WATCH: News Letter reporter learns to fly without wings
GRAEME COUSINS learns to fly at We Are Vertigo's indoor skydiving centre as the company announce more adrenalin-fueled fun on the way
Yesterday, on one of the wildest days of 2018, I was forcibly propelled into the air for around two minutes by a massive gust of air.
The uplifting experience took place at We Are Vertigo’s indoor skydiving centre and it made the windy conditions outside feel positively mild.
Given that the Belfast-based company has announced a new £1million investment in some of the latest leisure crazes, I thought it appropriate that I take myself outside my comfort zone and find out what drives people to behave like stuntmen in the name of fun.
Living life on the edge has never been a mantra I’ve strived towards so the idea of being suspended in the air by a giant fan capable of 240km/h gusts was not something I would normally sign up for of my own free will.
However when you’re tasked with coming up with interesting ideas for features sometimes you’ve just got to go with the (air)flow.
The fact you’re reading this indicates I survived the experience ... not only that but I enjoyed it more than I could ever have imagined.
Seamus Mullan, one of five trained instructors at what is the only indoor skydiving centre in Northern Ireland or the Republic, played a key role in creating this memory to regale my grandchildren with.
He put me at ease as he briefed me on the correct body position for optimum flying, and explained that a second instructor was at hand to adjust the wind speed or shut down the fan if necessary.
Inside the Aerodium ‘fly zone’ he led me to the edge of the padded area surrounding the circular fan, which itself is covered by a soft wire mesh.
Taking hold of my arms he guided me forward, I leaned into the air being blasted upwards from the giant fan and we had lift off.
I assumed the skydiving position as best I could – legs nearly straight, back arched, chin up and arms out in front, bent at the elbow.
It looked much easier in the videos I’d seen, including one which showed a four-year-old boy soaring with ease.
To maintain my cruising altitude required intense muscular effort while at the same time I was being encouraged to relax by Seamus who could communicate only in hand signals due to the noise inside the vertical wind tunnel.
My instructor held me in position for most of the session, though occasionally let go when he felt I was capable of flying solo.
At one point Seamus took hold of me and we rose in tandem towards the ceiling before dropping back down to earth. I felt like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible, only taller and less well paid.
Although it was only a two minute work-out afterwards I felt like I’d done an hour’s circuit class. The highlight was when Seamus helped me complete a backwards flip, a move I’d never been able to perfect as a goal celebration during my football career.
After he said I’d done well for my first time, but apparently not as well as a 93-year-old customer who took to flying like a duck to water (if such a simile is applicable).
After my experience I spoke to managing director of We Are Vertigo Gareth Murphy, who revealed how his time in the Scouts gave him a passion for adventure.
He said: “My dad was a Scout leader and I’ve great memories of the Scouts doing things like abseiling. Activities like that gave you a real sense of achievement.”
Revealing how We Are Vertigo was born he said: “Five years ago my two boys were spending far too long on their games consoles.
“I wanted to do something with them, to get them out of the house and have a bit of a rush, but when I looked for something to fit the bill the offering was very limited.
“That’s why I set up my own company. I wanted to introduce more of an adrenalin-based activity which gave people a sense of accomplishment while creating a family bonding experience.”
We Are Vertigo first opened in Newtownbreda, east Belfast in 2013, starting out as a high ropes course, climbing and soft play area before introducing a trampoline park and indoor ski centre.
The company went on to open a second adventure centre in the Titanic Quarter offering indoor skydiving.
In January We Are Vertigo will introduce an inflata park at Newtownbreda and a ninja warrior assault course at the Titanic Quarter site.
It gives an indication of the company’s thirst for fresh adventure that trampoline parks are now considered old hat.
Gareth said: “The trampoline park was cutting edge when we built it in 2014 but we want to keep pushing the boundaries and bringing new things in.”
Individual skydiving packages start at £45. The ninja warrior course and inflata park will cost £12.50 per session. For more information go to www.wearevertigo.com