Sky's no limit for adventurer
"ARE you usually this quiet?" said the man strapped to me.
"Never," I replied.
I don't usually use one-word responses either but the further I got away from the Sunshine Coast, the closer I was to jumping out of a plane.
And that had me speechless.
The man wedged against my back, Juraj Glesk, hadn't helped matters.
"This is only my second jump," he joked when we were introduced.
After the briefest briefing we walked towards the perfectly good plane, albeit with no door, and he quipped "I've forgotten something".
"Why are you laughing?" he said.
The guys at Sunshine Coast Skydivers, based at Caloundra Airport, jump out of a plane daily and they bring their dry sense of humour along.
It's hard to laugh when you're worried about wetting your pants but they love teasing nervous first timers.
I had paraglided, jumping off a mountain with a parachute in Switzerland, and I had been parasailing off a boat in Vanuatu.
So I felt an old hand at drifting through the sky under a canopy.
It was the 65-second free fall beforehand that had me worried.
I was saving skydiving for another exotic location but when the opportunity came to do it here on the Sunshine Coast, I thought why not?
People from around the world choose here so they can land on a beach after surveying a spectacular coastline from a magnificent blue sky.
It is not an easy leap. You do sign a liability form before jumping which states "parachuting is dangerous".
But I figure I'm more likely, statistically, to meet a sad fate in a car than leaping from 14,000ft.
That's about four and a half kilometres in the air.
With me I had a 14-year-old boy jumping for his birthday, the minimum legal age you can skydive in Australia, and a former Sunshine Coast girl leaping for her 21st birthday.
The same day there was a marriage proposal and a surprise 40th.
Skydive-in-a-Can gift vouchers come with a bonus T-shirt and 28-day money-back guarantee.
I was given four instructions.
Cross arms over chest. Head back. Arch body back. Put arms out after a tap on the shoulder.
I ran these seemingly simple commands over in my head repeatedly during the 20-minute plane ride to altitude.
The Sunshine Coast is just amazing from the air. You have views of the Glasshouse Mountains, Pumicestone Passage and can see Noosa.
I missed that final freakout moment where I could peer through the door at where I was going to jump.
Juraj had already rocked me out.
We were somersaulting through the air, with alternating views of the plane's underbelly and the sea as we flipped.
It's hard to say how many times we rolled but we were soon facing down while spinning in circles.
When I felt the tap, I spread my wings and felt what it was like to fly, well plummet at 61m a second.
I don't know how I managed to smile during that free fall, but my smile was ear to ear in the photos shot from a video camera, which doubles for stills, taken from Juraj's wrist.
I suspect it had more to do with the fact all moisture had been sucked from my mouth and my lips were actually pasted to my teeth.
But the discomfort is far superseded by the feeling of falling while taking in a truly incredible vista.
I thought 65 seconds would seem like a lifetime but before I knew it, Juraj had pulled the chute and we were gliding under the canopy.
I took the reins for a while, yanking it to sweep us around.
When Juraj took back over though, I was in for a roller-coaster ride.
I didn't scream during a minute of free falling but I squealed like a little girl when he started whipping us around in g-force spins. Go figure.
When those canopies catch the wind like that and you're staring at the roofs of houses doing spins, it's even better than the thrills at Dreamworld.
We could see our shadow on the sand as we swept onto Moffat Beach.
After a short trip back to Sunshine Coast Skydivers headquarters in the waiting minibus, their tech whiz dubbed a video of my skydive to music and popped 100 photos on CD.
After watching yourself fly through the air, skin morphing into alien-like shapes, how can you not take home the memory and relive your bravery, or idiocy as my father would say, again?
For more information visit Sunshine Coast Skydivers.