Spectators were treated to the spectacle of airborne skydivers as they dropped from the sky when the Parachute Association of Botswana (PAB) and Skydive Botswana held a first skydiving demonstration event at the Gaborone Golf Club on Wednesday.
The aim of the event was to introduce skydiving to the general public as a recreational sport and highlight various ways they can engage with the sport.
Speaking in an interview, Frederick Potgieter, a professional skydiver from South Africa, says despite being relatively unknown in Botswana, the sport has grown tremendously in other countries like the USA, where they have thousands of skydiving clubs.
Commenting on the issue of risks involved in the activity, Potgieter rubbished perceptions of parachuting being an extremely dangerous sport.
“We are trained professionals, and we always take safety measures like having a back-up chute should the other one fail to function,” he said.
The first participant to take part in the introductory skydive was Botswana National Sports Council’s Solly Reikeletseng who described the experience as fun.
“It was fun, the conductor expected me to panic but I had fun. I encourage everyone to take part in this sport,” he said.
Reikeletseng added that the BNSC will give skydiving, soon to be incorporated as one of the BNSC sport codes, all the necessary support.
The second jumper, Malebogo Letlhare of Botho College, described the experience as scary at first.
“I was so scared as we were about to jump that I just closed my eyes but I eventually felt a sense of relief after the chute opened up and I could see the crowd below,” she said.
Letlhare believes that with enough training, she can jump on her own without being strapped to a professional.
Felicity Hunter, a board member at BOSASNet who was set to go next, said she was feeling nervous about her impending jump.
Conversely, Duma fm’s Cathy Malejane said she was feeling confident about taking part despite doing it for the first time ever.
PAB is a newly formed non-profit association of member clubs whose mission is to “foster, develop and facilitate sport parachuting in all its facets, within Botswana in the safest and most progressive manner”.
Skydive Botswana organises skydiving events and activities for corporate entities.
They consist of internationally licensed and highly experienced skydivers drawn from skydiving clubs in Botswana, such as the Gaborone Skydiving Club. Members of the public can participate in the sport and access training to attain an internationally recognised skydiving license.
Skydiving is the action sport of exiting an aircraft and returning to earth with the aid of gravity while using a HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parachute” \o “Parachute”parachute to slow down during the terminal part of the descent. It usually involves a certain amount of free-fall, a time during which the parachute has not been deployed and the body gradually accelerates to HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terminal_velocity” \o “Terminal velocity”terminal velocity.
When the parachute opens the jumper can control the direction and speed with toggles on the end of steering lines attached to the trailing edge of the parachute, and can aim for the landing site and come to a relatively gentle stop.
First time divers make their first jump with an experienced and trained instructor with their body strapped to that of the instructor in what is called a tandem skydive.
During the tandem jump, the instructor is responsible for emergency procedures in the unlikely event that they will be needed, therefore freeing a stuck parachute before deploying the backup.