Imagine you’re sitting in the back of a plane, and as it reaches 12,000 ft, then the pilot tells you to open the door and jump out … Sounds crazy! Well, not if you are the professional, fun loving legends that are Coffs Skydivers or one of their clients about to take the plunge. The Coffs FOCUS crew recently did just that … and whilst there, we caught up with the company’s chief instructor, Lawrence “Pom” Hill, to find out more about this awesome experience.
Firstly, tell us where the nickname “Pom” comes from …
My last two years in England I was a gothic punk in the London scene. At 20 years old, I left England and came to Oz to meet my dad and find a new lifestyle!
What’s your connection with the Coffs Coast?
I’ve lived and worked here for 19 years – 10 years as a Scuba Diving instructor at Divequest, Mullaway; nine years as a professional skydiver at Coffs Skydivers. That’s 19 years’ teaching adventure sports.
Can you give the readers an indication of how many jumps you have done?
Approximately 4,237 jumps.
What do you love most about your job?
Screaming and shouting and carrying on like a pork chop … and getting paid for it!
It’s not a job; it’s a lifestyle. I’ve been chasing adrenalin sports all of my life, which culminated in me becoming a skydiving instructor at age 41.
High points are the skydive community/ family, sharing something I love with new people, jumping with my friends I have known for many years, and meeting people from all over the world.
How did you become interested in the sport?
I tried every other adrenalin sport I could find. For my 30th birthday I did a tandem skydive – and loved it. I had found what I was looking for. My life took a left hand turn, and I’ve never been the same since – and that’s a good thing.
How does a typical day begin for you?
Get my four daughters up and ready for high school. I have triplet 13 year olds and a 16-year-old daughter (they have all done a tandem skydive). Once at work, join the team preparing the skydiving centre for the day’s activities. First customers arrive, we meet and greet, the jokes start flowing, the energy starts building, and the fun begins. Half an hour later, after paperwork and training, we are in the plane at the end of the runway ready for take-off. Yeeha – let’s go! As we climb to 15,000 ft, there are more jokes and beautiful scenery. Time to skydive. Pilot shouts: “DOOR!” We open it and jump into freedom. Have a fabulous time with my passenger, and then land on the beach. High 5s, pose for a few pictures, laugh with their family, in the van, and back to the drop zone. Wave goodbye to my new friend. Let’s do it all over again.
Describe what you are feeling when you jump?
When I leave that aircraft, I am utterly present in the moment. This phenomenon has led my brain and body to a place of focus and possibility I once could never have imagined. This sense of overcoming my limitations and fears … Sometimes I look back in shock at where I’ve come from and what I have been able to achieve.
You’re lucky to be experiencing this on a daily basis. How did you get here?
Ten years ago Steve asked whether I would consider becoming a skydiving instructor. I laughed at him, because I did not believe I had the abilities and could never imagine myself in that role. Twelve months later, I completed my first instructor rating. Within four years I became the chief instructor of Coffs Skydivers and also a parachute rigger.
Someone believed in me, and I began to learn that my limitations were a story that I had made up in my head, and it was very not true. Through skydiving and the support of the team (my good friends), I started to see the person who was inside. This journey has been nothing short of amazing. Once I was willing to be truthful about what I wanted, and who I wanted to be, my self-doubt turned to self-belief, and I began to exceed my limitations.
And this is something you guys hope to embrace in the relaunching of the brand?
Yes, Coffs Skydivers is my community, my second home, my sport, my challenge, my peace. After 20 years, Coffs Skydivers has evolved into a skydiving centre with a deep connection to team and personal development. To reflect this, we are rebranding and launching a new website.
Does it take long to teach someone how to skydive?
What is involved for someone to be able to undertake solo jumps?
We teach people to learn to skydive solo via the Accelerated Freefall programme (AFF). The AFF is designed to allow maximum learning and development in a short space of time, with 30 seconds freefall on your first jump. We start with a full day of ground training, where you are introduced to all aspects of skydiving. Upon completion of this day (including an exam), you are ready to go skydiving. During the nine stages the instructors guide you through freefall, assisting body position and procedures and during canopy flight until you can fly unassisted.
How does the local area rate for conditions?
The subtropical environment allows us to go skydiving all year around. The views are second to none, comprising the Solitary Islands Marine Reserve with the backdrop of the Great Dividing Range.
Do you have a wide range of different people skydiving?
We’ve taken people ranging from 10 years of age up to 92 years of age.
Does the thrill ever decrease for you, after so many jumps?
After 20 years’ skydiving, it still excites me, challenges me, and I feel that the learning curve is still as steep as it ever was.
What advice would you give to someone who is interested in taking up skydiving?
Go for it! For myself, and everyone that I know, the journey of learning to skydive is incredible. As much as the physical journey of learning to jump out of planes, fly your body and parachutes is incredible, it is the personal journey of learning to believe that I can do this and I am responsible for my own life, is the part that really changes our view on what is possible. On the other side of fear is freedom.
Recently Coffs Skydivers invited the Coffs FOCUS staff to partake in a morning tandem jump. After the mandatory paperwork and safety discussion, there was a chance to have a pre jump chat and a cuppa. Both crews were full of energy and excitement, though some of the FOCUS staff seemed a little nervous. Below are brief descriptions of how the crew felt post jump, with their feet safely back on Mother Earth.
“This was probably one of the best experiences I have ever had in the thirty years I have been alive. I was very apprehensive in the plane but as soon as I jumped, my Serotonin levels went sky high. With natural adrenalin pumping and the most amazing views anyone could experience, I suddenly realised how people get addicted to the sport of skydiving. The team at Coffs Skydivers were absolute legends, and I definitely recommend it and will go again in a heartbeat!”
“To me, skydiving is an experience that is hard to describe with words.
It’s more like AARRHHHH as you free fall from 12,000 ft from a perfectly good plane. This was my fourth jump, and by far the BEST jump I have ever done.
Steve, my tandem jumper, challenged me to exit the plane backwards – an opportunity that I accepted with heightened excitement. Edging out to exit the plane, looking up to the sky instead of looking down to the ground, I checked my heart rate monitor and saw it registering 150 bpm.
The next step was unexpected, as we completed two back flips on exit.
Oh wow … The feeling of the unknown!
The day was perfect for sight seeing over the beautiful Coffs Coast, the beach and the hinterland.
Then came the landing, as Steve and I came in low over the water dragging our feet and feeling the refreshing cool spray up our feet and landing perfectly on the soft sand.
Thank you, Coffs Skydivers, for an amazing experience.”
“I was freaking nervous on the way up in the plane, and Pom kept chatting with me about snowboarding and other sports that we share an interest in, either to distract me or to calm me down – or both. At 12,000 feet when they opened the door, I was thinking, “You have got to be kidding me” – and then we jumped…
It was like every bit of adrenalin I had experienced since birth exploding at once. The freefall was awesome; I didn’t want the chute to open.
Once it did, the view was inspirational – coming in over the water, onto the beach, was a great way to finish.
This was an amazing experience and was only possible due to the crew of professional, fun loving legends that are Coffs Skydivers. You need to skydive!”
When are we getting the flight suits out, Pom?
Coffs FOCUS and Coffs Skydivers will be hooking up again in March for another team building exercise. Stay tuned, as the adventure continues …