instructor told me to do this as we quickly came closer to the ground..
“Knees up Kip… Yep like that.. Ready.. Ready..”
And he was down..
“Feet down Kip!!”
My feet touched the floor.
I was down, and pretty much vertical too.
I could feel my legs about to give way, the chemicals rushing through my blood were doing crazy things, my head was spinning. The instructor started talking to me, the words sounding like the grown ups do in Snoopy cartoons. I clicked – the camera man was filming us, he wanted my reactions on film – honestly, I can’t remember what he said, or I said, it’s a blur. I just wanted to be with the team and try to put into words how it was, and try to reassure the second lot due to go up that if I could do it, feeling how I did, ANYONE could!
It was an incredible experience, the build up and worry before was so much worse than the jump itself – you’re in the hands of someone who has done it hundreds of times over, there was no need to be scared, when I do it next year, I’ll know what to expect and enjoy every second.
I really couldn’t do it without the #MMSkydive team, their love and support before, during and after was fabulous – without them, I’d have been back in my car and heading home. I’ve made some friends for life. Thank you so much to everyone who sponsored me, and if you haven’t already – do it now!
This is the video of the Skydive – I’m really pleased with it.