Skydiving in Swakopmund, Namibia (Ground Rush Adventures)

 
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On the 35th day of our 42-day African tour, we arrived at Swakopmund in Namibia and I was *ready* for some sweet adventures.

Our Tour Leader, Chris, had been talking about Swakopmund for weeks and telling us how awesome the activities were. The big boy of the pack was Skydiving at ‘Gold Rush Adventures’, followed by Sandboarding and Quad Biking – all of which I’d love to do. On my old website (Nomad Nevets if you remember lol), I had a whole page dedicated to my Bucket List and Skydiving was on there, so I jumped at the chance to tick it off. Namibia was relatively cheap compared to back home in the UK so the price worked out waaay more bang for your buck. If I was going to do it anywhere, Namibia would be one of the cheapest, right?! How could I say no!?

When we arrived in Swakopmund, we went straight to Ground Rush Adventures for an overview of the Skydiving. We met a lovely woman who’s name I don’t remember and she played us a nice windows movie maker video of the Skydiving. The star-wipe transitions and funky “adventure” music convinced me this was a good idea and I signed my name up.

There were three categories and three options to choose from:

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I decided to go with 12,000 because that sounded like a high enough number to fall through the sky from. After debating the other options and calculating and recalculating my total with conversions, I decided to go for the top video package and crazy stunts – because you only live once huh? Especially if you go throwing yourself out of a plane!

On the day of the Skydive, we all met for breakfast in our hostel and spent the next few hours asking each other if we were nervous and debating how likely it was that I would shit my pants mid-fall. Weirdly enough, for someone who worries about everything all the time, I wasn’t nervous for free-falling through the sky. The first time I started feeling butterflies was when I thought about my legs hanging over the side of the plane and seeing the ground 12,000ft below me. So, I avoided thinking about it and had a pleasant morning! We were picked up around 9.30am and once we arrived at Ground Rush, we were asked to sign our lives away, get weighed and confirm our options.

The takeoff and landing site was outside of the city so we hopped on a mini-bus and started getting hyped up. We rocked up to a remote little airstrip in the middle of the desert and it was full of people! The weather was a scorcher so the owners must have taken advantage and invited their families round for a BBQ (from what I gathered from people watching for a few hours lol). We were briefed by the main skydiver on how to tuck our legs under the plane, what to do with the harness and how long the freefall would be etc. I immediately needed to pee with nerves/excitement. There were a few people from another group in front of us so I spent the next while being strong and brave and not worrying at all….

Scott was called first. Ryan second. The plane was a small front propeller plane with enough space for 3 jumpers at a time. The boys headed into the changing room to climb into the fetching jumpsuits and get their harness strapped on. It seemed like Ryan enjoyed the harness and I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t his first time in one. They headed towards the plane and we said our goodbyes. In no time, a small Scott-shaped dot appeared in the sky and started hurtling towards me. The parachute opened and started spinning and zig-zagging it’s way towards the landing strip but luckily enough, I was too occupied filming to worry.

After he safely landed (rocking a white boy afro), it was my turn. I got suited and booted then started to walk towards the plane. I still wasn’t as nervous as I’d anticipated and started to think I’d worried too much that I’d become immune – imagine that! Unfortunately, when we got in the plane and took off, I started to worry. It was probably because I was the last on and was sitting right next to the sliding door which meant I was first out… At this point, I was unstrapped from my instructor (who also had the parachute) so I was freaking out that I’d fall out of the plane and be parachuteless! I guess I was more worried about the possibly of accidentally falling out of the plane rather than the freefall…

It didn’t help that my eyes kept watering so Jo (one of my travel pals) thought I’d cried the whole way up to 12,000ft. When I asked her if she was nervous, she gave me a very blasé “nah” while she went back to humming the lyrics to “Scotty doesn’t know”. Eventually, the instructor told me to sit in his lap (gladly) and he strapped us together. There were instructions printed on the door of what you had to do. Head back. Feet under the plane. Legs behind after jump.

I must have read those instructions a million times until the instructor gave me my goggles and started to check our harnesses. When he slid open the door, all I could think was “What the f*ck am I doing?!”. I tucked my head back, feet under the plane and he threw us out. I was gobsmacked. Literally. The wind hit my face and my stomach stayed in the plane. I started to shout with excitement and tried to focus on the stunning views of the sea, desert and the city. My stomach returned and I felt like I was actually flying! I couldn’t hear a thing because the wind was gushing past my ears and I started to realise that I hadn’t taken a breath since leaving the plane. 

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Of course, I instantly started to imagine blacking out and suffocating on the sky dive because I forgot to breathe. The feeling was exactly the same as putting your head out of a moving car (if you’ve ever been that irresponsible). When I tried to take a breath, my lungs didn’t work until I gasped and realised it was way easier than I’d thought… The instructor tapped me on the shoulders which meant I could move my arms but I was stuck in the position. Probably a mix of fright and adrenaline!

The camera man was spinning round us and trying to get me to do funny things but I had no idea what he was doing so I just smiled. The wind had taken all of the moisture out of my mouth so my top lip became stuck to my gums – so happy I got the video package with “close up” angles. I felt the wind flap my lips and tried to speak to stop my face from flapping wildly. The next thing I knew, the parachute was open and everything went quiet. The instructor was chatting away then started to swing the parachute side to side (that’s the “extreme jump” package I paid for) and asked if it was OK. I’d had plenty experience of stomach churning, adrenaline-fuelled drops from my time on the swing set as a child, so I asked for more.

He spun us a lot and each spin made me feel slightly closer to literally shitting my pants but I clenched and enjoyed the scenery. It was time to land and I tucked my legs up into a tiny ball like an adrenaline filled mouse and we landed gracefully. The cameraman met us and it was bro hi-fives all round before I stumbled to see the others. My legs were like jelly but I instantly wanted to get back into the plane and do it again! I can see why adrenaline junkies get so hooked…

We waited for the others to complete their jumps and I fixed my hair and had a celebratory beer. After we’d all survived near-death, we climbed back on the mini-bus and made our way back to our hostel. I still can’t believe I finally skydived! It’s so unlike me. This is one of those memories that I’ll use to convince me to do other daring feats - sorry mum!

Thanks to Ground Rush Adventures for the opportunity to challenge my anxiety and act recklessly. You the bomb.

Have a great day with both of your feet safely on ground level,

Steven.