Welcome to the persuasive, ineffable and incurably enthusiastic Ell Whitaker’s interview. She’s new to the world of skydiving, but it’s fair to say, she has embraced the sport with a lot of energy. Read her story here:
1. You started with a charity tandem skydive. Can you describe what that experience was like?
I had always wanted to do a skydive, so figured I could do it and raise money at the same time. I know it sounds cliché, but nothing I have ever done has compared to the feeling of jumping out the plane and flying around in freefall. Once all the fundraising was done, I collected £948 for the charity. The second my feet were back on the ground, I already wanted to get back up in the sky.
2. Which charity did you fundraise for and do you have a personal connection with them?
I raised money for St Andrews Hospice in Grimsby, a charity that is very close to my heart. It’s an incredible place that gives so much back to those in need. Anyone with a life limiting or palliative condition can be referred to St Andrews and they offer so much – if you aren’t aware of the work they do, please visit their website and have a quick read, it really is an incredible place.
3. Last October, you decided to make the step towards qualification with an Accelerated Freefall course. What made you decide to do that?
There was no way I was going to be able to keep my feet on the ground after doing a tandem. I knew it was something I wanted to do, or at least try to do so I signed myself up. I never thought by signing up for my course, I would be where I am today, with all the awesome people I have met along my journey.
4. Did you find your level AFF 1 as scary as your first tandem?
I don’t know if scary is the right word, I just remember feeling so many different emotions whilst sat in the plane that kept varying from feeling nervous to incredibly excited. Whilst on the way up to altitude I had all my drills to think about, so it takes your mind away from everything else. Accelerated Freefall is a lot more intense than a tandem skydive, but it’s also a lot more rewarding too. I think it’s important you do your homework before going on the ground school because that made things so much easier for me, especially communicating in freefall.
5. You’ve now got close to 50 jumps. What have you been working on?
As soon as I got my A-license, I was straight onto getting my FS1 (formation skydiving), I couldn’t wait to jump with all my new friends. We have since made a rookie 4-way team, but its safe to say that if we can even leave the plane stable we get excited, we are as crap as they come, but we have the best time jumping together. And I have never laughed so hard as I do when I’m around these muppets. I have also been working on my packing and recently (after many tantrums) received my packing certificate.
6. When you’re not jumping out of an airplane, what do you do to pay for it all?
I am a physiotherapist, I graduated back in 2016 and last year decided to specialise in palliative care. Admittedly working in palliative care is one of the hardest jobs I have ever done, however, it is definitely the most rewarding. It has really opened my eyes to the harsh reality of life, and given me a complete new drive for life – hence starting skydiving.
7. Do you have any history of other extreme or adventurous sports?
I have always enjoyed adrenaline filled activities and those that gave me a sense of adventure. I think bungee jumping in the amazon rainforest and climbing the highest active volcano in the world are up there with my favourite memories.
8. Skydiving is great for making friends from different backgrounds? Have you made any yet?
I never ever imagined that skydiving would bring me the friendships I have now, it’s the most dysfunctional yet amazing family there is. I have made some amazing friendships however there are definitely 5 of us who are now friends for life – also known as the Muppets. Us Muppets inherited our name when Noel got so fed up of us landing off, turning low, swinging in right hand patterns and crap flares that he finally lost it with us and branded us the muppets! I’m not sure you could get a weirder bunch of friends, one’s nearly 50 (I’m 27), one’s got 3 kids (I can’t even commit to a relationship), one’s obsessed with fishing and the other doesn’t know his right from his left – but my point is, none of this matters, we all just have the best and funniest times together, and our differences if what make us such good friends.
9. Where do you see yourself going with your skydiving?
We have created a Muppets 4-way team and were excited to start training properly to compete. I also cannot wait to start FF – this is something I’ve wanted to do from day one.
10. Lastly, what is your favourite or most funny story to date?
Haha, I’m not even sure where to start with this one. There is not one single day at the DZ where I haven’t been in hysterics laughing. I don’t think I can pick one but these are definitely my favourites; I once landed in a cow field and couldn’t find a way out so I had to climb out through the milking shed carrying my parachute, whilst on the same flight another friend was practicing his spotting and fell out the plane, another friend sneezed in free fall and had snot all over his face (to which he had no idea!). We didn’t tell him for a good half hour. It’s not just in the sky where the laugh’s come from, it’s all the evening entertainment including Pandora’s box, falling out of double decker buses, and a lad getting blackmailed over some nudes – but I think we’ll save those stories for another day!
Photo credits: Nathy Odinson