Greg and Elaine cox live a charmed life, together sharing their passion for sky diving and making a business out of it.
Story by Nick Cook
The altimeters strapped to the wrists of the experienced skydivers count out the height – 1000 metres … 3000 … 5000 – as the plane spirals upwards. Greg and Elaine Cox, the couple who run Skydive Temora, maintain a constant stream of reassuring chatter as the ground becomes increasingly distant. Even the most nervous first-time skydiver cannot help but feel more confident in their presence.
This is the 9732nd time Greg has gone up in a plane without coming back down inside of it. His love of skydiving is obvious. “Skydiving defines me; it is holistic, it is my passion,” he says. “The freedom, the exhilaration, the magic of being at one with the elements; it’s the closest experience to human flight. This isn’t a job, it’s a lifestyle and being able to introduce others into such an aesthetic playground is a privilege.” Elaine nods agreement: “I’ve known Greg for 20 years and in all that time I can honestly say he’s at his happiest in the air.”
Greg, who speaks with a slightly lilting English accent, made his first jump during his 10 years of service with the British Army, leaping from a balloon over Oxfordshire. “I was nervous, of course,” he says, recalling the moment, “But also totally excited. It was everything I thought it was going to be and more. I landed and just wanted to go straight back up there again.” He quickly became hooked and when he left the army he took up a job as the senior instructor at a skydiving centre. That’s where he met Elaine, who had also become addicted to the sport after treating herself to a jump for her 30th birthday.
It’s hard not to envy Greg and Elaine’s shared enthusiasm for skydiving, which creates a bond between them at a level that few people experience. “It’s really hard to put into words, but being able to share something that we’re both passionate about really adds something to both the relationship and the activity,” Greg says. “It really is something that’s quite special and important to both of us. Elaine was somebody I met through skydiving and I can’t imagine what it would be like without her, to be honest.”
Skydiving is so central to their lives that it formed part of their wedding. One of the photos crowding the wall of their office is a shot of them, taken from above, as they plummet towards the ground over Malaysia, surrounded by a group of friends who had jumped out of the same Hercules aircraft to form a circle around them for the mid-air ceremony.
And now they have somebody new to share the sport with, as daughter Emma has begun to join them in the air. At the age of just 10 she’s already completed three jumps – something that requires special permission in Australia – to add to the 84 she did before she was born because Elaine continued skydiving until she was six months’ pregnant. “With Emma, it’s very special for us to have her sit there in the plane looking out the window and talking about the jump,” Greg says. “It’s really quite surreal to have her there at the moment. It’s incredible.”
When the altimeters show 8000 metres it’s time to begin getting ready. At Greg’s urging the first-time divers climb into an awkward squat, still facing the back of the plane, while they are clipped together for the tandem dive. There’s another short wait until the plane reaches the target altitude of 10,000 metres. At that point somebody puts their shoulder into the door, which bursts open with a bang. The temperature instantly drops as cold wind roars in, filling the plane. There are handshakes and encouraging words all round. Moments later, the first pair of jumpers are sucked out of the plane and drop instantly from sight, disappearing into the clear blue sky with a piercing scream that fades from earshot almost as soon as it begins. Greg and his protégé take their place at the door, getting the best view yet.
The ground below is so flat it looks like a bedspread, an effect that’s heightened by the mottled brown patchwork of perfectly square paddocks. There’s time to admire the ordered geometry of the town of Temora and the precisely straight borders of the nearby forest. At a distance of 10 kilometres nothing looks as it actually is. The highway is a twirling black ribbon, the railway line is a neatly sown zipper and the cemetery is a tiny patch of Braille dots. Dams look like brown coffee stains and the huge tarpaulin-covered grain stacks, which on the ground tower above a person’s head, seem as small and flat as backyard swimming pools. This view is uninterrupted all the way to the horizon, which has been turned into an indistinct blur by wispy clouds, making it impossible to tell where the sky ends and the earth begins.
This story excerpt is from Issue #67
Outback Magazine: Oct/Nov 2009