Skydiving Over Wanaka

Skydiving Over Wanaka

For Rachel’s, aka Jr (shown above), 18th birthday we’d made plans to skydive over Sonoma. When she was 12 or so I’d promised her we would go together for her 18th birthday. As the day approached she reminded me (shown below).

Her actual birthday hit while we were evacuated from the wildfires, and the skydive company we made plans with was evacuated too. So, we agreed we’d postpone and jump in New Zealand. (photos here alternate in order between her jump and then mine.)

It turns out too the highest commercial jump in the world is here on the South Island falling from 16,200 ft for a 15,000 dive with a 60-second free fall. Skydiving regulations don’t allow commercial jumps over 16,500 ft. The jump is so high you have to use oxygen to do it.

To be completely honest, the free fall part was awful. I mean, it’s also awesome, in the literal sense of that word – serious awe. It’s a remarkable thing, no doubt, but it’s also terrifying, very cold, and the air gets sucked from your mouth both because there isn’t much oxygen at 16,000 feet and the speed at which you’re falling makes breathing a challenge (see my blown up cheeks three photos up sorting out how best to manage the air pressure).

Rachel said that for her the free fall portion of the jump was so intense she doesn’t remember most of it. The guy she jumped with actually had them do flips and twists too (shown above).

Mine just liked to spin. For me the free fall felt like eternity. It was an experience of being hyper aware, and as a result time extending. For a split second I honestly thought, so if the chute doesn’t open the whole thing will feel like this, but then quickly went back to the experience of the jump.

The tandem jumpers were fantastic. There are so used to this they made the whole thing really comfortable and easy throughout, plane to ground.

Once the parachute came out it was easy to relax and enjoy the experience. That portion of the jump lasted five minutes and felt like what I call floating on a sky couch – super easy and comfortable.

Central Otago is one of my favorite places in the world and I especially love the Clutha River (it appears in a number of these photos) so it was pretty remarkable to jump from so high that we had complete 360 degree views of the Southern Alps, Lake Wanaka, the Clutha River, and the Cromwell Basin.

Rachel has been repeatedly struck by the beauty of the region as well. It was disappointing to deal with postponing her birthday celebrations last month but gratefully she felt the opportunity to jump here in New Zealand instead made up for it.

I seriously feel no need to skydive again but spending the day with Rachel like this, and at her request, is pretty killer really.

Happy birthday, Rachel! I hope you have a fantastic year being 18!

By the way, it turns out after skydiving feels kind of like coming off a work out. The perfect thing to eat is pie.

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