TAKE A LEAP OF FAITH

SOME PEO­PLE BE­LIEVE IN GOD, I BE­LIEVE IN MY RE­SERVE PARACHUTE: MEET THE DARE­DEV­ILS WHO BAILED ON THEIR DESK JOBS FOR A CA­REER LESS OR­DI­NARY

Life & Style Weekend - - MAGAZINE | BIG READ - WORDS: AMBER MACPHERSON

Adren­a­line— it’s a hor­mone re­ac­tion hu­mans have been chas­ing since the be­gin­ning of ex­is­tence. But what hap­pens when a once-in-a-life­time rush is all part of the job? We speak to a sky­div­ing in­struc­tor, joy ride pilot and stunt dou­ble to find out if the ex­cite­ment ever fades.

SKY­DIVE IN­STRUC­TOR

There was no such thing as tan­dem sky­dives when Archie Jamieson first threw him­self out of an aero­plane.

“I started jump­ing in April, 1986. I re­mem­ber the first one was the most ter­ri­fy­ing thing I’ve ever done in my life,” he says.

“It was the scary old days around para­chutes and tan­dem hadn’t been in­vented. It was a dif­fer­ent game back then.”

Ev­i­dently, it wasn’t ter­ri­fy­ing enough to put him off. He started jump­ing “mil­i­tary style” and be­gan com­pet­ing in world parachut­ing cham­pi­onships — when he could get away from his day job.

“I used to be a man­ager for Coles,” he says. “I went over­seas for 12 months, just trav­el­ling around, jump­ing and coach­ing.

“It was some­thing I wanted to do (be­come an in­struc­tor).

“I re­ally just thought if you find some­thing you love doing, you’ll never work a day in your life. I’d done a bunch of jumps, it was easy to slot into that.”

In 2004 Archie started work­ing at Gold Coast Sky­dive. Four years later he bought the busi­ness and is now the chief in­struc­tor and a pilot.

He down­plays his role as a lot of ad­min­is­tra­tion work and “not much jump­ing on a day-to-day ba­sis”.

“I would do 500 jumps a year now,” Archie says. “That’s just a mix­ture of all sorts of stuff.

“I do stunt work, like I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, Sea Fire, TV com­mer­cials.

“Cur­rently I’m up in the North­ern Ter­ri­tory teach­ing sky­div­ing.

“At my peak I was doing 1200 (jumps) in a year. That was at a very busy drop zone when the in­dus­try was peak­ing.

“My boys do about 900 a year.

“If you’re doing 800 jumps a year, you’re mak­ing a liv­ing.”

Sky­div­ing roughly 10 times a week, or as many times as you drive to and from work ... that’s got to feel like just an­other day in the of­fice, right?

“If it’s be­com­ing day to day, then you need a wake-up call. That fear keeps you alive, you can’t get com­pla­cent,” Archie says.

“It’s a dan­ger­ous sport, but it can be done safely. A mal­func­tion’s not re­ally a big deal.

“Some peo­ple be­lieve in God, I be­lieve in my re­serve parachute.

“When I jump with py­rotech­ni­cians into sta­di­ums, ab­so­lutely we’re peak­ing.

“We’ve got good equip­ment, good air­craft. Those but­ter­flies are a good thing.”

AER­O­BATIC JOY RIDE PILOT

When he was four years old, Glenn Gra­ham’s world was turned up­side down and he was never the same.

“Sit­ting in the back of a plane with my fa­ther, I just re­mem­ber look­ing at the world and see­ing the hori­zon ro­tate around,” Glenn says.

“I thought it was the great­est feel­ing and I have been hooked ever since.

“I grew up with a fly­ing fam­ily. I was never in­ter­ested in fly­ing in the air force or com­mer­cial jets. I was only in­ter­ested in go­ing up­side down.”

The Hunter Val­ley pilot is the op­er­a­tions man­ager for Aero­hunter Ad­ven­ture Flights, a company that takes cus­tomers on whiteknuck­le aer­o­batic rides through the sky.

On an av­er­age work­ing day, Glenn will flip up­side down a dozen times, bar­rel roll through the sky at 4000ft and feel up to four G-forces.

Sim­i­lar to Archie, Glenn was work­ing in re­tail as a young adult sim­ply to fund his ob­ses­sion with aerial stunts.

“I spent my life work­ing in re­tail, which wasn’t the great­est money but all my money was spent on putting my­self up­side down,” he says.

Glenn started work­ing with cham­pion aer­o­bat­ics pilot Paul Bennet who even­tu­ally of­fered him a job as a pilot at his Aero­hunter busi­ness. He went on to be­come an Aus­tralian aer­o­bat­ics cham­pion, too (even beat­ing his boss once when they com­peted against each other), and con­tin­ues to com­pete in world tour­na­ments.

