I’d first heard about naked skydives when I was going through AFF. I spoke to my instructor, and asked when I’d be able to jump without my helmet – 100 jumps or a “C” license, whichever came last. He then mentioned something about getting on a Nude Load, and my personal heavens suddenly opened with crazy new thoughts.
I’m not normally a nude sort of guy, but I always wear the bare minimum I can for skydiving – I love the feel of the wind on my face, or my hands, or my legs. I’d jump barefoot if the DZSO would allow it. And so through AFF, and my rels, and onto a “B” license I jumped, cursing the black Protec on every exit. Eventually, I bit the bullet and obtained a Factory Diver (thanks Sandy), and after seeing one of our eight-way team members collect a wheel on exit, I wear it religously for rel. But I’m getting distracted here.
Eventually, and after a long cold winter, I started to sneak up on my 100th jump. Now, I’d been pretty assertive about spotting and accuracy, so I had that “C” license in the bag – all I needed was the 100 jumps, and that helmet-free freefall was mine. At this point, my options started to get a bit cloudy. I’d done a lot of jumps in a short time, and hadn’t actually seen anyone do a hundredth jump before. I was pretty sure the club tradition was for a big way, but big ways had been a little thin on the ground and my experience was lacking – I was sure I could think of a better way to celebrate the 100 than by blowing up an 8 way under a camera… then, inspiration hit me.
I hadn’t seen a nude jump either at this point, so it was up to me to devise something. Well, I’m a man of meticulous detail and planning: the plan was good enough, and it worked. Here’s how it went.
Firstly, I hid my logbook for a few weeks, and snuck up on the target. Eventually, the day came where it was within reach. We have an Islander at the club, which seats eight – I needed to be at the back of the plane. No problem: manifested for a solo, and announced my intention to practice some canopy skills from 6k. That’ll get me out last, behind the tandems on the load. However, as we seated two abreast, I needed an accomplice so I could achieve my state of undress without alerting the paying passengers. Enter Stage Right, Linnley Wheatley, training partner and all round good guy – I briefed him, swore him to secrecy, and he manifested for the same jump, dumping at 6k. No, we assured the DZSO, independent exits: no sudden urge to do CRW, just enjoying ourselves… Cool.
…and away we went, the Islander climbing to height. We passed through 1000, and I removed the Factory Diver. So far, so good. Next: out came a hook knife, purchased from the Skydive Shop in Adelaide for just this purpose. Taking particular care to avoid the webbing, I cut away an old T-shirt – one vertical cut from neck to waist, then another from neck to forearm. It fell away pretty easily after that. One cut from waist to hip made removal of the shorts easy, and I sat there in my underpants, waiting for the last 2000′ to elapse.
To prevent the wreckage of my clothes flapping about the cabin when the door went up, I tucked them in the pocket behind the pilot: and there, to my everlasting joy, I found a pair of goggles. Wracked by the conflict of observing Operational Regulation 188.8.131.52 or jumping without a helmet, I debated the merits of both scenarios: briefly. You only get to do your hundredth jump once.
And so it came to pass that on jump run, I stood up and attached my helmet to a passenger restraint. I hacked off my underwear (those hook knifes are SHARP). The camera dudes had worked me out at this point, and I made sure they both left the plane – at least one of them considered hanging on outside until I did my thing. I despatched Linnley, with a handshake and a high five, and it was time to go – “Thanks for the ride!” I shouted to the pilot, who turned and waved in response, and tumbled out the door.
Naturally, I’d picked a day where Sylvia was our pilot. I think she’s out of therapy now.
Freed of my helmet, my jumpsuit, my shirt and shorts, I took a thirty second look around my favourite place, Strathalbyn, and South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula. A bright blue sky, green pastures, and brilliant sunshine and crisp, clean, air. I watched the others on the load, on an invisible hill between me and the dropzone. About 6000, I tossed my pilot chute into the air, and suddenly I was suspended in my harness beneath seven glorious cells: wide awake, invigorated, and ready for a cruise under canopy.
I had a great ride down, just soaking in the scenery and watching cars on the roads below, secure in the knowledge that only Linnley knew what I was up to. But all good things must come to an end, and eventually I set down – out by the student pit, and putting the refuelling station between me and the clubhouse. In my socks, I had a pair of silk boxer shorts that Kathy gave me for Christmas; and thus clad,it was back, to pack.
At some stage I had to explain myself (I think it was getting the signatures in my logbook and the “C” license application that gave me away); then I shaved off my beard (why not) and my “friends” at the club showered me with a bucket full of “gunge”: worst thing I’ve ever tasted. Still, it made the day complete. Lots of beer, lots of laughs. It’s a great sport for that.
There are apparently easier ways of doing nude jumps, although no-one at the club has yet seen fit to demonstrate. Ah well, necessity is the mother of invention, and all that. And no photos; just memories. But it was a great day: and my best jump so far. But this sport has a way of bettering itself, all the time. For example, if I ever master landing in nil winds, I’m a huge fan of night jumps…