Until recently, the most exciting thing I’d done in quarantine was make seitan (which is way easier than it seems, by the way). But now I’ve got a far superior story for my first socially distanced dinner party – I went skydiving.
Okay, that’s a bit of a fib. In the lull between lockdowns one and two, I went indoor skydiving, which is probably the closest I’m ever gonna get to the real thing.
Despite writing about iFly last year, I had little idea what to expect from Melbourne’s first (and only) indoor skydiving facility. And my only predictions were tinged with fear.
The experience is said to make you feel like you’re freefalling from 14,000 feet, propelled by four 450-horsepower fans. So, for the sake of a good yarn, I power straight through my trepidation and into iFly in Essendon Fields for a beginner’s session at 9.30am on a Monday.
Despite the time and the times, the place is full of kids and adults already suited up and flying when I arrive.
Before getting airborne, I sign a waiver; complete a training session where I meet my guide (an ex-acrobat); and learn four hand signals – straighten legs, bend legs, head up and relax – that the guide will use to communicate with me in the tunnel. (The wind’s too loud to hear over, but it’s damn near impossible to speak through it anyway.)
Then it’s time to get dressed. The get-up is similar to what you’d wear on an actual skydive – a snug-fitting, zip-up jumpsuit that slips over your clothes, plus BYO lace-up sneakers (so they won’t get blown into the abyss). There’s a choice of two helmets – a standard one that requires goggles and leaves your mouth exposed, and a full-face that’ll keep you from drooling all over yourself. I go for the latter. If you’re buying any photos or videos, I strongly suggest you do the same.
Now, fly time. The session I signed up for was a four-minute one, divided into two sections: one for getting comfortable, and the other for more advanced soaring.
Entering the tunnel for the first time, I try to keep my limbs down, but the wind insists on forcing them up. I get a little scared when I float too high or too close to wall (but that’s what the guide’s there for), and when navigating my way out.
But by the second part of the session, I feel way more limber, confident and even excited. This time I try “high flying”, where the guide holds me by one arm and one leg, the wind speed picks up, and we both fly towards the top of the chamber, spinning weightlessly. I’m a big fan of roller-coasters and this gives me the same sort of exhilaration. I’m not sure of the speed we’re actually moving at, but it feels delightfully quick.
The flight time, on the other hand, doesn’t. Four minutes sounds like nothing – especially considering the price – but it’s much longer in practice. It takes some strength to keep your body from flailing around in the tunnel, so you probably wouldn’t want to be in there much longer than four minutes. Not as a beginner, at least.
But perhaps if I’d been flying since I was three (the youngest you can participate), I’d feel differently. During my visit, I learn that indoor skydiving is an internationally recognised sport with competitions worldwide. It was even considered for the Paris 2024 Olympics but was beaten out by breakdancing.
Overall, it’s a much more challenging activity than I’d realised, and that made me want to do it again – to master the level of control I saw exhibited by the guides and the experienced flyers; to experience the adrenaline of being weightless, moving in a way that no human body naturally could.
I think I can safely call myself an iFly convert, but, like many things in life, I couldn’t really appreciate it until I’d experienced it for myself.
iFly reopens on November 9. Book a flight from $79 here.