By: Megan Pasche | Photos: AJ Harlond
I think my experience at Niagara Freefall is probably best compared to a scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. For a brief period of time, I was Violet Beauregarde, as she turned into a giant blueberry and floated up, up and away. My suit was a different colour, my skin wasn’t blue and I didn’t float into oblivion, but other than that, Violet and I probably had a pretty similar experience.
Niagara Freefall is one of those places that can fulfill a wish that is on many people’s lists: learn to fly. In most cases, it is a wish that doesn’t really have a shot of coming true, but at Niagara Freefall, Canada’s first indoor skydiving facility, you will be about as close as you’ll ever get (without jumping out of an actual plane).
The whole experience started off with watching a fifteen minute training video where I learnt all about proper body positioning and hand signals for when I was in the tunnel. Once the video ended, one of the instructors came in and quizzed me on the hand signals (there are only four of them, one being a thumbs up, so you would have to actively work at not remembering them). The signals allow you to communicate with the instructor once you are in the tunnel, as when the fan starts up, it becomes extremely difficult to have any kind of conversation.
After the safety talk was over with, I put on my flightsuit (when I showed a co-workers a photo afterwards, he said I resembled a flying squirrel, pretty much the most terrifying rodent on earth), a helmet, goggles, gloves and earplugs.
We walked into the tunnel and practiced our proper tuck and roll falling positions (you will inevitably tumble onto one of the padded areas in the tunnel, after all, what goes up, must come down, and you don’t want to try and break your fall by holding out your arms.) After that, the fan went on, and we were ready to fly. One person flies at a time, with the other people watching carefully, making sure they don’t get accidently high kicked by the flier. To begin to fly, you fall off the pad into the wind, with the instructor assisting at all times. The wind fills your flysuit, helping to lift you up. Being a fairly spazzy person, I envisioned myself just kind of flailing about, and while I wasn’t the epitome of grace, I ended up being far less spastic that I thought I would be. I kind of hovered four feet off the ground until I got a little bit more comfortable with the whole thing. It is actually a pretty good workout for your arms and core muscles, as you have to resist the wind. As I’m writing this, it is three days after my indoor skydiving experience, and I’m still feeling it in my arms. The highest I flew was about seven or eight feet up in the air, and no one in my group really made it up much higher than that. One of the owners however, jumped in the tunnel and showed us some cool tricks. He was able to get pretty much up to the ceiling, which goes up 22 feet, so it is evident that once you go back a couple of times, you get much more used to how to move you body so it will take you where you want to go. As a first time flier, I was basically at the mercy of the high-speed winds and the instructor.
It was a really neat experience, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. It definitely gave me an idea of what it would be like to be freefalling through the sky.
The indoor skydiving is something that is great for ages six and up, and it’s the perfect family activity for a day out. Andrew, one of the owners, notes that they recently had a lady celebrate her 85th birthday there.
In addition to skydiving, there is also a 32-foot rock climbing wall, a mechanical bull ride, and lazerball, which is basically indoor paintless paintball. Participants wear computerized vests and when they get shot with the ball, it registers on the scoreboard.
All in all, it is a pretty fun place to spend an afternoon. It is one of the few attractions that is operational year round, and it combines a ton of fun activities into one central location. And really, you learn to fly, what’s cooler than that?
Niagara Freefall and Interactive Centre is located at 6357 Stanley Ave in Niagara Falls. You can visit them online at niagarafreefall.com or give them a call at 905-356-9764