The iFly was another activity where I didn't know what to expect. I thought the fan would be small, that we wouldn’t go very high or that we would have to be held all the way through. Yet again, I was wrong...
On arrival, rather than peering upwards like we did for the high ropes, we peered downwards at the enormous fan below the large glass wind tunnel. With the same initial trepidation but the confidence boost we took from our recent experience on the high ropes, we entered the briefing room. We were given grey and orange jumpsuits, a helmet, goggles and squishy foam ear buds. We were told we had 2 minutes in total for the skydive, 1 minute in the first round and 1 minute in the second round. If you wanted to fly all the way to the top on the second round it cost £8 extra. We all wanted to take on this challenge but first it was time to be prepped on the basics.
James, our skydiving coach, told us the different hand signals he would use when instructing us inside the tube as the wind is so loud and powerful you cannot hear one another. The signs he used were for the 4 important signals we needed to be reminded of once we were inside the wind tunnel: relax, straight legs, chin up and bend your legs.
Relax was vital, especially for our instructor James, who would accompany us in the tunnel to hold and support us at the beginning of the skydive. Once he could sense we were capable of doing so, he would then fly with us. If we weren’t relaxed and our body was flailing all over the place it would be dangerous for the both of us, with risks of smashing against the glass tunnel and injuring ourselves or hitting the ceiling, (both very unlikely, but worse case scenario). If your body is too rigid or out of control, you most likely won’t be able to enjoy it either as you need the correct posture to fly around the wind tunnel, which is of course what makes it fun.
Straight legs / legs out - Our instructor told us about the stance and posture we needed to have as preparation for entering the tunnel. Our legs had to be straight and spread out slightly, in line with our shoulders. Our arms had to be above our heads bent slighting making a ^ shape or as James my teammate says, the hoii-yaa pose.
Chin up - When your chin starts going downwards your posture is affected, so we always needed to keep our chin up to keep our posture but also so we could see what was going on, like the hand signals being projected on the screen in front of us and on James’ hands.
Bend your legs - This instruction applied to your legs and back posture. When in the wind tunnel and flying, you have to draw your hips forward, and bending your back so your shoulders are pulling back and your stomach forward. Your legs are also meant to bend upwards slightly when you are in the wind tunnel. This posture is so you can keep steady and balance as your body is hovering over the immense force of wind, which is blowing upwards. The way you bend and move your legs can also control where you go in the tunnel, like steering.
Helmets fixed tight, earbuds squashed deep, goggles pressed firmly over our eyes, we were ready to go… I wonder who will get picked first, I thought, I hope it’s not me.
I sat and watched other people around me go first, so I could see how it all worked. I gradually felt more and more reassured, it didn’t look dangerous, if anything it just looked really cool, and with the support of James being by you constantly, you knew you were safe.
James was the first person to go in our group, then Eloise, myself, Isobel and finally Dan - Jay sat this one out. When it was my time to go in I didn't feel scared anymore, I was really excited and curious as to what it would feel like. I scanned my wristband, got into position as the doorway of the tunnel and stepped out with James’ support. The first thing I sensed was how loud the tunnel was, you could hear nothing else but the isolated gales coming out of the machine as well as feeling its relentless force on your face. I couldn’t imagine how loud it must be without earbuds.
It was kind of disorientating at first. It was hard to see and hear clearly what was going on around you. I had to really push my hips as forward as possible and pull my arms together against the pressure of the wind. My whole body was tensing to keep itself together and to keep balance. When you finally become stable and relax more you can start to focus on how it feels to be in the air. It is a really funny feeling, being able to move up and down and round and round without touching the floor. I kept whizzing around people who were watching on one side of the tube and my teammates on the other. Our instructor held us at certain points then let us go to fly on our own briefly, and then to fly with us. I kept thinking I hope my gums aren’t pulled over my ears from the sheer force of the wind on my face. Say goodbye to all control of your facial expressions ahaha.
After my first minute had come to an end I was guided out of the tube, feet first through the doorway, with my arms gripping to the sides. When my feet hit the ground my body instantly felt like it was fizzing and buzzing, like a human sparkler. I already couldn’t wait for the next round, the feeling was unlike any I had experienced before. I gave a thumbs up to my teammates and gestured, are we going up? I was met with multiple head nods, I think we all caught the same rush.
