A Natural High

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A first-hand account of the world of skydiving.

Submitted: November 18, 2011

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Submitted: November 18, 2011

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A restless night, sleeping in fits and starts, waiting for the morning and with it the promise of an adrenalin rush like no other. The world of skydiving awaits. Waking early the day is full of promise, glorious sunshine and a faint breeze. As good a day as one could wish for to be jumping out of a plane some two miles above the earth.

Arriving at the airfield at around 9.30 on Saturday the day's jumps are already well underway. The glorious weather has enticed dozens of jumpers from seasoned pros to nervous first-timers anxious to experience free air.

 

I am told that the current waiting time is likely to be at least two hours and so I bask in the sun and drink in the spectacle. Maybe a dozen or more veterans, with more already airborne, are on the ground. Their cliques obvious, for they are of a different breed. Fearless, wild-eyed adrenaline junkies, who have shunned or more likely grown tired of chemical thrills, who now get their kicks at 13,000ft. One such deviant seems to be the epitome of this species; a man perhaps in his early forties with a short Mohawk and grizzled beard, his intense eyes hidden behind dark sunglasses. Like so many of his fellow travellers lean and taut, yet somehow relaxed at the same time. While some of the vets gather in their gear and repack their parachutes, three men and a woman practice formation manoeuvres on trolleys and a wheeled frame to one side. These people live for this most extreme of sports and one can't help but feel somewhat conservative and naïve in their presence. Stuck in one's monotonous, solitary existence, a cat tied to a stake, driven into frozen ground as the song goes. But not any more, my kicks will no longer be limited to my brain reeling in horror at the chemicals it is forced to deal with, but of a more natural and literal high. It beats taking someone else's adrenalin I guess.

Of the seasoned jumpers there is roughly a 60-40 split between men and women, with the latter generally younger than their male counterparts, generally in their twenties and thirties. One can't help but speculate that these women must enjoy the most fantastically depraved orgies, purely as a means to fill the magnolia void between jumps.

 

But the waiting continues, the sun scorches out of the azure sky burning my alabaster skin with apparent glee. Noon comes and passes with several more aircraft taking off down the grass runway, yet still no news of my jump time. Excitement ebbs away to be replaced by boredom and frustration, when a police car and an ambulance arrive on the scene. With all planes grounded news leaks through that there has been an accident in the last group of jumpers. An experienced guy has apparently landed badly and been taken to hospital, while the police and British Parachute Agency are called in to assess the situation. In a typical overreaction that seems bound to officialdom, we are told by an instructor that due to police investigations the day's jumps are all but cancelled. Frustration and sunburn seem to be the only fruits of the day. Eager to do the jump I rebook my place for the coming Tuesday night.

 

Returning to Sibson airfield in the early evening the atmosphere is noticeably subdued in comparison to the hectic weekend. A beautiful, calm summer's evening reflects the quiet of the airfield, with less than twenty people in the entire vicinity. Waiting for the final jump of the evening impatience outweighs nervousness. Watching the penultimate jump and talking idly to spectators the minutes drag by.

 

Eventually an instructor comes over and we go over the exit and landing manoeuvres once again. For such an extreme activity the training is sparse to say the least, certainly less than ten minutes, with the equipment looking ominously simple. In the jump-suit and walking towards the plane the nerves are still distant. As the plane fills up with jumpers, all vets I should add, my only main concern is the exit; strapped to the chest of my tandem team-mate I need to form a convex curve with my head and legs as far back as possible, any error would have catastrophic consequences. Sitting near the cockpit on a narrow bench I am the last person to jump, yet in spite of the hours of waiting for this moment, the plane's assent is remarkably swift. As we take off the fragility of the aircraft becomes apparent, the engines shaking the entire vessel.

 

The climb itself is notable for two things, the occasional glances at the altimeter on the instructor's wrist and the cold air around my feet. Perhaps my flame-topped cons were not the ideal choice for the occasion. Having climbed through the mist at 10,000ft we level out some two miles up and the evening's final jump begins. My fellow travelers slide down the narrow benches before me to the doorway, nothing more than a sliding plastic cover, hurtling themselves out into the balmy summer sky. My time is quickly upon me. As I move down towards the doorway the noise of the engines and the rush of the wind envelope me, edging closer and closer to the precipice. Head right back. This is it.

 

In a heartbeat we are soaring, the plane already distant and long forgotten. Eyes closed and arms across my chest I'm tapped on the shoulder signaling we are clear, now the real fun can begin. Opening my eyes the flat green expanse of the south Lincolnshire countryside stretches out as far as the eye can see. Roads seem like grey veins intersecting the landscape. A river meanders its way lazily through the fields without a care in the world. The world seems strangely calm when viewed at 13, 10, 8000 feet when travelling at speeds of 200m.p.h. the wind buffets my arms and stings my eyes, making them water in spite of the goggles. The view of the relatively featureless flat countryside is amazing but the exhilarating rush of freefall is simply incomparable. I feel totally alone, a singularity at a point in time, completely overwhelmed by the adrenaline rush of this unforgettable experience.

 

Cars, roads, houses and fields rush closer and closer towards me. Such is the space around me that I feel almost motionless, completely removed from civilization below. Occasionally closing my eyes to lose myself in the moment, the air rushes through my fingers pushing my arms skywards. Reveling in pure joy that chemical stimulants can only hope to achieve. But the duration of the freefall is over in less than a minute. A minute like no other, in which the dull constraints of life are blown away. I glide down towards the earth a contented man.

 

 

 


© Copyright 2017 David Scoggins. All rights reserved.

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