Skydiving with sight loss - an exhilarating tick off my bucket list

Post date: 
Wednesday, 20 September 2017
Image shows Clarke and his partner, during the dive, attached to eachother, wearing protective gear and with their arms up in the air

Connect Community member Clarke Reynolds wanted to jump out of a plane before he lost his remaining vision. He tells us how he prepared for his big jump and what it's like to be in freefall.

I was 34 when I started losing my sight, but interestingly I’ve been more social since. This is all down to groups such as Open Sight, who provided me with the opportunity to start playing blind cricket. I now play for Hampshire and Sussex as well as a charity called Losing My Sight, which helps visually impaired people take part in activities.

Losing My Sight is also the charity I wanted to do the skydive for. I always planned to do it before I turned 40, but finding out I was losing my sight gave me the big push I needed. Other things on my bucket list of things to do before I lose my remaining vision include taking part in the London Marathon, and as I'm an artist, holding an exhibition in a well-known gallery.

The morning of the jump

It was a glorious day, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the wind was unusually calm, but inside my nerves were beginning to kick in.

Once everyone who was jumping arrived, we were given training which involved practicing the position we had to be in on the edge of the plane and during the freefall. The trainer explained the ins and outs of the harness and parachute; he was very joyful, energetic and had a lot of experience, which helped me feel at ease.

We had to wait an hour for our take-off time, enough for a coffee and a toilet break to make me lighter!

Getting into position

We were called to the gym, where staff fitted us with a jumpsuit, harness and protective helmet that made me look like a 1960s Russian cosmonaut! We took a test to check the safety and strength of the harness by being hooked up with it to a giant swing. Thankfully, it took my weight!

At this point we were paired up with our partners. My partner’s name was Smudge (and I hoped that wouldn’t be how we ended up after our jump).

Finally, we took the very long walk to a very small plane – it wasn’t at all big like I expected it would be. We crawled in and I sat straddle-legged between Smudge. Then the plane took off. Nine thousand feet up in the air, he hooked me on to his harness, checking that all the straps were tight.
 

I was nervous the entire time. Now would also be a good point to mention that I’m scared of heights as well as planes… so what made me want to do this?! It’s on my bucket list and I wanted to challenge my fears, so I had to do it of course.

The moment of truth

We were 13,000 feet up in the air and the plane door was flung open. Smudge and I were third to jump, so I saw the two couples before me vanish in the blink of an eye.

Next was our turn. We shuffled along to the door to get into position. As I'm scared of heights, I closed my eyes. Smudge then tapped me on the shoulder to check I was ready for the rapidly approaching freefall.
 

It happened so quickly! My mind couldn't grasp the idea that I was falling, but my body certainly did.

With the force of 125 miles per hour smacking me in the face, I couldn't even breathe and all the air from my lungs had left my body.

Once I saw the camera man filming me, I was able to pull myself together. I was able to breathe again and even crack a smile. The feeling was surreal – it was like being reborn, with air rushing past me and not being able to hold onto anything to stop myself from falling.

This all happened within 45 seconds, but it felt like much longer. Smudge then pulled the parachute and my body went from horizontal to vertical instantly, allowing me to relax as my ears popped. There was nothing to hear that high up – it was so peaceful and so calm. Being sight impaired, I wish I could have seen more, but what I did see was the bright blue sky and green fields dotted with tracks as we glided over the Salisbury Plain.

I felt safe as we glided back down to Earth. It seemed like there wasn’t a gust of wind and surprisingly it didn’t feel cold either. As we came into land, with our legs up we slid on to the grass, and the feeling I had was one of accomplishment, relief and exhilaration.
 

We were only up there for five minutes in total, but it was the greatest thing I have ever done in my life.

Despite being scared of heights, I didn’t panic, but I wouldn't do it again. Once was enough and it was all for a good cause.

 

Calling all adrenaline junkies and thrill seekers! Take the plunge and raise funds for RNIB.

Take part in a tandem parachute jump

Further information

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