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Tandom Skydiving - Q&A with Sara Montalvao

Sara -yourchoice

Sara Montalvao recently decided to push herself outside her comfort zone by doing a tandem skydive in Jersey in April as part of her bucket list. Sara found the experience so exhilarating that she decided to take things to the next level and in October she became the first female to qualify for freefall in Jersey under the Static Line Progression System.

We were curious to find out more so we asked her why she has decided to take up this sport, how she copes with fear and what she does to stay active.

It's well known that you are always pushing yourself outside your comfort zone but why skydiving?

My fascination with parachuting began at the age of 10 after attending an open day organised by the Paratroopers. After so many years of wishing to jump out of a plane I have finally decided to take the plunge and do it, no more excuses, especially as I did not even need to travel that far…only to St Peter (laughs). 

Tell us more about your training, what is Static-Line?

Static-Line Parachuting is an alternative method of getting qualified to the Accelerated Freefall courses available abroad and we can do it on our door step here in Jersey which is really helpful. One full day of ground-training is all that is required to carry out our first solo parachute jump from 3,500ft. The parachute opens automatically by a 'static-line' which is attached to the aircraft (so there is no freefall involved initially). As we progress through the parachute training system we can start freefall skydiving and gradually jump from higher altitudes.

That seems like quite a challenge to go from a tandem experience to jumping on your own, as a beginner how do you cope with fear?

Skydiving is an adventure sport that involves a degree of risk. I took up this sport in order to challenge my fears.

In a nutshell, I accept the fact that skydiving is dangerous and it will trigger fear of some description. I simply acknowledge and embrace the fear in order to help me to stay safe without letting it interfere with my enjoyment of this exhilarating sport. I know it won't always be as scary as with experience comes familiarity. For me one of the benefits is that when I learn to manage the level of fear that skydiving can induce, I will be able to carry it into other aspects of my life.

I also find that controlled, regular breathing and mental preparation by visualising what I am going to do helps to alleviate the tension and stress.

Believe it or not, despite the nerves, it's a very peaceful sensation and it is very relaxing once you get over the intense adrenaline rush of leaving the plane. To start with it is fairly loud because of the plane and wind noise but once the parachute is open, it's very quiet and peaceful while gliding gently through the air overlooking the Island.

So having a healthy mind is really important, what do you do to stay on top of things?

For me it is particularly important to stay fit and I am very lucky that Active offers such an abundance of classes to suit all my needs. For this particular sport it helps to have a strong core, strong back and a strong mind.

Can anyone do skydiving, or is it only for the real daredevils?

(laughs) I guess that depends… I have met people who think I am completely crazy and would never even consider it because the thought of skydiving is terrifying to them. But for those who may be on the fence, I encourage them to get in touch with Skydive Jersey or even go to the beach to see how things work. Most people might be surprised to find out that they are not as scared as they imagined they would be.

Freefall day, you were about to take off, how did you feel?

I felt really nervous but extremely excited at the same time, I knew I had to do it and get it right and this was my opportunity to prove to my instructor that I was ready to take things to the next level. After landing safely on the beach I was over the moon, it is almost impossible to find words to describe how I felt, but it was certainly a great sense of achievement!

Now the winter is coming are we right to assume that you cannot jump in all weather conditions, what keeps you motivated?

That is right, I will not be able to continue with the practical training however, skydiving is not just about jumping out of a plane, there is so much more to learn! This winter I will be concentrating on learning to pack parachutes, this is another challenge and it is really important that we receive the right training and take our time to learn.

Wow, that's all really incredible - just to finalise, what is your ultimate goal?

I am not sure I have an ultimate goal as there are so many different skydiving skills to try. As I do not like to rush things I am going to continue with this type of training until I become a qualified skydiver but I would say that my initial goal will be to be able to do a 'dive exit' out of the plane!

Written by Colin Stanier at 09:00

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