Have you ever wanted to do something for ages but for some reason you keep putting it off?
Well that was me when it came to skydiving.
Like so many others, skydiving had been on my Bucket List for a while.
It had stayed on the list for a while because, ya’know fear of death and that, meant that I kept putting it off but on my 24th birthday I could avoid it no more because for my birthday
my friends wanted to kill me I had been gifted the opportunity to be thrown out of a plane in the name of good fun!
Ok, so maybe they weren’t trying to kill me, and maybe I just felt that way because I’m occasionally dramatic, but let’s face it, drama is kind of obligatory when you plan to willingly throw yourself out of a perfectly functioning aeroplane.
I booked my skydive through Neverathon Army Parachute Association.
A not-for-profit organisation with charitable objectives that offers Military grade skydiving training. Neverathon Airfield has a long and interesting history with it first being used for balloon operations just before the First World War. It was then used by the RAF throughout the Second World War up until 1963 when the RAF left, leaving Neverathon to become a transit camp for units exercising on Salisbury Plain until the Army Air Corps took it over in 1966.
Whilst all of this was happening with the airfield grounds the APA (Army Parachute Association) was just getting started. The group formed in 1962 and whilst they didn’t have a permanent base at this time, they spent their days travelling with their aircraft to any drop zone that was available. Because, ya’ know, dedication. But during the winter of 1963 the APA chose Neverathon as their home and it has remained that way ever since.
Neverathon APA operates as a not-for-profit and all the money made is continually reinvested back into the facilities and services for improvements.
There are many types of skydiving options available, which are open to both military personnel and civilians. There are multiple training courses available to teach you how to dive solo, in addition to wing suit flying, and the traditional tandem that so many bucket list lovers have come to adore.
I was there to do a tandem jump.
I’m in no way brave enough to throw myself out of a plane willingly.
Now I know that previous sentence is a complete contradiction because this post makes it quite obvious that I did throw myself out of a plane willingly, but there’s a huge difference between jumping out of a plane solo, and jumping out of a plane whilst strapped to another human.
You see, there’s something slightly soothing (yet mildly psychotic) about the thought of a tandem dive, because it’s got a “you’re not going to let me die and you can’t change your mind because if I go then you’re going down with me” type of vibe.
I know that sounds crazy, but the way I see it is it’s much easier to trust another human with your life, when theirs is on the line too. Because ya’know, equality.
The day of the dive I woke up with such excitement I could quite literally feel it pulsing through my veins. I jumped in the car, grabbed myself a McDonalds breakfast (because I’m healthy like that) and an hour later I was driving through the winding roads of Salisbury ready to pull into base.
After checking in I was told to sit and wait for training.
The clouds of that morning had pushed everybody behind schedule slightly as they had three jumps that couldn’t go ahead previously due to visibility. However the clouds moved swiftly on and it wasn’t long before I was slipping into my sexy little outfit.
The training was ridiculous.
Not in the teaching terms or the teachers themselves, but quite literally ridiculous.
Because it’s pretty hard not to feel like a clown when you’re throwing yourself forward in the most random shapes.
After sitting up and wiggling into a harness we moved over to a computer screen who would tell us who would be going first. We watched patiently, and within minutes my name was there flashing brightly.
I’d been reasonably calm about it all that day.
I’d always thought I’d freak out.
I love doing adrenaline filled activities but I’m usually a pile of jelly before hand because I’m so nervous. Like when I went Scuba Diving for the first time it took me two whole minutes to jump into the water because I was scared I would sink.
But with this? I was calm as a cucumber.
I walked over to the aircraft and hopped in, wiggling along next to the others who would be jumping, sitting in the “oops-up-side-your-head” position. Within minutes we had taken off and started our climb to altitude. As I sat there gazing out of the window I couldn’t help but wonder where my nerves were. I was expecting to feel sick, or at least mildly terrified at this point, but as I watched as the fields turned from vast stretches of green to a countryside patchwork quilt, dotted with clouds I felt the feeling of calm wash over me. Maybe it’s because being above the clouds is the place that I adore most or maybe it’s because I know that friends have done multiple jumps with Neverathon and have all lived to tell the tale.
A few minutes later and it was go time.
I watched as person after person disappeared from sight like tumbling monkeys.
Yet as I shuffled forwards and dangled my legs out of the plane tucking them under I was ready.
Arms tucked. Legs crossed. Head back. Sun blindingly bright in my eyes.
Yet I held them open and as my tandem swooped back for momentum I blinked and we were out.
There is nothing quite like free-falling at hundreds of miles per hour.
It’s exhilarating and disorientating and beautiful and when the winds hitting your face that fast it is quite literally breathtaking.
You lose all sense of self, all thought process and all you can focus on is how god-damn beautiful the world looks when you’re lying horizontal and plummeting towards it.
I’m pretty sure the photographer hated me because he kept trying to get photos of my face looking all brave and stuff but I was far too busy admiring the Earth that my instructor actually had to physically move my face to upwards and point at the camera to remind me.
The free-fall was over before I knew it and as the parachute opened and we drifted slowly through the clouds I couldn’t help but feel incredibly blessed. Blessed that I got to experience such a rush, to see such beauty from a different angle, and to know that in that very moment I wasn’t dead. That was probably my favourite part, because ya’know, not being dead is pretty ace.
Gravity pulled us closer, shapes got bigger and before I knew it I was being told to practice lifting my legs ready for landing. It turns out trying to lift your knees up when your legs don’t even feel like they’re attached to you anymore is pretty difficult, so instead I used my jumpsuit as a lever and pulled my knees towards me and held them there for three whole minutes so that I was ready for landing. The instructor told me I could relax and put them down, but I like to be prepared so I literally just hung there, cuddling my knees as I floated through the air for like three minutes.
The whole experience was incredible, and I know having skydiving on your Bucket List is considered such a cliche, but there’s a reason that it’s popular.
Want to know what I thought of Skydiving with Neverathon APA?
Just look at my face.
That is the face of a childlike happiness.
But if I can offer one piece of advice?
Breathe through your nose and don’t open your mouth.
They’ll tell you multiple times not to do this.
But you’ll get excited, and smile, and go to say WHOAHMYGOD!
And then your mouth will fill with air.
And you will look like this:
And the Wallace and Gromit look really only suits Wallace and Gromit.
PS) I made a video on YouTube, if you want to check it out!