Laetitia Sterling , FFU AFF Course graduate.

When Pete first suggested the AFF last year I was thrilled at the thought, but doubted that I’d ever have the courage to jump. With adrenaline pumping just at the prospect plummeting to earth I read the course details over and over, and after the tenth reading, decided that maybe it can’t be that bad.

Two people to look after you for the first three levels, then down to one person for the last four. Someone will be there to literally hold my hand all the way – well at least until I pulled the canopy. What the hell, why not.

The prospect stayed on the back burner and we convinced ourselves that we’d probably sort it out sometime between climbing holidays when the weather didn’t look so great in the mountains…. sometime… mañana…

Friday 23rd June arrived and we avidly checked the weather forecast for the week ahead. The dry spell had come to an end, and our planned week on Scottish sea stacks was looking doubtful. Perhaps mañana had arrived after all, so I casually mentioned the AFF. That was it. Pete was a man on a mission. After a quick phone call to Spain, then a bit of a wait while we got confirmation that instructors were available, we booked our Easy Jet flights and car and finalised details with David at midnight. We turned up at the Drop Zone at 7pm the next day and introduced ourselves.

Everything was perfect, just the way we like to play. Last minute decisions put into action and there’s no time to have second thoughts. We started from nothing, so a full day in ground school taught us the essentials – arch, arch and arch, all about the reserve, arch, arch, oh and the landing, and arch some more, and relax. Yeah right!! And suddenly it was time for that first jump. I was so scared. The sound and the smell of the plane was just fazing my head, I couldn’t think, I felt sick, I focussed on looking out of the window. Andy kept telling me to smile, I grimaced, I almost wanted to cry! And then the door was opened. My heart jumped into my mouth, I could hardly breath, I couldn’t believe I was going to do this. But everyone else looked so happy, so relaxed, I just knew I was going to jump, and I knew that all had to do was arch. Just do it girl, I kept saying over and over, just do it, and arch. So I did. WOW! Wonderful, amazing, fantastic, surreal. My senses were pounded for the first two seconds as I shouted arch, arch, arch in my head and I focussedon the horizon. And suddenly there it was, right in front of me, as I had been told it would be, I was in the right position, arched, legs and arms relaxed, feeling the air rushing by me and feeling like everything was totally in control. I was loving every second of it. I completely missed my practice pulls and my final pull – trying to grasp Andy’s altimeter instead (!) – but Andy sorted me out and suddenly I was floating and shouting out for the sheer joy of an amazing jump and just glad that no one could hear!

The course is fantastic, everyone is just amazing, you don’t have to prove yourself to anyone, there’s never any undercurrent feeling of competition and everyone is really supportive – especially at those times when you’re so tired and feel like you’re just rubbish and you’ll never stop feeling scared. And when you pass, well, it’s just brilliant, and everyone shares in your bubble of happiness.

Beer and bbq’d sardines are a great celebration.

Andy was superb. So relaxed, so confident. Thanks Andy. The packers were brilliant. Never annoyed when you brought the bag back full of mud because you landed on the softest thing around – your arse! – or the lines were twisted because you were so excited that you forgot to gather them properly. Paula was wonderful – sorting out accommodation at the last minute and translating everything. The rest of the instructors were just great, and so supportive. Always ready to help and give confidence. The other jumpers – well all mad of course, but now feel like my new best friends.

Thank goodness for madness – why not join he club!?

Laetitia