A special place for the special moments
My two trips to Skydive Algarve so far have been nothing but memorable: completing my 50th and 100th jumps, finishing my B-license progression, taking part in FS1 qualifying jumps, learning how to fly A and AA blocks, building up confidence in my canopy control, being on the same airplane as mom’s first tandem jump (and sharing this experience with her), taking part in beautiful sunset jumps, being looked after by phenomenal professionals, and meeting amazing people. In a nutshell, Skydive Algarve is the exceptional kind of place one would want to keep for the rare, special moments – and I’m already looking forward to going back for even more wonderful memories and milestones as I progress towards my 200th, 500th, 1000th jumps.
A friendly, welcoming, homely DZ in the sunny South of Portugal
From the moment we first walked through the door of Skydive Algarve, we’ve been astonished by the friendliness, professionalism, make-it-happen attitude of the staff and their inspiring, contagious love for and dedication to the sport. Everybody is looking after jumpers and ensuring the smooth running of the day, stepping in to help with manifest, packing, coaching, DZ briefs, docs and kit checks. Nobody loiters around and if a job needs to be done, somebody will be on it immediately. After the end of a great day of jumping, Alvor’s beautiful beaches, buzzing bars, great restaurants with fresh seafood are waiting with open doors, within minutes of the DZ. Even though you might be stopping just for a few days’ worth of holidays, the friendly and welcoming atmosphere of this DZ together with all the splendours the Algarve region can offer will make you want to come back – and you’ll be looking up flights and trying to book days off work even before boarding your flight back home!
Team training – a bumpy ride turned to smooth sailing
My first encounter with Skydive Algarve came through team training with the Satori Academy in April. Fresh out of FS1 on my first ever team training camp at an unfamiliar DZ, right in the middle of the busy Spring Boogie; recently downsized on a new rig; still recovering from an ankle stress fracture and with canopy control (or lack thereof) capable of putting even the calmest, most patient CI to the test, it will be an understatement to say I was a bit apprehensive of the myriad of variables which could go wrong. And here shines the brilliance of the team at Skydive Algarve.
Thanks to their efforts, all teams were able to get all planned jumps done. Our rigs were packed swiftly as soon as we put them down. We had the space to prep our jumps, debrief, chat and relax. Two different plane loads kept constantly going up and the only time you would see a jumper unhappy would be because of a weather hold. And whilst busy trying to make everything run smoothly, all the staff would still offer help and guidance, be it canopy control tips or canopy checks (on more than one occasion Helder would check my canopy carefully and still have my rig packed in time for the next lift!). I will be forever grateful to Sian, Milko and Helder who took their time and care to sit down with me and help me improve my canopy control with outstanding tips on how to make a plan which worked for me, how to deal with turbulence (especially during landing) or how to choose the right moment to flare.
After a week of team training, it was hard to leave Algarve – so it wasn’t long before me and another team member were back again, this time only for a long weekend of fun jumping in May. Or at least we thought so. Little did we know what was waiting for us!
We were asked to help out and step in for injured/missing members on a Satori AA team. And to add to the challenge of moving up one category and flying with skilled flyers, we also had to fly slots we had never flown before (moving from point/tail to OC/IC). Both of us were astounded by the outstanding calibre of coaching, the attention and time dedicated by Milko to make sure we understood what we needed to do and the number of times Sian stepped in to dirt dive with us and explain small yet important details of the jump sequence. We were truly privileged to fly with high-calibre flyers, to increase our appreciation of the formation as a whole and to have a lot more to take back to our own team in terms of skill and knowledge. And all of that within a matter of days!
B-licence progression – more than just a signature
Thanks to the superb advice, help, patience, encouragement and attention from all instructors, I was able to complete all remaining B-license requirements at Skydive Algarve (packing, spotting, CH2) within 2 days whilst also preparing to fly a new slot in a higher category for team training. Yet I gained a lot more than just a couple of signatures on a piece of paper, I also became a better skydiver.
The clear blue skies did make spotting fairly straightforward – and even though my first attempt was satisfactory enough for the signature, Sian explained to me intricate, yet important details of spotting and the role of the JM. Then she gave me the opportunity to repeat spotting with her by my side and focus on these in practice.
