“Bing” – my phone lights up with a message out of the blue from a friend: “We could do with some wingsuit coaching over here in Northern Ireland, the owner is really keen to support fun jumpers and there’s quite a bit of demand, fancy it?”
And so, the adventure to Ireland began. But how do I get there? Well, by now, I would hope there are more and more people aware of the development fund administered by British Skydiving – that’s how. So, with a few forms filled in, some back and forth via email and zoom with both the local team and the very helpful Liam at British Skydiving who asked questions such as: What’s your plan? How will it benefit British Skydivers? How can we ensure you will remain professional? After these were answered and the paperwork was filed, it was then that I finally got the OK!
The last bank holiday was set as the date, and it rather rapidly rolled round. On 26th May, I flew out to Belfast with five wingsuits, one rig and a change of pants packed. I was ready to go.
Touch down was late at night on the 26th, with a very friendly face, Graham Wallace, a local wingsuiter and all-round good guy, welcoming me to Northern Ireland.
Following his local knowledge and recommendations, I bunked down that night at the Imperial Hotel in Garvagh (I’d heartily recommend it and they do skydiver rates too!).
On the morning of the 27th, I arrived bright and early at the DZ and wow what a facility! A huge hangar and packing, a rapid caravan (15k in 12 minutes!!) and a really friendly and professional team (props to Nick the CI who was a legend and Emily on manifest for really looking after me).
Sadly, the weather was less than ideal. “No worries.” I thought, “We’ll get them all together during run through drills, ground school, logistics and all the background jazz. How many have we got?”
The answer – 6 WS1 (FFC) and 1 WS2.
Thanks to all the guys who were prompt, keen and really up for it. Three to four hours later we were all hopped up and were ready for the off.
Sadly, the weather had other ideas. Clouds are less than ideal for wingsuits, so I decided to have a cheeky freefly and check the lie of the land, it’s always good to make sure you’re prepared for the visuals and navigation home! Unfortunately, the cloud didn’t’ break enough for our wings that day. Still, I was sure tomorrow would be better.
Sunday soon dawned and were treated to 100% cloud once again, it was at this point that I started to get worried! Again, we arrived bright and early to the DZ for more drills, more practice and more of me droning on like a dying wasp. We especially make good use of the crash mats.
Finally, at 2pm, we caught a break and things soon started to kick off.
To cut a long story short, with some impressive logistics, help from Emily and the loan of a kit from the DZ (thanks Nick and Aaron), we end up back to back on pretty much every lift Sunday through Monday. Video debriefs were a little rapid at the time, but were much longer at the end of the day. Thanks so much for listening boys!
Finally, we were close to the end of the second day and things started to look worrying. Graham wanted to get his WS2 but we were light of jumpers for the load (and this should tell you everything you need to know about this DZ) and the lads at the DZ all offer to chip in and buy the extra slots to make sure the plane turns.
The pressure was all on Graham as now there was real skin in the game! We had already nailed the basics and he’d bossed the (very) unstable exit, just a few final ticks to clear the bar. He stepped up to the plate like a boss, smashing WS2 jump. There were big grins all round, I loved it!
By this point we have 6 new birdies and 1 WS2 (hopefully, aspiring coach). What a glorious weekend. It’s truly beautiful out there, a great DZ being built in the right way. I cannot wait to go back.
I should also point out, no wingsuiters landed off all weekend, in fact the only people landing off were the trackers – affirming my long-held belief, tracking is just a crap wingsuit jump.
If you’re interested in wingsuiting, there’s plenty of us in this rapidly growing scene who are keen to help, or failing that, drop me a message.
Grab your dresses boys and girls…. let’s buzz the tower.
If you would like to learn more about British Skydiving Development Events, click here.