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Skydive Competition Winner, Tracey Heaven Shares Her Experience

Spiraling down towards the Motueka airport, my stomach reacted the same as if I was on an amusement park ride. As soon as I caught my breath, we circled again coming closer to the roof tops. In a flash the ground came up to meet us, as we lifted our legs and skimmed across the grass, gliding to a halt. What a rush, 45 seconds of free fall followed by 5 minutes under the parachute. You may ask; how did a land loving farmer from the Motueka Valley, who is scared of heights, end up jumping from a perfectly good airplane?

In March 2020, Uniquely Nelson and Skydive Abel Tasman teamed up to treat one lucky person to have their 9,000ft skydive captured on film. The Facebook promotion was well received by locals who needed to answer a few simple questions to go into the draw. I followed the prompts, answered the questions and thought “I’ll never win this, but if I do, hey I’ll have to embrace my fear of heights”. Then the country went into lockdown and as I was an essential worker, my life revolved around my son and daughter, the animals on the farm and keeping fit.

Until one lunchtime at work, I got a call from Simon Duffy, manager of Uniquely Nelson, informing me I had won the competition. I was ecstatic that I had won a prize of this magnitude, an extracurricular activity I’d always wanted to experience and all I had to do was to keep my acrophobic nerves calm for an hour. As the New Zealand tourism industry took a nosedive, due to covid related issues, and the country experienced more lockdowns and setbacks, I was finally able to complete my jump on a beautiful winter’s day, in July 2022.

10am was our rendezvous time at Skydive Abel Tasman, Motueka. The frost was still on the deck at the hangar, as I walked up to the desk to seal my fate. Greeted by the fantastic staff, I was soon in control of my nerves and checked in to jump from 13,000ft, higher than originally planned, but I was ready to get up and go. After meeting my Jump master, I donned a jump suit and was quickly harnessed up before I could change my mind.

The video started to roll, and my nerves were quickly exchanged for excitement, I was actually doing this. A quick instructional conversation and we were now heading to the plane that I was to jump out of. The views were spectacular, with the backdrop of a bright blue sky embracing Nelson, Richmond, Motueka, Abel Tasman, Farewell Spit and views to Mount Taranaki.

Time felt as though it stood still during the 20minute flight to 13,000ft. Time to jump! My serenity was shattered as we moved in unison towards the flimsy roller door at the back of the plane. I tried to remember what I had been instructed to do as I hung outside of the airplane door; dangling myself from the harness of a man I had only met 45mins prior to this moment. “Head back, feet under the plane’s body” I repeated, as my adrenalin soared. Whoop, my stomach was doing back flips as we left the plane. To my surprise it was only moments of panic, very quickly replaced by intense excitement. This is a feeling I will never forget, such an explosion of endorphins as you drop to the ground at a rate of 200km/hr. Again, another rush, as the parachute opens and you return upright. But this is time for seeing the wonderful views of the Tasman area. My jump master pointed out various landmarks and we even pinpointed my farm. The air was crisp and clear, the only sound was from the wind in our shoot and I took in all I could before we made our decent onto the ground. So here I was sitting on the grass with the biggest smile I have ever had, all thanks to Uniquely Nelson and Abel Tasman Skydive. My final words to those who haven’t yet taken the plunge “Get up there! It’s EPIC!”

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