My progression at Skydive Algarve also turned around my sceptic, almost resigned, frame of mind that until I downsize significantly, packing would involve stretching my arms beyond limits to get hold of the D lines and fighting with the canopy to get it stuffed in the bag. And whilst the abundance of sea and sunshine can turn many a frown upside down, the change in my mindset had little to do with the weather! It was thanks to knowledgeable instructors who would listen patiently without jumping to conclusions (even though they might have already understood clearly just by observing), share wisdom and experience and help find a fix. I was shown different ways to separate the canopy lines or to fold the canopy and put it neatly (without stuffing or puffing!) in the bag and finally found what worked for me. Besides learning how to tame my main canopy, I also learnt a lot about the other canopy I rarely see, the reserve. All thanks to the thoughtfulness of the instructors, especially Helder who took his time to show everybody interested how the reserve parachute system and the skyhook system worked, patiently answering all questions.
CH2 felt like a breeze thanks to the instructors’ fantastic tips, encouragement and advice, especially Sian’s great help in finding a canopy set up framework which worked for me and Helder’s fantastic tips on how to tweak the legs of my landing patterns to position myself where I wanted to be for the accuracy landings and adapt to changing winds. Sian also went the extra mile to mark my CH2 paper during what it was a very busy team training day so that I was indeed able to complete everything before leaving Portugal.
So much to do even when the weather doesn’t play ball
And even on the rare cloudy, windy days, Alvor has so much to offer. Surfing, sailing, kite surfing, biking, good food, golf, relaxing on the beach, walking along Algarve’s beautiful coastline, canoeing to name just a few. In short – no need to worry about your non-skydiving friends, families, halves – there will be plenty to keep them occupied. No need to worry about social life or activities either – the camaraderie and friendly atmosphere of the DZ also transposes onto Alvor’s streets, restaurants and bars. Hence it should come to no surprise that at the end you leave having made a bunch of new friends and wanting to turn around your car and come back.
What doing a Tandem Skydive meant for me?
Experiencing an enormous rush of incredible happiness, serene calm, joie-de-vivre and vitality. Having a moment to appreciate the harmony and splendor of the earth and the sky and being part of this beauty. Wanting to repeat again and again as soon as my feet touched the ground. All of this combined with the people – the instructor behind you and the camera flyer in front of you, both full of dedication, professionalism and love for this sport, make the entire jump a truly unforgettable, one-of-a-kind wonderful experience. This is truly the best present (simultaneously relaxing and invigorating) that you could give to your body and mind. A huge thanks to everybody at Skydive Algarve for making this happen!'
The big day dawned and the weather was perfect. I kept myself busy preparing food and keeping any nerves at bay until it was nearly time! When I arrived at the airfield I was very surprised to find that about thirty friends had came along to see me jump! From beginning to end, the whole day was fantastic. Bruno, the instructor was incredibly supportive and gained my trust immediately. After the reassuring briefing, I climbed into my bright yellow jumpsuit and made my way to the 'plane. On the ascent the stunning view of the beautiful countryside and sparkling coastline was breath-taking and the crew made my day even more special by singing 'Happy Birthday'! As well as myself, there was another girl who was doing a tandem jump and two more experienced jumpers. As the pilot reached the required altitude, the door rolled open, and, individually, the two 'single' jumpers just hurled themselves into the air. If there was a moment when I could have allowed myself to panic, this would have been it. However, ever the professional, Bruno was checking my equipment and going over his instructions. The other tandem was going out before me and I focussed on her, whilst shuffling forward to the door. At this point, I was so in awe of the photographer, who was balancing on the outside of the 'plane whilst videoing me, that I forgot my nerves. Once I acknowledged that I was fine and more than ready to go, we just flipped off the edge and into the sky. It was an amazing feeling, tumbling through the sky, then, once the parachute opened, floating above the beautiful coastline of the Algarve. Bruno pointed out landmarks along the coast and we had a bit of fun 'corkscrewing' before practising how to land by pulling my knees up and pushing my legs forward. When he was happy that I knew what to do, he announced, 'One minute to landing' and we did, safely and fairly smoothly, to an enormous round of applause from all my friends. What an incredible experience!
The party afterwards was perfect. A really good friend took charge of the barbecue and managed to serve forty people all at once and the drinks just kept on coming. It was a birthday I will remember for a very long time, spent with lovely people who have collectively done a little good for an important cause at the same time as having fun. I now know what it FEELS like to skydive and I also know that my husband does listen occasionally!
The total raised was 800 euros and I hope to be able to present the cheque to the AOA next week.