Indoor Skydive, Roosendaal

This is something I have wanted to try for a very long time, and I am not sure where it even came into my knowledge base. I have some recollection of speaking to someone at Life Mastery in 2001 who was familiar not only with the indoor sky dive experiences but also understood how they evolved over time with the modern ones being safer due to solving the issues of losing up draft around perimeter found in the original concepts.

Fast forward to March 23, 2010 at Indoor Skydive in Roosendaal, The Netherlands and my chance to experience it finally came. I was with a business group and the first task was to go upstairs to get suited up for the flight. All loose articles out of pockets, etc, check. Flight suit, check. Helmet, check. Goggles – wait, what the heck are these things? Basically a piece of thin plastic that has some folds in it to bend into a semi-goggle shape with a small adjustable bungee cord attached. Okay, they fit on my head but aren’t these things going to be ripped off my face in the 170 mph wind? Obviously they have done this before so, “Have faith,” I tell myself.

All dressed up and ready to go we all entered the training room where the instructors gave us an overview of what to expect and what to do. The good news I found out somewhere between getting through the front door and arriving in the training room is discovering that this is going to be a one-on-one experience in the tunnel – yourself with an instructor. The bad news was being in the training room where the primary language was Dutch. Though some of us (like me) knew no Dutch, I would say most of the group did, so it was humorous to listen to what seemed to be like three minutes of the instructor speaking in Dutch. He would speak, make gestures, most of the room would laugh, etc. Then, he would pause at the end of the teaching segment and say, “Now for the English version. When I move my fingers like this (holding two fingers up and separating them) it means to move your legs out.” Ah, yeah, that was the entire English translation for that part and he quickly moved onto the next key point, again, in Dutch.

You see it is not rocket science by far and the problem is that in the tunnel (as in space) no one can hear you scream (or speak) so everything is done through sign language. It is not much to learn quantity wise but when your brain is on overload to begin with, and you only get a few precious understandable words for each movement, it is all a bit overwhelming.

So, again, obviously they have done this before so, “Have faith,” I tell myself.

With our training done we entered the airlock and headed into the tunnel area. There was a queue up on the monitor screens that showed who was up and each of us would get a one minute turn in the tunnel, three times total. Seeing the people go before me there was certainly nothing to panic about – the bottom line here is that no matter how crazy the concept of entering a 170 mph wind might seem no one was even close to getting bounced around in any violent or dangerous manner.

When my turn came I entered the doorway to the tunnel. The doorway itself is an odd experience as it is alway open and does not seem to have any type of discernible event horizon, yet there is not much wind coming out of it, and there is certainly a lot of wind inside of it! You fall forward… Did I say “fall”? I have no idea what the word for it is but somehow you lean into the tunnel and you are immediately lifted into a horizontal position quite effortlessly. That, however, was the easy part.

Once in the tunnel it was difficult to understand the feedback of moving your body parts around but the instructor did a great job of helping compensate for your idiocy. There were times when you found yourself headed straight for the wall – but at a speed where just putting out a hand was all that was needed to keep safe. There were times when you found yourself floating to the bottom of the floor – and you just did not understand why this was happening. Most precious, however, were the times when everything seemed to be going just right and you were able to take in the brief moment of total peace flying around in violent rush of air.

So, the big question for anyone who has not tried it would be of course what was it like. The crappy answer is the only way to find out is to experience it in person. Though it may seem like a cop out for the most part it is true for no matter how accurately I might describe my own experience I am sure your perspective will be completely different. For me there was absolutely no sense of falling. (Which is not surprising given that you are staying relatively in the same place in regard to the floor) There is certainly a lot going on around you as the 170 wind is something I do not believe you would experience anywhere else. (At terminal velocity it is humorous to see the contortions on people’s faces!) Maybe my SCUBA background and zero-G experience has given me at least some reference points to make it more comfortable but none the less I think I would do better taking everything in the next time around.

The minutes lasted for what seemed to be a long time but not long enough to really learn anything. Next time I hope for an experience where the newness has worn off at least a little bit and I could spend more time understanding how to fly. If I could find one of these places more locally I might just be in trouble getting other things done as I spend a lot of time there. To see the way the instructor could fly around when our fun was over is what dreams are made of…

…and no, the goggles did not get ripped off my face!