This is Chris, for One Stop Adventures, interviewing Steven, also known as Irish. The man. The legend for Skydive Australia in Cairns.
Starting off there, what's the name of your tour activity? Where are you located and what do you offer as a product?
We're Skydive Australia. We have eighteen different drop zones all around Australia. Starting from Cairns going all the way down to the East Coast around the bottom of Melbourne.
I'm based up here in Cairns and I've been looking after Cairns, Mission Beach, and Airlie Beach for the last couple of years.
Would you be able to just give us a run through of essentially what people can expect when they participate?
We've got everything sort of finely tuned now. So, if you're jumping in Cairns or Airlie Beach we can have you picked up from your accommodation, and back to your hotel within three hours, which is pretty good going.
We'll grab you, take you down there, do the training with you, do the safety briefing, and get you to the airport. Get you up to fifteen thousand feet, drop you out of the plane, land you and get you back in the shop. Then if you get the videos and photos, we'll have that ready for you in half an hour, and then back in your accommodation. So, that means if you want to do another tour, or you have something on that day you're ready to do that.
Mission Beach is slightly different, because we do pickups from Cairns, so it's a two hour drop-off down to Mission Beach. But, we've made it quite attractive down there now, because, with the Mission beach drop zone you get free lunch included, or free breakfast. You get free bike hire. Free use of the WIFI and the big screens because it is a long day down there. When you get down there in the morning, you check in, and then if you're ready to go, we'll get you jumping straight away and give you your lunch voucher. If you're not going to be jumping for a couple of loads, well then we'll give you a breakfast voucher. Go down and sit on the beach and have a nice breakfast.
We do recommend for Mission Beach as well it is a full day. Bring your swimmers with you. But you must wait until everybody's jumped before you can go into the water. If you’re staying in Mission Beach obviously it’s a quicker turn around.
So what age demographic usually Skydives?
It's no longer just the backpackers. It's everybody, we have people from twelve years old all the way to ninety-three years old jumping out of an airplane.
So twelve is about the minimum age?
Twelve is the minimum age you're allowed to do it. With your parent's consent, and the amount of people these days who are buying their kids for their 12th, 13th, 14th birthdays a skydive is just unbelievable.
As long as you can bend your legs, you can jump out of an airplane.
There's obviously no upper limit on that? As long as they're game?
As long as they can bend their legs, they can jump out of an airplane.
What level of fitness would you say you need to participate?
We take any level of fitness. Ninety five percent of disabilities we can jump you as well. Like, the main thing is as long as we can get your legs up, we can get you down safely.
What is the average drop off and pick up time?
We start in Cairns from 5.30 in the morning, so we do the sunrise jump. We take you up, do your sunrise jump, drop you back, and then drop you back to your accommodation. For Mission Beach, we've got certain pick up locations around Cairns and we'll pick you up there between six-thirty and seven in the morning, and then you get dropped off at anything between four, five and six in the afternoon, depending on how many people have got stowed over.
You mentioned it before, the swimmers if they're going to Mission Beach, but is there anything else that they need to bring, anything like footwear anything like that?
Everybody who jumps out of an airplane has to have a pair of trainers on. It doesn't matter where they're landing, because if they land on the beach and there's any glass or stones, or coral there, it can cut your feet open. Same as if they're landing in Cairns into the field. When people land on the ground we don't want them to hurt themselves.
The only thing you need to have with you when you're going skydiving is a pair of covered shoes or trainers, and a t-shirt with sleeves. Because the actual parachute sits so close and the harness so close against your skin, if you just have a sleeveless t-shirt on or something like that, you're going to get a rash burn under your armpits.
Anything people shouldn't bring?
Mobile phone, walk-mans, any loose jewellery. Anything loose at all, because you're jumping out of an airplane and you're falling about two hundred kilometres an hour. You do not want anything loose on you whatsoever.
So a pocket full of change is a bad idea?
The reason and people get quite stroppy about this, when we say that you can't bring your own camera, you can't bring your own stuff with you. If you drop it, it will turn into a missile and if that hits the parachute underneath you, it destroys the parachute.
What sort of training do your guys receive and how experienced are they?
All of our guys have done a minimum of eight hundred skydives, before they've ever jumped on a tandem with anybody else. So a lot of them start off working for us as packers. They end up packing the chutes, and then slowly over a couple of years they work at getting the jumps up. Then once they've got up to about a hundred skydives, they start jumping out of a plane doing video photography.
