I’ve been skydiving for eleven years now and have over 6000 skydives thus far. I guess my job title would be Skydive Instructor.
My story begins after moving to Australia from Edinburgh, finding a job, and making some friends. My job as a sales person selling cable TV, yielded me a prize which I think was for most sales in a particular month. That prize was a tandem skydive at a dropzone in Melbourne.
Skydiving is always something I had been interested in trying, just for the sheer thrill of falling for an extended period of time. Having had some experience diving and trampolining while I was young, I had always been keen to feel the sensation of falling further than the boards at the pool or a trampoline would allow, without catastrophic injury. And also, my ironic fascination with the 1995 Power Rangers movie; the opening scene being a skydiving sequence.
When I arrived at Melbourne Skydive Centre to redeem my prize, I met with my instructor. It happened to be one of the owners of the business, and by chance was also someone I had met in the pub on a night out a year earlier. We had a chat and went up in the plane. The freefall was exactly as awesome as I had anticipated, and after the canopy had opened, we started flying back to the landing area. I was now in love with skydiving and asked him how I could do this as a job. He laughed and asked me what my current job was. It turned out he was looking for someone to work in sales for his company. By the time we had landed the parachute I had scored myself a job working for him in the office.
That office job led to working on the dropzone itself, editing the tandem videos for clients after they landed and packing parachutes. This led to me learning to skydive solo, which happened to be at a different dropzone near Sydney. Where, lo and behold, as hilarious twists of fate would have it, my instructor was actually the guy that did the skydiving stunts for the 1995 Power Rangers Movie. He played the white Power Ranger; mind blown! By this time I’m making money editing videos on the dropzone and taking any chance I can to do a jump here and there to get my numbers up.
I was interested in all aspects of skydiving at this point. I learned to fly camera so I could film tandems in freefall. I learned to fly wingsuits to see what it was like; it’s awesome. I also became a rigger which gave me license to pack reserve parachutes, make repairs to, and parts for, skydiving gear. At this point I had around 300 jumps which was enough to become an instructor and when an opportunity arose in WA through a friend, I moved west and took the course.
The instructor course was a week-long process. Most of that time was spent in classes learning information to sit a written exam, and a few days spent doing practical exam jumps with an examiner. It was necessary to prove the ability to control another skydiver in the air and deal with any complications that may arise. I passed all the exams and was given the green light to start taking students.
I was now jumping multiple times a day, teaching people to skydive and coaching existing skydivers how to improve their abilities. I was 33 years old and it was the first time in my life I would wake up and literally couldn’t wait to get to work. It was unreal that this was now my full-time job. An average day would be spent jumping with students, coaching skydivers, and teaching people how to pack parachutes and keep themselves and others safe. Add to that, living on the beach in Western Australia and you have a pretty good lifestyle. This was the way for the next few years.
When my time in Australia came to an end (8 years after my visa did), I flew back to the UK, getting a 3 year ban on my way through customs for overstaying my visa. Worth it! Knowing there is not a large contingent of dropzones around the UK, and that our weather is not the best year-round to sustain a full-time career in skydiving, I opted to write a quick blurb about my skydiving credentials into an email and group send it to the bulk of the dropzones in Europe. First to reply the next day was a small dropzone south of Madrid in the centre of Spain called Skydive Lillo. I chatted on Skype with the owner, and that weekend shipped out to start my new life in Spain. Remember when we could all do that pre-Brexit?
After I arrived in Spain I immediately upped my credentials once more by sitting my Tandem Instructor course. This one was much easier as I was already knowledgeable with regards to safety and procedures, and had been around tandem skydiving for years at this point. The written exam was a breeze and the ten practice tandem jumps are done with existing skydivers as passengers and a few with the examiner. Once they were completed, I was cleared to strap unfortunate souls to myself and hurl them out of the plane attached to me. My Mum being the bravest from my family and my 13th tandem passenger. She loved it. I now have around 1500 tandems, and 1500 happy clients that made it back to Earth safely.
I have moved to Catalonia now and work at Skydive Empuriabrava, one of Europe’s biggest and busiest dropzones. I spend my days at work repeatedly going up in the plane and falling back to the earth for money. Life is good.
After 2020 being such a balls up of a year, I recently got the chance to fly to Egypt for a skydiving event in Cairo. I was tasked with doing tandem jumps over the Pyramids. They were probably the best jumps of my career so far. It was an unreal experience getting to fly around the Pyramids and land right at their base. Not least because of the aircraft we got to jump out of, a Hercules C130 that had been loaned out by the Egyptian Army for the week. This is not a usual jump aircraft for normal skydivers, so it was an amazing experience.
I would have to say that the thrill of jumping never gets old. I don’t get scared while skydiving, but I have certainly had a few spicy moments that get the old blood pumping. Be it a canopy malfunctioning, or having to land off the dropzone in a tight spot because the winds have changed, or even a close call with other skydivers in freefall or under canopy. The key is to be aware of what you’re doing and your surroundings, and be prepared for as many eventualities as you can predict. A lot of our training is based in safety and looking out for each other. Keep those things in mind and statistically, it’s one of the safest sports out there. Certainly one of the most fun and rewarding careers too.
As for my future in the sport, I intend to keep at it. It never gets old and it never gets boring. It may not be the most lucrative of jobs, you certainly don’t choose a career in skydiving to become rich. But I would rather live a life I love for less money, than work a job I don’t enjoy for more.
My advice… go jump!
Currently listening to: Aesop Rock and the Daft Punk back catalogue.