“Dude, when I type Prague skydiving on Google the second thing that comes is Prague skydiving accidents” said AJ on our WhatsApp group. The planning for our trip to Europe was going in full swing and I had suggested skydiving.
“How about hot air ballooning instead? It seems less scary for sure” said Sud. I was getting a little peeved. “But that’s more of a thing in Turkey, no? Prague is known to have one of the cheapest skydiving options. The scenery from the top is supposed to be amazing as well”. I wanted to do this badly and I knew I had to sell it well to the other guys. It was not going to happen otherwise.
I needed someone on my side soon and I had a feeling Magz would be the easiest to convince. “Magz, what do you say to skydiving while we are in Prague? We already went to the bottom of the ocean once in Bali. We would be in an elite club if we do this.” Magz did the pros and cons in his head for about five minutes and said yes. “Cool! Now you have to help me convince AJ.”
Magz then spoke to AJ. He told him about his scuba diving experience where he took a leap of faith into the ocean trusting the apparatus and the trainers despite not knowing how to swim. “What’s better than experiencing some of the craziest things with your best friends, bro?” he said. “You do not want to be left out when your friends are doing something amazing. If I can you easily can. In any case, there is a guy strapped to you who will make sure it is all okay”.
“But bro, it is the height that I’m afraid of.”
A whole day and a couple of reassuring Medium articles and YouTube videos later, AJ was in.
“I’m sure I am going to be shitting my pants the evening before but this is about conquering fears. I will come out of this a better man. I hope it is worth it” he reflected. Sud said he would take the decision while he is there so we left it at that. We had three people on board and peer pressure would take care of him.
Fast forward two months. We took a late evening flight from Paris and got to Vaclav Havel airport at Prague where we met Sud. A bright red Skoda Octavia was waiting for us to take us to our Airbnb in Lublanska which seemed like an upscale locality. It was a single bedroom apartment that was superbly furnished. There was even a beer tap with a keg in place. Coming straight from a dingy backpacker hostel in Paris, this felt like paradise. The setting made us momentarily forget about what awaited us. It meant we could have a good sleep waking up fresh for the D day.
We took a tram first thing in the morning and got to Old Town in Prague 1, where the office of the skydiving company was. We had to sign a couple of forms which essentially said the company would not be responsible if something went wrong during the dive! Great way to inspire confidence. The person at the counter said it could take longer than usual as the visibility was not great on the day; there was a lot of fog. Despite all this, the excitement was palpable. My stomach gave a slight twitch looking at some of the videos they were playing on TV. We were not in a mood to eat anything so we had some biscuits and coffee from the dispenser.
The skydiving spot was in the countryside, in the Czech district called Most. After spending an hour and a half in a speeding Mercedes van to get there, we were surprised to see that the weather cleared up completely. The sky was blue with some scattered fluffy white clouds. This was definitely a sign, we said to each other. The universe wanted us to jump out of a moving plane that day.
They made us wear dark blue and orange suits for the jump and gave some not too difficult instructions.
- There will be another person strapped to our backs at all times, a professional who will control the dive.
- We had to maintain banana position: bend the knees and arch the upper body backwards while getting out of the plane.
- The hands can be freed when the professional taps on the shoulders a few seconds after the dive.
- While landing, legs should be lifted so that we land on our butts and prevent accidental injuries.
We decided on the order. I was going first followed by AJ, Magz and finally Sud. While the rest of us didn’t show our emotions too much, Sud was visibly freaking out. We were reaching a point of no return. This was definitely happening. I was introduced to my professional jumper Viktor, who was a pretty tall and well built bloke. He said it was going to be a challenge for him to maneuver because of my height and that I needed to get my banana position absolutely right. I was introduced to my own photographer, who I got to know would be jumping alongside us with a camera on his head.
It was finally time to get into the plane, which was tiny but a welcoming bright orange. Fifteen of us (five divers, five professionals and five cameramen) sat into the cramped airplane as it sped on the runway and steadily kept gaining altitude. Once in a while I peeked out of the window but my stomach lurched so I stopped. After what felt like 20 minutes, the flap was opened and without much warning, the first guy jumped off (he was a Czech local doing it for the first time).
That was when it hit me. We were 14000 feet above land, at a point of maximum danger. As I lined myself on the edge of the plane, my entire life flashed in front of my eyes although it all happened too quickly. I was pushed out of the airplane and started accelerating at breakneck speed for about five seconds. At this point, it felt like my stomach had come to my mouth. The thrill was nothing like I had experienced before (although my experience was limited to roller coasters and occasional flight turbulences). I hit terminal velocity soon after and it felt like I was floating in zero gravity. This lasted for a whole one minute which was probably the most blissful moment of my life.
The professional jumper attached to me opened the parachute when he thought we were close enough to land and we slowed down immediately. We floated downwards for about six minutes during which I looked around properly and took in the views. It was stunning. Hills, lakes, trees, grasslands and a few scattered buildings in the distance. We landed at the same spot the plane took off, on really soft green grass. As I got up, I saw all my friends landing one by one and the looks on their faces said it all. We high fived and hugged each other. It’s quite rare that you get to experience something so exhilarating with your closest friends.
It took a few hours to shake off the dizziness in my head caused by the air pressure and all the parachute swivelling. We ate to our hearts content in the cafe while our adrenalin was still shooting through the roof. We got access to the videos and photos a little later in the day and seeing myself on camera now, I wonder how I had the guts to pull this off. It was a surreal experience that gives me the confidence to do bigger and better things in the future. Also, this puts me in an elite club of people who have both skydived and scuba-dived!
I’ll leave you with a quote from Will Smith (who said this after skydiving): “God places the best things in life on the other side of fear”. So stop thinking and start doing.