“Neil, what are we gonna go and do?” my instructor asks.
“We’re gonna jump out of a perfectly good plane.”
“Man, that sounds like a stupid idea.”
“It does, doesn’t it?” I laugh.
Skydiving the Great Ocean Road has been a long time coming for me, and I still can’t quite fathom the fact that I’m doing this to myself.
You see, not all that long ago, I really wasn’t a very adventurous person. I also had an absolutely crippling fear of heights. As in, I’d struggle to climb a ladder.
But that all changed the day I jumped off a cliff in New Zealand at the Shotover Canyon Swing (I’ll write about that here one day – I promise). From that day on I always said skydiving was next for me. It took a couple of years but here I am at Barwon Heads, wearing a jumpsuit and harness, and walking towards a “perfectly good plane”.
Cool, calm and collected on my way to board the plane
Strapped to my instructor and crammed into a tiny green aeroplane, with five or six other insane people (including one of my best mates, Matt), we stare down at the beautiful Victorian coastline in awe. We can see the famous Bells Beach and the beginnings of the famous Great Ocean Road. I can’t quite make out the jump zone that we’ve taken off from but there’s soooo much more to look at.
My instructor asks me how the butterflies in my stomach are doing.
“Oh, they’ve kind of gone away actually.”
Before I know it, he asks if I’m ready. I don’t really think too much about it but my body responds for me with a nod.
Then the door of the aeroplane slides open.
“Oooohhh fuck.” I laugh.
That face when you realise death is imminent.
…And that face when it actually starts to seem like a good time.
He continues talking but there’s so much noise (literally and figuratively) that I have no idea what he’s said. He manoeuvres me to the door and out before I even know what’s going on. As we fall my mouth opens to scream in terror, but it feels like ten seconds before any actual sound comes out.
I’ve been told our freefall is about 60 seconds, but up here there’s no concept of time. It feels like at least 55 seconds of sheer terror before, strangely, a Zen-like peace comes over me. Time almost feels like it suspends completely.
…which turns to sheer joy.
And I’m at peace (well, sort of), staring down at the beautiful Victorian coastline.
Then there’s a sudden jolt as my instructor deploys the parachute and I’m not falling anymore. I’m flying.
My instructor later tells me that this part of the jump lasts five to seven minutes, but it could just as easily be 30 or 40 minutes. I’m close to tears at how incredibly beautiful this experience is.
I’m already thinking this is as close as all I’ll ever feel to, like, actually being a bird, when I’m offered the chance to take control of our steering. I jump at the chance and the instructor talks me through the basics, before guiding me through a couple of terrifying spins – a technique for descending more rapidly. Then I hand back the reigns and enjoy the last of our drop. It’s incredible watching him guide us in with what seems like pinpoint accuracy.
When my butt hits the ground and I realise I’m still alive, I immediately feel my body rush with every kind of happy chemical. I struggle back onto my wobbly legs and get my bearings. Then I high five my instructor and head off to find Matt and give him a huge hug.
Skydiving is better than any high I’ve ever experienced. This might just be the best experience of my life.
Now I’m actually flying.
Here’s the video they made for me. Apologies for the music. I cringe every time I watch it.
Need to Know
At the time of writing, skydiving the Great Ocean Road will set you back $289 but it’s worth every cent. You can book it via Experience Oz + NZ (though you’ll need to pay the $35 levy – included in the $289 price tag – when you arrive). This dive is from 15,000 feet, or as close as they can get you depending on conditions, which is why I decided this was the place to do it. They provide a cheaper dive from 12,000 feet, but trust me when I say you want the highest dive you can get.
The above link is an affiliate link. However, I assure you that this has no effect on the opinions I’ve presented in this article.
Have you ever skydived? Got it on your bucket list? If you have any stories, updates or corrections, please let us know by commenting below.