Glenn says his day job helps to keep his skills up in be­tween com­pe­ti­tions, but it’s more like com­par­ing a reg­u­lar com­mute to a cir­cuit as a race-car driver.

“We start them (cus­tomers) off gen­tly, we do a turn un­der two Gs, which means two times the force of grav­ity, so that ef­fort to lift the arms is twice as heavy,” he says.

“Then we do what we call a wingover which is pitch up, turn around, and pitch down again, then we do a bar­rel roll which is where we go up­side down, then we work our way up into a loop. In the loop we get to three and a half or four Gs. If they’re good with that, we start doing a com­bi­na­tion of lifts and rolls.

“When I fly air shows I get up to eight Gs, so go­ing four Gs is com­fort­able for me. Gforce is very tol­er­ance based and the more you do it, the more you get used to it. It’s just like a lit­tle Sunday drive for me.

“I get my adren­a­line rush from fly­ing close to the ground and fly­ing com­plex manoeuvres.

“When I’m fly­ing with the pas­sen­gers we’re about 2000ft. When I fly air shows, I’ll come down to about 50ft off the ground.”

Al­though he finds his work straight­for­ward, Glenn is re­minded daily of how ex­cit­ing his job is.

“A lot of them (cus­tomers) say you have the best job in the world, and I def­i­nitely don’t dis­agree with them be­cause the of­fice win­dow’s for­ever chang­ing,” he says.

“They all come down with great smiles and want­ing to go again.”

But what are the health con­se­quences of ex­pe­ri­enc­ing such G-forces ev­ery day? Mo­tion sick­ness? Nau­sea? Even hy­poxia?

No — it’s pretty much the same dam­age you’d get slouch­ing in an of­fice chair.

“For a pilot, when you do eight, nine Gs, we get a lot of com­pres­sion on our spine and we get sore backs af­ter a lit­tle while.”

STUNT DOU­BLE

It’s the mid­dle of the night and you’re swim­ming in a creek known for its pop­u­la­tion of bull sharks.

While some would say you couldn’t pay them enough to do it, stunt woman Ilana Collins dives in. She re­calls the per­ilous moon­light dip as one of her most mem­o­rable mo­ments since be­gin­ning work as a stunt dou­ble two years ago.

“I was swim­ming in Ja­cobs Well ma­rina at night time, in among the bull­sharks,” she says. “They do put a shark shield in the wa­ter, but there’s still a risk. Be­ing in the wa­ter at night time is al­ways a bit scary.”

It was aquat­ics of a more leisurely pur­suit that sparked Ilana’s in­ter­est in work as a stunt woman.

A fan of Tomb Raider, Ilana wanted to ad­ver­tise her bikini la­bel with a video in­clud­ing fight scenes and zip lines.

“The videog­ra­pher was like, ‘How are you go­ing to test the zip line?’ And I was like, ‘I’ll jump on, give it a go’,” Ilana says.

“He said, ‘I wouldn’t even know stunt peo­ple that would do that’.

“That’s when it put it in my mind — I thought what a cool job.”

Ilana soon quit her job and flew to Hol­ly­wood to train in stunt work, learn­ing how to fall from heights, spar in fights, crash tackle and writhe around in wa­ter.

When she came home to Aus­tralia, her first job was as Elsa Pataky’s dou­ble in Netflix se­ries Tide­lands.

“I met a stunt co-or­di­na­tor at train­ing and he con­sid­ered me for dou­bling for Chris Hemsworth’s wife and that was my first gig stunt dou­bling,” she says. “It was re­ally good how it hap­pened so quickly. I was quite lucky to get that first one so quickly.”

Since then Ilana has had a num­ber of stunt jobs in Aus­tralia and spe­cialises in fight scenes — her pas­sion for mar­tial arts and boxing grow­ing up didn’t go astray.

Ilana is hes­i­tant to call her­self a thrillseek­er, but she knows it takes a lit­tle bit of a wild streak to do what she does.

“High falls are still fairly dan­ger­ous. I’ve trained for falls from 40ft, which is about 13 me­tres,” she says.

“Be­ing in fight scenes can be dan­ger­ous, if some­one gets re­ally rough with you and throws you down on the ground, you could hurt your back, or if you’re doing mo­tor­bikes you could land wrong.

“What I think is, I would rather do this job and have a story to tell from it, rather than be­ing in­side four walls.

“I know I could pos­si­bly die, but at least I’ve lived life. That’s what goes through my mind.”

WHAT HAP­PENS TO YOUR BODY WHEN ADREN­A­LINE KICKS IN

Your heart rate in­creases. Blood is redi­rected to­wards your mus­cles, caus­ing a surge in en­ergy or tremors. Your air­ways re­lax to give mus­cles more oxy­gen, which may re­sult in shal­low breath­ing. Your pupils di­late. The body’s abil­ity to feel pain de­creases and men­tal fo­cus sharp­ens.

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