Falling from a Spanish sky, twenty times or higher – why?


Ancient region of the Moors, now the cradle of Spanish culture!

I’m back from the most beautiful of Spain’s regions yet never saw anything outside the modern Spain of suburban construction.

The reason: I wasn’t there for culture. I was there to jump out of planes. And Skydive Spain must be one of the best places in the world to do it. I’m now a qualified skydiver after a year of odd weekend jumping, and it feels great.

Ten days in a hangar and twenty jumps from 15,000ft, a minute of vertical giggles before pulling out the pilot chute, and the thrills and laughs came in equal measure. Some wild moments. The jump where my alti ripped off my wrist; the jump where I fluffed a float exit, the jump where I’m certain a lizard fell out of my canopy as it opened, at which I was very surprised. (Although presumably not as surprised as the lizard.) And that last jump. WHAT a last jump.

On Monday I needed one more jump to qualify for an ‘A license’, the basic certification needed to jump solo or with FS1s anywhere in the world, and the wind got messy: 100 jump minimum. With Tuesday the last day – we were leaving at 4pm – I arrived at the dropzone and it was still in force. Dropped a bit, I kitted up, and then the wind warning came back just as the jumpmaster was checking out my rig. Damn.

An hour passed. The sign never came down, but the windsock went flaccid for a moment, then another moment. Then I saw in the manifest officer’s eyes that look: the look where they know everything’s going to be ok whatever happens. And she cleared me to jump.

I was in kit and on the plane in ten minutes.

As we took off, it felt different. I’ve jumped in winds before – actually my first jump a year back, from a static line, was in higher winds than strictly allowed for firsttimers. But this wind was seriously borderline. When I exited at 15 grand I felt it. It was harder to hold stable, and movements caused more rockiness than usual. This felt like a real skydive. I did a backflip to celebrate.

This isn't me, it's just a cool photo.Glanced down, checked alti. At 12K I was some distance from the airfield. Time for my favourite freefall activity: tracking. I haven’t done much of it but when it works it feels fantastic: looking forward, arms back at 45 degrees, legs straight, you forget you’re falling and really feel you’re flying. (Superman didn’t know nuthin’; you can’t do it with one arm out in front.) For nearly ten seconds it all worked, grinning like a maniac, flying myself back towards the airfield as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

You can’t explain skydiving to someone who’s never done it. You just can’t.

Whoops, over the runway. I can feel the winds. I wave off and pull the pilot ‘chute, remembering – as I’ve forced myself to all week – to throw it away and not hold on. (I first trained with a ripcord, where you pull out a separate toggle and then stow it away, but absently keeping hold of a pilot ‘chute would be a very bad idea.) The ripstop F111 fabric unfolds above me like orchids in timelapse photography, there and square and beautiful, at 3800ft.

Directly below me, the aircraft buzzes between my legs like a dragonfly as it starts its landing run.

Despite the winds it’s the best landing I’ve ever done: square on to the wind, perfectly flared. I run two steps, stay standing (rare for me) and furl the canopy as if I’ve been doing it for years. Everything worked this time.

When I get back to the hangar, there’s a 200 jump minimum in force. I’ve been up on the only inexperienced lift of the day. And it’s won me my A license. What a holiday. What a holiday!

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