After the euphoria of getting my A licence I’d enjoyed jumping that summer but poor weather meant a long gap over the winter and then in Spring of 2018 I had a really bad riding accident putting paid to pretty much any physical activity (especially skydiving) for over a year.  The main problem was my left wrist which I’d so conclusively smashed that my rotational movement was very poor – and I had to be able to exert a pull of minimum 13.5kg to get my skydive medical signed off.  Physio was tough, but it paid off and together with personal fitness/strength training, I was just about in good enough shape to join the Progression course at Skydive Spain in April.  And so this brings us to 2am on Monday 08 April 2019 when John and I, together with friends Emma and Sean, head to Stansted airport.

Day 1 – A non-event

Arriving at the DZ I feel pretty psyched after over a year’s absence, but high winds pretty quickly put paid to any jumping and I destress a bit.  Start the B licence theory with Roberto.

Day 2 – I’m back!

Victor (the Chief Instructor) has sent me back to student level again, making me repeat a Level 5 and 7.  It’s fair enough, although feels odd putting on the student vests and going through the safety drills with the AFF students again, while Emma is starting the progression course.  My first jump is with Victor and it goes really, really well.  He’s pleased as am I – and in no time we’re up again for Level 7, which again goes fine.  At this point I plan to go for lunch but Victor looks displeased and says I should carry on jumping as I have “a lot of catching up to do”.  On top of no breakfast and mild dehydration I sulk slightly, but manifest for a solo jump which also goes fine.  Then I jump again with Victor doing my first FS1 jump which went OK, but I was too slow to move into slow and fast fall.  Very tired, dehydrated but proud at the end of the day.

Day 3 – A good day and a strange evening

I start the day with pilates stretches – getting the others involved too – and even challenge Sean to a quick plank competition (which I lose – just).  I have a new instructor today Adrian – who doesn’t seem to speak a great deal of English.  Cracked on though with four more FS1 jumps during which I also record my 50th jump!  In the meantime John does his 300th jump!  In the evening John and I take Sean and Emma to the bar we’d enjoyed near Mairena Aljarafe.  It’s off the beaten track and very authentic so we were surprised when an Englishman, Rod, came over and said he’d seen us at the DZ that day.  He and Scotty Milne (who has a very well known skydiving son) are teaching at Skydive Spain.  After tapas we go to another bar for dessert, but owing to our collective ineptitude with the Spanish language, end up ordering four plates of fish!

Day 4 – 3-way hip hip hooray!

A very good day at the DZ.  Have a packing brief for B licence and then do my spot (of the Drop Zone from the plane) on jump 2 of the day.  Jump 3 is a 3-way with Adrian and Johan.  Although I’m nervous, it goes great and I find myself loving it!  Adrian is pleased and suggests we do the last FS1 jump – the 4-way tomorrow.  I can’t find Roberto, so I get Scotty to sign off my B licence paperwork and he jokes that I owe him a drink.  In the evening we somehow manage to choose exactly the same restaurant that Rod and Scotty are eating in – so I buy Scotty a glass of red wine.

Day 5 (13 April) – The fates are against me

I’m nervous when I get up as it’s a big day – I’m going to get my FS1 today (or so I think).  I do a 2-way jump and then Adrian says there will be a wait for my 4-way as he has to find instructors and it’s a busy day.  Very hot so I sunbath and relax.  We finally manifest at 1740, but as we practice there is an announcement that the plane has broken down!  There will be a 2 hour wait while it’s fixed.  We all wait with bated breath – and then they fix the plane!  But in the next breath my hopes are dashed as the winds come up and it’s now 100 jump limit and I only have 56 jumps.  I can’t believe my bad luck.  I go to see Victor but he tells me that he doesn’t think the winds will drop sufficiently for me to do the 4-way today.  He gives me a consolatory hug.  I’m gutted but that’s the way it goes in skydiving sometimes.

Saturday 20 April – A serendipitous meeting

I’d transferred my last jump ticket (which would have been my 4-way) to Hibaldstow (part of the same group as Skydive Spain) and booked in with the FS coach.  On the Saturday before Easter I leave home at 0545 for the 2 hour drive to Hib where I meet the coach Cath Leather.  She is absolutely lovely and immediately puts me at ease.  We do 4 jumps together but unfortunately I don’t successfully complete my 4-way.  Meeting Cath was unexpectedly serendipitous though and ended up changing my summer in a surprising way.

June – Frustrated but bullish

I return to Hib on 01 June and bizarrely end up jumping through sleet!  This with another coach, Rob, who is also a great guy.  I’d hoped to get my FS1 on my birthday the next day (which would have made it a fabulous day) but the weather gods were against us, so we headed home.

About a week later I see Cath advertising on Facebook to say Hib wants to put together two rookie 4-way teams for the UK Skydive National Championships at the end of August.  Despite lacking the required qualification (FS1), not to mention skill, experience and the necessary funds, I persuade John it’s a good idea for us both to sign up.

At the end of the month I give the 4-way another go – fail again, but have fun making new friends Sandy & Jess and staying up far too late in the bar…  Oh and it was so hot jumping that we have the plane door open as we ascend to altitude.

July is 4-way month!

On Saturday 06 July I return and jump with yet another FS coach but fail to pass again.  I’m gutted and also panicking now as the 4-way team training for the Nationals starts next weekend!  I don’t know what to do – and I don’t want to let my new team down.

On Thursday 11 July I go to the tunnel in Manchester with John and our two new team mates, Simon and Oksana together with Cath as our 4-way coach.  We have an awesome time and our training goes surprisingly well.  I’ve taken the next day off work as well and go straight to Hib to jump with Cath again.

On our first jump as I set up in the door with Cath, she disappears!  I lose my balance and fall out while cursing myself that I missed the key (the signal for the exit), but it turns out that actually she’d slipped and lost her footing!  On the next load someone asks who fell out of the plane and Cath says it was her, followed by me!  Everyone starts laughing and relaying “exits gone wrong” stories until a plaintive voice pipes up “this is not very reassuring guys” from the one tandem student about to do his very first jump!  After lunch I do the 4-way again with Cath, Rob and Eloy and it goes well I think?  Back on the ground Cath and Rob say it was excellent and I’ve passed – I must be the proudest FS1 student ever – and they take a photo of me with a broad grin on my face.  Tomorrow I start team training – qualified just in the nick of time!