Will I feel as if I’ve jumped out of an airplane? I ask that question while putting on a baggy red jumpsuit at the AirRider indoor skydiving facility in 1Utama Shopping Centre, Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
Sam Korostilew, the tall fair-haired Australian who will be guiding me on my first ever “skydiving” experience, gives me a bemused expression before answering: “We try to simulate that free-falling sensation.”
“It’s the same as an outdoor skydive from (about) 4,000m. But here, it is done in a safe and controlled environment,” the AirRider instructor smiles reassuringly, before adding, “although, it does put pressure on your joints.”
“It can be quite tiring. Just make sure you don’t have any shoulder, neck or back injuries – or any ailments mentioned in the waiver form,” he cautions.
I rack my brain trying to recall if I have any injuries. There’s the occasional aches after an exercise these days, but that’s just ageing, right?
Opened earlier this year, AirRider is a family-friendly indoor skydiving facility for kids as young as three and those as old as 99. Zero experience in skydiving? Not a problem as no experience is required for the 50-second ride.
“Alright, you’re all suited up – helmet and goggles are in place. Are we ready to go?” Korostilew asks jovially.
The thought of free-falling from such a height – despite being in a simulated environment within an all-glass panelled circular chamber – isn’t exactly comforting.
In the background, a boy no older than five gets off from the vertical wind tunnel. Dang it, this twenty-something uncle can’t afford to lose face to some kid.
How do we do this again?
“Keep your chin up and legs straight when you are inside the wind tunnel,” Korostilew answers, adding that I should take note of the hand cues taught during a video presentation earlier.
Right, and how do I enter the wind tunnel?
“Lift your hands up and just fall in. I’ll do the rest, you just have to be relaxed and have fun,” he enthuses.
As I stride forward boldly, Korostilew hands me a pair of earplugs.
“Watch out, it’s going to get really loud,” he warns, as a technician by the control panel flicks some switches. The roaring sound of powerful air current drowns out as I put on those earplugs.
I’m told at 80% capacity, the air travels at 243km/h while at 100% it is around 310km/h. For those curious about the physics behind indoor skydiving, the air current creates a cushion of wind within the flight chamber that enables one to float.
The flight chamber at AirRider has a 3.65m diameter and is 10m high. Of course, all that science stuff is secondary when all I can think about is free falling inside a glass chamber.
Standing by the door of the chamber, I take a deep breath, lift my hands up and fall in.
Korostilew’s hands clasp around, holding me steady in midair. A sense of weightlessness envelops me as my body is propelled upwards by the strong wind.
But in my panic, I’ve forgotten to keep my chin up. When I finally remember to look up, I see some curious onlookers on the viewing platform looking in.
I stay airborne for what feels like an eternity. When I do get too close to the glass panel, I reach my palms out and push away. It’s imperative that you keep your hands steady though as the slightest movement will cause great shifts.
Seeing that I’ve oriented myself well, Korostilew indicates that we will fly towards the top of the tunnel.
The wind in the tunnel grows stronger and I propel further upwards in a circular motion. We go up and down twice and on the third landing, Korostilew guides me to the door and I pull myself out of the tunnel.
“Wasn’t that great?” Korostilew asks as I pull out the earplugs.
I grin from ear to ear, every inch of my body tingling with adrenaline.