“I just don’t want to see you die” she’d squealed before insisting on marching down the riverbank, beyond earshot of the hammering waterfall and out of sight. So much for moral support. Stood on top of a 60ft waterfall, nervously peering over the edge, awaiting my turn to jump and my mother had buggered off.
I was in Gunzesried, Bavaria, in Southern Germany on a family holiday at an Adventure Training Lodge. All week we’d been hearing about canyoning and the rush of falling through thin air and into icy pools below. I couldn’t wait. I’d seen The Beach and Lost, where plunging into the unknown to escape being chased by drug farmers or polar bears is the only way to survive, and I really wanted a go.
So there I was, stood, quivering in a wetsuit, a dented plastic helmet adorning my head, dripping wet and gawping at the drop before me.
We’d had the pre-jump training; the ‘keep your legs together and arms to your chest’ lecture and gradual dunking of limbs into the immobilising water to acclimatise our bodies to the temperature, so I wasn’t too worried. We’d even laughed at our crazy instructor, who, whilst we were splashing about in the shallows, had run past us in nothing but his briefs, soaring into the air and over the edge into the unknown. How hard could it really be? I thought, looking over the edge.
It was at that moment – the moment when my mum had deserted me and I was faced with the sheer magnitude of the space between the cliff’s edge and the deep, dark water below – that it hit me. I was scared. What if I slipped and bashed my head, falling to my death, the battered helmet proving useless? What if I didn’t jump far enough forward and fell onto the ledge 10ft below? I didn’t want broken legs and I definitely didn’t want to die but turning back was never an option. I had to do this.
My Dad went first, followed by my sister, proving her worth as the stronger, braver sibling, and then it was my turn. I perched on the edge of the cliff, the jagged rocks digging through my old trainers and into my feet, timidly edging forward, and contemplating my looming fate. Below me, my sister had surfaced, gasping for air, a beaming grin covering her face.
It was now or never. I crossed my arms over my chest and kicked off from the rock, careering into nothingness. It only lasted a few seconds; my surroundings sped past me, blurring my vision, and I was overcome by the feeling of complete weightlessness. The wind in my ears and the cheers growing louder, I took one last breath, grasped my nose and shut my eyes.
I’d done it – and my mum had missed the whole thing.