Round 2 - Aim: fly to the top of the tunnel. Doable? affirmative!
With more of an idea of how to fly now, I was ready to go up and buzzing with excitement for the feeling of it… - I’m a wannabe adrenaline junky at this point, yes. Repeating the same routine, legs in line with shoulders, hands above my and head bent inwards, I lean forwards and I'm back in again. The cold air hits my face and my nostrils are once again, uncontrollably flared, like two inky parachutes. I keep my body in the correct position, tensing and trying as hard as I can to keep my chin up and arms forwards. After 10 seconds, James thinks I’m ready to go higher as he kicks his legs up from his standing position, grabbing onto my arms and joining me in the air.
We started whizzing around slowly in a circular motion getting higher and higher. Everyone started to look smaller and the intensity of wind lessened as we got higher, it felt more like floating. We went back down and up again, repeating the routine a few times. It was an amazing feeling to feel as if you were flying and to have no anxiety about how unusual or unnatural the feeling was. James is an excellent instructor with constant guidance and support offered for each person who enters the wind tunnel. The other instructor who sat outside the tube was also helpful, demonstrating what the hand gestures mean, if we forgot what they meant.
At the end of the skydive session James gave us a two minute performance of all the tips and tricks he has learnt over his time instructing in the wind tunnel. He whizzed, flew, spun, zipped, rocketed and floated around the tube, with moves that reminded me of something from a superhero film. The precise agility, force and lightness he used in his techniques were extraordinary to watch.
I would also really recommend giving this activity a go, it is unlike anything I have experienced before. The feeling of floating when you get to the top of the tunnel is unmatched as well as the feeling after. The team of people that work in the sky dive, are very informative and make you feel completely safe. This is definitely something for all the family to enjoy.
What better way to use your last shred of physical energy, than on an assault course? Skipping all the way down, from the skydive on a complete endorphin rush, we discussed whether we should give the assault course a go. This is how it went:
I went up against Eloise. We were given a brief overview of what the obstacles were and what you had to do by another very nice and polite member of staff. Raring to go, me and Eloise marked our feet on the starting line...
We both sprung forwards hippity-hopping, jumping stretching to each log-stepping-stone, we ran around the bend jumping over and sliding under wooden high jumps. We sprawled over to a steep wall, where we grabbed tightly onto some rope and hauled ourselves up. After 30 seconds I was already sweating profusely. Once I was up I dove on the floor under the net, crawling and pushing my body forwards to get to the end, which was surprisingly hard. It felt like something out of a war film, crawling ferociously under a net with limited space to move.
I could no longer see Eloise and I started gunning towards the next obstacle, a tall 8-9ft net in which we had to climb, then swing over the wooden beam to crawl down the other side. As unnerving as it was, trying to find my footing, the time pressure spurred me on. I nimbly crawled down and ran to the balancing beam, I lay on it thinking this will be easy I'll just shimmy across it, nope instantly fell straight off it. Damn.
Onto the next, look alive, look alive *finger clicks*. Oh no, monkey bars - nevermind I thought, try one, fall off and run the remainder - is this cheating...hmm. Anyway, I tried one, fell off (as predicted), and started running for dear life.
When I glimpsed back, Eloise was still not in sight. GO GO GO!!! Thinking I was at the finish line I kept running around corners until I stopped over a ledge to see a surprise pole, how am I gonna do this? - Okay no time - jump and clench your legs GO GO GO!! I’m down, I'm running, I'm running...where am i?
Breathless I realised I had completed the course and had ended up back near the reception desk. It was a stark contrast of running and breathing like a crazy woman to ending up back in reality, where the reception floor was quiet and calm. I begin to look for my colleagues and wait for Eloise to finish. When I saw her we were both laughing and our hands were pressed firmly against our thighs, as we bent over, to catch our breath. I don’t think I have ever had so much fun in one day. I’m 21 years old but felt like I was 7 again for the day and I absolutely loved it.
I urge all families, friends, colleagues to book onto activities at the Bear Grylls Adventure Centre for a chance to push yourself and have fun with and challenge the people around you. I had a really fun and special day at the centre, and the photos we had taken on each of the activities we did definitely showed that. It wasn’t only my body that ached from the exercise but my cheeks too, from smiling and laughing so much. Bear Grylls is a must visit attraction and I have great memories from visiting there!