Skydiving Versus Falling in Love

by Sadie Mills on May 17, 2013

I did my first tandem skydive on 4th August 2012, at Dunkeswell Airfield, Devon. It’s still a mystery how I wound up there. It wasn’t top of my bucket list (I didn’t have one, back then). I’d never even thought about it. I can only attribute it to too many beers one Friday night, running my mouth off, and finding an online booking form via my mobile phone. If we’d gone to Wetherspoons where reception is blocked, it probably would never have happened. I had a big shock the next day when my confirmation email arrived.

It’s difficult to describe the feeling when you’re looking out of the open door of a plane, knowing that you’re going to be falling 15,000 feet when the guy behind you decides it’s time. The word terror comes to mind, but it seems so inadequate here.

WARNING: in the following pictures, I look like a complete div. I defy anyone not to. I can live with it.

Sadie Mills - Skydiving

In the brief, we were told that skydiving is actually very safe. People make poor judgements to be sure, and sometimes accidents happen, but the sport is incredibly tightly regulated. Safety is paramount. Fatalities are very rare. When you compare it to scuba diving or horse-riding, the statistics are a glowing endorsement. More people are killed fishing in the UK than in any other pastime.

It was explained that you were more likely to be injured in a car accident on the way home. It makes sense when you think about it. Behind the wheel of a car, we feel invincible. We get complacent. I don’t imagine it’s easy to become so blasé when you’re hurtling towards earth at 120mph. And it isn’t just us we need to worry about, it’s millions of other road users too.

Two days after my jump, the point was hammered home when a school friend of mine was killed in a car accident.

The events of that week changed my whole outlook on life. The catalyst was already there. I worked in the Probate Department of a local Solicitors, dealing with Wills and estates of the deceased. When you work with death for long enough (deathbed Wills being the killer) the message starts to trickle through that this life is finite. I knew that mine was stagnating; I knew things needed to change. I’m not sure I would have actually got up and done something about it, however, had it not been for what happened that week. There’s something about falling at 176 ft per second that really sharpens the mind. It was a double whammy when I lost my friend.

I found the experience character-building. I’ll never see the world in the same light again. I defy anyone to look down on the curve of the earth and not feel humbled. You realise how small you really are. That realisation changes your perception of your problems – if you’re only small, how big can they be? You learn not to sweat the small stuff, which in turn gives you more confidence. It makes you happier. One bizarre consequence for me was that I found my arachnophobia was cured. I’d always been terrified of spiders, completely irrationally.

It hit her like a freight train, tears soon pricking her eyes.  Something unravelled: a ball of warmth in her chest.  An explosion: pure euphoria.  It was like every snippet of joy she’d ever felt, wrapped up in a bow, multiplied by a thousand.  It surged through her veins like electricity, spreading from her heart to her head, to her fingers and toes; surging back again, amplifying. 

The above is a quote from my most recent short story, Parachutes and Peppermints. This is the essence of what I felt in freefall, not unlike the sensations experienced when you’re falling in love, magnified by a thousand or ten. Any non-skydiver who’s been in love will probably find that insulting, but the intensity of emotion in those 60 seconds is inconceivable. I suppose you could say that love is a flame, whereas freefall is a spark. A minute and it’s gone, it’s one big bang, whereas with love, it’s a slow burn. If you look after it, it will last you a lifetime.

The relationship between fellow skydivers is more intense than probably any other sport. They’ve all put themselves out there, for whatever reason, and “jumped out of a perfectly good plane”. They have a shared experience – this euphoria, exhilaration, that’s impossible to impart. And they all know that, despite the stringent safety regulations, there’s still a chance that something could go wrong. There’s a camaraderie. I imagine that with participants of the riskier disciplines like BASE jumpers and wingsuit pilots, these interpersonal relationships ascend to a whole different level.

As a scuba diver, I’ve had a few buddies. You want a good one, because if your equipment malfunctions, you’re completely reliant on them for your next breath. You develop friendships – you’ll have a beer afterwards then head off to your respective hotels. With skydiving it’s more of a community. It isn’t a hobby. It’s a whole way of life.

A writer friend had misgivings when I relayed my plans to write a piece of romantic fiction set in the world of skydiving. He said that surely my audience in this niche would be middle-aged men? Romance is the last thing they’re going to want to read! From what I’ve seen at my local dropzone, this isn’t the case. There are plenty of women skydivers. The potential for love on the dropzone is massive. And I defy even the butchest, macho-man not getting a little teary looking out over that sky. Romance isn’t just for the ladies.

My Skydiving Short Stories aren’t written for skydivers. They’re written for everyone. The skydiving world is a fraternity the majority of ‘whuffos’ (people who don’t jump out of a perfectly good planes) can’t relate to. I’d like to share the tiny snippet I’ve seen.

“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”  – Leonardo da Vinci

The Freefall Trilogy, a series of fast-paced romantic comedies set in the adrenaline-pumped world of skydiving, is currently for sale at a specially reduced rate.  Visit and for further details.

 The Freefall Trilogy - Sadie Mills

With thanks to Skydive UK Dunkeswell. Photographs courtesy of Shane Hardwick.

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