What seemed like a great idea at the time now seemed like a bad idea, A REALLY BAD IDEA.
Fifty feet to go…
That’s the bit they don’t tell you…that’s the bit that is commonly referred to as ‘Groundrush’ – normally experienced by skydivers when they plummet past their normal parachute opening altitude as they decent at a terminal velocity circa 120mph.
I had experienced it at a much slower speed. My chute had opened ages before, in fact the static line was pulled just as I left the plane dragging my parachute out almost instantaneously – all I had to now was land !
3,500 feet may not sound very ambitious but when you are dangling underneath something that is effectively moth spit it is very high indeed – actually I’m sure it was artificial nylon rather than silk but still it is rather disconcerting in a way that all I had preventing me from being a squidgy mess in some english field was a few square feet of handkerchief counteracting the gravity trying to kill me.
All the while I was ‘falling’ I was being given instructions via radio…”pull the left steering toggle…NO….not that much….now pull the right one”. I was still in a modicum of pain from the wedgie I had received when the harness went tight as my parachute had first opened – nothing prepares you for the shock combined with the euphoric relief when that happens and so concentration was difficult, this combined with the fact I was looking around at the spectacular view normally only experienced by birds meant obeying instruction was hard – total brain overload.
I was being guided towards the earth by someone obviously more co-ordinated than me – as he was looking upwards at me, all my movements needed to be shouted in reverse to what he could see, to turn me right from his perspective means he had to tell me to turn left.
God knows how much practice you need to do that – just for me trying to remember left and right was like trying to rub my stomach and head at the same time whilst simultaneously my brain was screaming at me that very shortly I may be experiencing a bad attempt at a PLF -Parachute Landing Fall; get the landing wrong and at best I end up with a twisted ankle or two or even worse I stood the chance to break several bones.
It all seemed so easy on the training mat….at the last minute pull on the cords to slow your descent to a minimum, run in the direction you are facing slowing down in a couple of paces, stop and then breathe !
This all went a bit pear shaped (or at least it did for me) when presented with these movements for real – at speed. The experts make it look easy, flaring their canopy at the last moment, gliding in just taking a few steps to steady themselves…no such luck for me.
The last twenty feet didn’t go smoothly – I was caught totally unaware as I swear the ground decided it was going jump up and meet me half way.
Imagine if you can the aerodynamic properties of a bag of potatoes and the effect you would witness should it be observed tumbling through the air, before hitting the ground with enough force to puree the contents. Unfortunately my landing was more in tune with that rather than a feather alighting with grace.
I did land …I did run…but then I also fell over (not a movement in any handbook or instructional guide).
But I survived (obviously), I didn’t break anything (aside my pride when I fell), nor did I even end up with twisted anythings (my nether regions by then had recovered from their initial torsional shock) – I had done my bit for charity, the great idea had suddenly turned good.
I managed the falling with style….just a shame about my mashed potato landing.