It’s not every day you get invited to sit on the lap of a married man. Or get tethered to his body with straps and buckles.
But Glenn Stutt, the chief instructor at Southern Skydivers, seems happy enough to be joined at the hip to me as he tightens the straps on my harness and clips us together.
There’s no point in being shy when you’re skydiving, especially when it is Glenn who has the parachute.
Dressed in a purple and orange boilersuit I feel like Dan Aykroyd in Ghostbusters as the eight-seater propeller plane zig-zags up 14,000-feet closer to the sun from Busselton Regional Airport.
Glenn tells me it takes about 20 minutes to reach that height, yet only seven minutes to fall back to earth, including one minute of free fall.
On the ground, he tells me that one of his most rewarding skydives was with a paraplegic girl.
“Quite often, people who are the most nervous … they’re the people when they get back on the ground who have more fun than the people who aren’t concerned about the whole thing,” he adds.
Asked about his biggest disaster, Glenn says he can’t think of one but: “My girlfriend left me once. It was pretty bad.”
The south-west coast of Western Australia, blessed with wineries, beaches and the odd little town of Cowaramup, with its 37 bovine statues, looks stunning from the ground. At 8000-feet above sea level, through a grimy window, it begins to resemble a pork chop.
The two-kilometre long Busselton jetty, the longest wooden pier in the southern hemisphere snakes out into Geographe Bay, the stillness of which is broken only by a whale briefly surfacing. The beach stretches past Dunsborough to Bunker Bay and towards the lighthouse at Cape Naturaliste, where the coast turns sharply towards Margaret River and the former whaling station at Augusta.
My sightseeing is interrupted by Glenn describing how the two of us will jump out of the plane by performing an aerobics move that sounds like it was borrowed from Carmen Electra’s Fit to Strip DVD. The last to jump, we shuffle awkwardly to the plane’s open door, where I hang my legs out, thrust my hips forward and tilt my head back onto Glenn’s shoulder.
Mercifully, he throws us out of the plane before I have time to lose my breakfast. Vanity comes a poor second when you’re falling towards the ground at 200km/h, with the wind smacking you in the face and screaming in your ears like an angry lover. I’m overwhelmed by the shock of tumbling and spinning wildly before Glenn stabilises us in a belly-flop position.
After a minute, he releases the bright-green parachute, which fills with air and abruptly slows us down into a feet-first pin drop. With Glenn’s weight off me, it feels for a brief moment like I’ve been left to find my own way to the ground, but the harness gripping me like a rottweiler reassures me that I’m still firmly attached to a man who has done this more than 14,000 times.
As we drift slowly towards the ground, I can make out joggers on the jetty, cows grazing, and the ground that will break my knees if I don’t bend my legs into a sitting position before we hit the ground. Happily, we don’t land like drunken sailors – or on any cows in the paddock next to the airstrip.
The writer travelled with the assistance of Tourism WA, Southern Skydivers and CinefestOZ.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.