The Cloud Jump

aka The Broken Neck Jump

We decided to go through with an idea that was outside everybody’s comfort zone. We began in the end of 2015. Little did we know about the consequences of this concept. It took hundreds of jumps out of airplanes around the world, days and days of constructing and adjusting the platform and two and a half years of preparation before we finally were at the right place at the right time, ready to make it happen. To us the cloud jump is a game changer. The beginning of our work in the airspace.

The others are staring at me. They are completely still.
It’s pin-drop quiet. I can’t feel my body.
I hear a crunching sound on a loop in my head.
For a moment, I think I’m hovering in the air.
Then it hits me. I’ve lost control.
I’ve fallen six meters straight down after a failed triple back somersault, and I’ve landed smack on my head.
That crunching is the sound of my neck vertebrae coming apart. I have broken my fourth and fifth cervical vertebrae and am paralysed from the neck down.
I am 21 years old.
A professional acrobat.
That is who I am, what matters most in my life.
Is this how it ends?
The initial period after is all about step by step, joint by joint, about reconquering the body. Being able to eat, pee, walk, about that tingling sensation when the body once again makes contact with its toes…But fairly soon the idea of reviving the jump pops up.
I decide to attempt the jump one more time, ten years after the accident. It takes me twelve years to get here.
In my head, I’ve gone through the jump a thousand times:
I’m going to disconnect the safety line, step onto the board, find my balance, pull the quick-release and time the jump for exactly when the sack hits the board and launches me upward.

“No, it wasn’t meant to end with the accident.
Do it again. Do it right.”

The somersault.
I have to have faith that I’ll feel it in my bones.
Second nature.
For the first time since the accident I’m about to jump again, but this time I’m going to do it from 3000 meters up in the air.
The platform takes off. I feel a stillness in my body.
It almost like it felt twelve years ago. I’m on my way up.
I’ve never been as afraid as I am right now.
3000 meters above the ground I disconnect the safety line, and through the two-way radio announce that I’m ready.
I step onto the teeterboard, await the signal from the balloon pilot and pull the quick-release.
It’s impossible to steer an air balloon.
It flies with the wind, within the wind.
I had three possible landing sites: a mountain top, a lake, a marshland. I open the parachute at 1400 meters with my sights set on the mountain.
I end up in the lake.
No, it wasn’t meant to end with the accident. Do it again. Do it right.
I have chosen my landing point.