Shellharbour adventure seekers can now gain thrilling views of their own backyard as new skydiving company BigWave Skydive drops into Bass Point at Shell Cove from September.
Wollongong couple Rob and Megan Crombie started BigWave Skydive after an opportunity was identified to bring skydiving to the Shellharbour area.
However, it’s been a long ride to get there.
Megan said initially a development application was approved by the planning department for Shellharbour South Beach, but part of the DA condition was to secure a licence to occupy the land, which still sits with the property department.
“The regulations around that involved the (Shellharbour) council members and the mayor voting on the licence. They voted 5-4 against the licence,” she said.
“It took two years to get to that point – it was a long ride.”
She said the DA still stood, but could be amended to address council members’ concerns around the impact on the public on such a public beach.
“After that was knocked back, we needed to start again and so we looked at the other side of the marina, which is The Shallows Coastal Reserve area,” she said of the Bass Point location in Shell Cove.
“It’s not just about the aesthetics of the location, but the practicality of it from a parachuting and air space point of view.”
She said traffic control towers and airspace borders, along with wind direction, all made finding the best location challenging.
“If you’ve got that quarry, for example, creating turbulent wind when it’s blowing from one direction, then it’s a problem,” she said.
“Then we have to work with the council so that it works with what they would like and has the least impact on the public.
“There were a lot of hoops to jump through but eventually the council approved the DA for that one and the councillors voted all in favour for the licence.”
Megan said the smaller plane meant minimal noise and landings on The Shallows beach would be for a few minutes every hour to ensure minimal impact.
She said the goal was to offer a “bespoke, more luxurious adventure”.
After checking in at the Shellharbour airport, skydivers do a one-on-one safety briefing before boarding the aircraft.
Once in the air, the 20-minute ride to 15,000 ft above ground level takes in picturesque views of Lake Illawarra, The Farm, Bushrangers Bay, and the marina.
“The tandem masters themselves pack their parachutes at the airport in front of the client so the clients can experience the whole essence of what skydiving is,” she said.
“It’s a much more intimate experience.”
She said intimacy also extended to the flight being in a smaller aircraft which only allowed a maximum of three clients at once.
“If they have specific requests around the video or the photos, or maybe they’re doing a proposal when they land, we can accommodate those kinds of requests a lot easier because we’re a small operation,” she said.
“Our views are unique and our landing area is one of a kind.
“When they land at The Shallows, we can either take them back to the airport or they can just go straight to the marina and have lunch.
“The airport being right there was another advantage – the airport is only a 10-minute drive away, so it was a perfect location.
“It’s a lot more relaxed and bespoke.”
Until, of course, you’re jumping out the door for a 200 km/h freefall for up to 60 seconds before the parachute opens at 5000 ft, and a peaceful five-minute parachute ride to the ground follows.
Megan said their instructors each had decades of experience, including her husband who had been in the skydiving industry for more than 30 years.
“He’s represented South Africa and Australia at world canopy piloting championships,” she said.
“He has travelled around the world to compete in those events and they do all sorts of things – sometimes they jump with smoke, they do these artistic landings …
“People often think about skydiving as just a tandem, but it’s actually a sport in itself.
“Many people compete, dedicate their lives to the sport, and are very passionate about it.”
Rob is one of those people, with his work also having seen him tandem with 100-year-olds through to 12-year-olds, help out with marriage proposals and conduct flag jumps.
He worked as a tandem master in Wollongong for more than 10 years before COVID-19 hit, after which he kept up his skills by working in Moruya, Picton, and the Hunter Valley on the side.
Their crew also includes one of the longest standing chief instructors in Australia with more than 50 years’ experience, another tandem master with 20 years’ experience, and a senior pilot who has flown for Angel Flight and parliamentary members.
Megan said the goal was to take the business forward after long delays.
“It’s been many, many years and we just want to get up and running,” she said.
“We want to look after our team because they have shown us a lot of support in helping us to get to this point as well.”
To learn more or book, visit the website.