Skydiving is the ultimate adrenaline buzz. Here’s what happened when Pawel Kolat learned to skydive in Lillo, Spain.
With my legs dangling from the tiny plane as it hovers at 13000ft, I feel as if my nervous system has been plugged into a 1000-volt power line. My instructor Ernesto Gainza senses my anxiety and offers reassurance.
“Just arch your back as if you want to punch the air with your dick first, and you’ll be fine,” he says. I’m so scared that it’s not until later that I can actually laugh at his advice.
Flanked by two instructors, I take a deep breath of petrol fumes and icy air, and chuck myself into the void.
The freefall is surreal: it feels like I’m floating on a cushion of air rather than plummeting at 120mph, but the deafening wind reminds me of my rapid descent.
At 5500ft, I pull the parachute cord and suddenly, everything goes silent. Phew, I’ve survived. I’m alive.
As I float downwards, I soak up the stunning views of the olive groves below me, but I can’t relax for long. Luckily, I land smoothly in a blanket of poppies, a rural idyll that looks like something from a Monet painting.
Livin’ the dream
I blame the thrill-seeking, skydiving criminals in Point Break for prompting me to enrol on a four-day course at Skydive Lillo, just outside Madrid.
Before doing my first jump, I spent a day in the classroom going over the landing pattern and the safety drills. Instructor Ernesto has impressive credentials: he’s competed at international level and has base jumped Angel Falls in Venezuela – the world’s tallest waterfall.
It wasn’t long before I was putting theory into practice, and after a few jumps I start to relax and love the heart-stomping thrill.
Between skydives, I spend an afternoon wandering around the nearby time-warp town of Toledo, its streets lined with medieval buildings, the perfect antidote to the craziness and intensity of skydiving.
Ride like the wind
On my seventh jump, I somersault out of the plane and position myself into an arrow shape, with my hands pointing backwards and my body stretched out like Superman. This technique, known as ‘tracking’, generates a lot of forward speed, and I fall 1000ft every five seconds, feeling every inch the superhero. Adrenalin courses through my veins and the high is like nothing I’ve experienced before.
When I return to base an alarm sounds and an announcement is made: “Congratulations Pawel – you’re a skydiver now!” After seven jumps, I’ve completed my Accelerated Freefall course (AFF). Everyone starts clapping and I grab a beer, I feel on top of the world.
If you’re too much of a wimp to try skydiving for real, but would love to see what it feels like to fly through the air, visit indoor skydiving centre Airkix, in Milton Keynes, an hour from London.
The notion of flying indoors was first tried by the American military in 1964, and the first vertical wind tunnels were opened in Tennessee and Las Vegas in 1982. At Airkix, skydivers have a basic training session, before geting kitted out in helmets, jumpsuits and earplugs.
To enter the wind tunnel, stand in the open doorway, lean forward and you’ll feel your legs lift from under you. Then arch your back and get into a horizontal flying position: a complete buzz. The instructor will enter the tunnel with you to help you assume a neutral flying position. After your session, the instructor will show the group a few dazzling tricks and impressive air acrobatics. Be prepared to get addicted!
Get more info at: airkix.com
WHEN TO GO: You can skydive all year round, but spring to autumn has the sunniest and driest weather.
GETTING THERE: Ryanair, EasyJet, BA, Iberia and Air Europa all fly to Madrid from London.
GETTING AROUND: Take a train from Madrid to Villacañas (50 minutes), then take a taxi to Lillo (10 minutes).
VISAS: South Africans need a Schengen visa to visit Spain.
CURRENCY: Euro. 1 GBP = 1.20 EUR.
GOING OUT: A beer is €1.50-€2.
ACCOMMODATION: Camping is €3 a night, a hostel dorm is €15 and a hotel room is €30.
GET MORE INFO AT: spain.info
» Pawel trained with Skydive Lillo (+34 925 170 704; skydivelillo.com), which offers tandem skydiving from €179 and skydiving courses from €1513. Beginners are welcome.