Once they've done up to seven hundred jumps again after that, then they get sent off to a place called the "Funny Farm," and that's where they do all their training. They do about fifty or sixty jumps there with guides training them how to do it. Basically flying around in the air with them. Putting them into every position that you can possibly think of, and they have to get out of it, and get out of it safely.
It's so drilled into them, so if anything was to go wrong up there, we know that they can fix it straight away.
All of our guys have done a minimum of eight hundred skydives, before they've ever jumped on a tandem with anybody else.
What type of plane are you expecting to jump out of?
We have nice Cessna Caravans. They hold eight tandem masters and eight customers as well. They've all got little seats in them, which we put in ourselves to make it a bit more comfortable. You can basically fit seventeen people in the plane at any one time, Eighteen including the pilot. You can have one camera flyer who is someone who can actually jump out of the plane, and fly around you doing the photography work like that as well.
Is food or anything available at the drop zones?
Mission Beach is our location where we do lunch, we leave from Cairns. It's two hours down there so we chuck in a lunch with no extra charge. Mission Beach as beautiful as it is, there's not a whole lot to do there. But in Cairns it's only three hours so there's no point in going with that.
We do have water fountains at each of our drop zones and some of our drop zones have coffee machines and tea and stuff like that.
Are there any extra costs, or optional extras that people should be aware of?
Everybody has to pay their APF levy, and the APF is the Australian Parachute Federation membership. Everybody has to pay that.
What about things like photographs, and video?
Yeah, you have options for both photo and video and you can pre-book or organise on the day.
You definitely need to get at least video, the experience is such an emotional overload, you know? And its so cool to be sitting on the ground an hour later just reliving the whole thing. It's going to last you the rest of your life.
When is the best time of year to skydive?
We jump all the time as long as the sun is shining and the weather's good it's a good time to jump out of an airplane. Even if here when it's a bit cloudy, we still jump above the clouds, so you're jumping into a blue sky and then you get to go through the cloud, which is a pretty amazing feeling. To see this cloud coming towards you, you don't know what it's going to feel like, and all of a sudden it's just there.
People do need to realize that it is a weather dependent activity?
Of course. We're not going to jump unless it's safe. If we get up there and it's raining or too windy or there's a storm coming or something, we're not going to jump. Our main focus is your safety. We want you to come in, have the best experience of a lifetime and land safely and walk away. We do not want you coming in and then getting smashed with rain on the way down, and then getting blown off course by wind or anything like this. It is weather dependent but at the moment we're doing pretty well.
Should people be booking in advance? How far in advance?
We always recommend at least forty-eight hours in advance. We’ve changed our days around now, so where we used to jump only seventy people, we can now jump with two teams running a hundred and twenty people in a day. It's very, very rare that we're sold out the whole day. But, as soon as you know that you want to jump, that's when you ring and book it in.
What awards or certificates has your company obtained?
We have won every award possible to win at skydiving. We've won the Backpacker Award, we've won the VIP Awards, we've won the Para North Queensland Award, we've won the tourism award. We're pretty damn good at what we do.
We do take a lot of pride in what we do. Its a very hard job. It's a very stressful job. It may not look like it but, you know, that said, you come in the door, we want to make sure that you leave the door in the same way you came in the door. We do try our hardest to make sure nobody's waiting around, and we do try our hardest to make sure everyone has an amazing time.
If you look at Trip Advisor and all this, you'll see the reviews that we've got. They're pretty darn good.
This may seem like a silly question now, but why should travellers choose your product?
We love our job. Everybody who works for us loves their job. The smile on your face when you land and walk back. When we get someone who walks in and they're nervous and they're crying, and they're a blubbering mess, and then they walk back in a couple of hours later with the biggest smile on their face, that's what makes it for us in our job, you know?
We've all been in this industry for a long time, you know? We've all been working around Australia in different parts and all this. It's very rare that anybody actually joins our skydiving family and then quits. You come and jump with us because we're putting you first.
Last, but not least, is there any other sort of tips, advice, or anything that we've missed that you want to talk about?
Do not go out and get drunk the night before you go skydiving. Please. We've had incidents before where people jump out of planes and because they've had one too many the night before, you may not be hung over in the morning, but you may have your stomach lining not being right and the last thing you want to do is spew when you jump out of a plane. It's just going to hit you straight back in the face.
The biggest thing about skydiving is everybody's worried you're going to jump out of plane. You don't have to worry about safety. We take care of all that. All you've got to do is enjoy yourself. We've been going for twenty-nine years. We've got a one hundred percent safety record. We've never had a fatality in twenty-nine years. Which is pretty darn good.