Divers jump in pairs, meaning that an experienced skydiver is always on hand to deal with the scary bits.
Courtesy Skydive Centrum Relax
Where:Skydive Centrum Relax, Piešťany (first left a kilometre past the main airport)
When: Saturdays and Sundays
Price: 4,500 Sk (includes photos and a video)
Tel: 0901 77 66 00
Language: English and German
The most harrowing aspect of skydiving is not the fear of death, felt most intensely in the opening lunge from the aeroplane. Nor is it the wind sculpting one's skin into a wrinkled pudding during free fall. The most harrowing aspect of skydiving is the ferocious yank that comes immediately after the parachute opens.
There is little that can be done about this. It's part of the experience.
For the things that can be done to make the experience run smoothly, the staff of Skydive Centrum Relax, Slovakia's only public skydiving service, receives high marks. They are professional and relaxed and have an enthusiasm that is contagious.
The service they offer is a tandem dive, in which jumpers are strapped to a skydiving expert who handles the more technical matters, like getting to the ground in one piece. This is a good thing for beginners because it leaves them with a lot less to worry about. But it also means that once you board the plane there is no turning back.
Everything is explained in great detail beforehand through pictures and a dry run in a grounded plane. There are a few details to remember - for example, curving your body into a banana shape when the plane door opens, and where to put hands - but in all the preparation is surprisingly simple, lasting about half an hour.
The plane is a one-propeller affair that accommodates two tandems and two jumpers with cameras strapped to their heads. The ascent to 3,000 metres lasts about thirty minutes, and takes in some of Slovakia's most beautiful countryside, with the Veľká Fatra in the foreground and the High Tatras in the background.
When the plane has circled back to its original spot, the curtain is drawn, the wind whips violently in - and suddenly the prospect of jumping into the air is right there. But there is no time for hesitation; strapped tight to a confident guide one is forced into a quick lunge headfirst into the great unknown.
The first few seconds carry with them the chaotic, tumbling feeling of free fall. There is nothing to compare it with on the ground. But the body adjusts, and the next sensation is more like floating in a lake, except for the terrific pounding on the ears and flesh from the rushing air. After about fifteen seconds, the parachute is pulled. The coast to the ground lasts one to two minutes. The adrenaline high lasts all day.
The price of a jump includes photos and a video. The entire service is excellent, professional and half as expensive as in Austria.
Some tips: wear sports clothing, long sleeves and long pants if you are sensitive to the cold. Don't eat a big breakfast - the experience tries the stomach. Try not to think too much in advance. Call ahead and let the guys know you are coming. Be brave, be bold and give it a try.
28. Aug 2000 at 0:00 | Matthew J. Reynolds