Thursday, 16 August 2007

Scandinavian Skydiving

So for the past few days, I've been at the third and final meet in the ISSA 2007 World Cup of Speed Skydiving (not slydiving, which is something else entirely). Held at Stockholms Fallskärmsklubb in Gryttjom, about an hour north of Stockholm, in Sweden, it was a whole lot of fun.

I was invited to attend in a technical capacity, by the current holder of the women's world record. Which is another way of saying she wanted someone to peer at the computers whilst she competed ;-) Besides, I needed to learn how to do it in order to help with the British Nationals in Speed Skydiving, in two weeks time. Yoikes.

I had a ball. The people were lovely - really, genuinely surprisingly lovely. The dropzone is owned and run by the club members - it's a whole co-operative type arrangement, and the result is a very relaxed, welcoming, family-friendly feel. There's a trampoline at the dropzone, pretty much permanently occupied by the dropzone kids below a certain age. And the dropzone has what is claimed to be the largest sauna on a dropzone in Sweden.

Just let that sink in for a moment: the dropzone has a sauna. And it's possibly the largest dropzone sauna in Sweden. Yowser.

Not to labour the point, but the dropzone has a lot of facilities that make it a great place to stay. There's a bunk house, which is pretty much what it says on the tin, and a huge kitchen where visitors and skydivers alike are practically encouraged to cook for themselves. If that's not your bag, the dropzone's diner-restaurant does a lunch and dinner every day - substantial food at a sensible price.

There's two permanent aircraft: a Twin Otter, and an AN-28. And did I mention that the people are lovely?

One of the most curious things about the DZ is that the weekend opening hours are shorter than in the week - what's that about? The other is that - in common with much of that part of the world, I'm told - the showers (and indeed the sauna) are open-plan, co-educational. Mixed. And there's no shower curtain.

Well okay, there's one shower cubicle with a curtain - it might as well have a Union Jack design on it - in the rest of the open-plan curtainless wetroom. With access to the outside via a permanently-open door.

Which I guess is just peachy-fine if you're from Scandinavian stock, and have a relaxed attitude to nudity. You're probably quite happy with your own naked body, and the public nudity of others. If, on the other hand, you're a native of the Rainy Isles, and somewhat more reserved about the unclothed human form, it does mean that showers become hasty first-thing-in-the-morning affairs, conducted in a scurrying-hurrying fashion before anyone else is awake or around.

And because the changing area is also co-educational, most of your post-shower routine is going to be conducted with your face to the wall, and your head bowed, continually repeated to yourself: Don't look 'round. Don't look 'round. Don't look 'round.

Once - and once only - I was lured into so diverting a conversation that I actually put my glasses on, turned around, and addressed the other party for a couple of sentences before I realised what I had done, and my eyes started to drift, and I felt the blush spread over - well, pretty much everywhere.

Let's just say that I didn't have the opportunity to try the sauna.

A great dropzone, though. Give it a try somtime.

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