Kirra, Coolangatta and Tweed Heads

Tuesday 26 August 2014

Free Falling with Archie Jamieson

Owner, Pilot and Chief Instructor of Gold Coast Skydive at Kirra

If you’ve looked up into the skies over Coolangatta on a good day you would have noticed a plummet of parachutists hovering over Kirra Hill on route to their Kirra beach drop zone. We recently caught up with the man behind this spectacular and adrenaline-packed part of our local landscape - Archie Jamieson – Australian skydiving record-holder and champion, and managing director of Gold Coast Skydive.

A local boy, Archie went to Coolangatta State School in the days when kids carried their bags up to the schoolhouse on Kirra Point. His family has some history in the area; Archie’s father was a local dentist with a practice on Musgrave Road on the spot where the Pure Kirra development now stands.  On leaving school, Archie took a number of local jobs including a stint as the manager at Coles supermarket. Along the way, he developed a love of adventure sports learning to fly planes and becoming a skydive enthusiast, winning medals in international competitions, setting a swag of records and captaining the Australian parachute team in 1994 and 2001.

A trip to Egypt sealed his fate when he met a dive manager who showed him the possibility of making a living out of his passion for adventure sports.  Add to the mix, the 1991 cult movie, “Point Break” which sparked an explosion of interest in tandem skydiving in Australia, and the groundwork for his future calling was laid.

This is quite the story of local business success.  Archie bought the business – originally known as “Gold Coast Parachute Ride” - in October 2008 and has grown it into the successful operation it is today that runs close on 6000 tandem jumps per year, flies 2 light aircraft and currently employs 21 full and part-time staff.  It’s very much a family business; Archie’s wife Samantha, also an expert skydiver, runs the IT and accounts side of things while looking after their 2 young girls. Even the family dog, DJ, is in on the action with an impressive tally of 6 jumps under his belt.
Archie’s business journey was not without some astute risk-taking. His effort and determination to secure Council approval to use Kirra Beach as a drop zone paid off and the first skydivers landed on the white sands of Kirra in November 2008 – a month after he purchased the business. Six years later, 100 or so tandem parachutists a week can be spotted gliding gracefully over our coastal landmarks before unfailingly making that precision beach landing, a feat Archie tells me is borne of the skill and talent of his team of instructors - expertise that comes from years of experience and literally thousands of jumps (over 14,000 in Archie’s case) - combined with the specialist skill and care of his pilots and ground staff.

“Has anything ever gone wrong?” I venture to ask. “Nothing major in 6 years of running the business”.  Indeed, the business has an enviable and unparalleled safety record that beats the industry standards. Archie’s attention to this side of things is meticulous. Equipment is state of the art and safety compliance checks and audits are rigorous.  If the winds are greater than 25 knots, or conditions otherwise unsuitable, no risks are taken; the jumps are called off for the day and customers given the choice of a refund or rescheduling.

So who are these thrill-seekers falling from our skies?  The majority – about 60%  – are from the overseas market, increasingly from China, Singapore, and the Middle East, with the odd group of Contiki travellers thrown in, according to Archie.  This is quite a boon for the local business community.  Skydive customers often bring their spectator family and friends with them for the ride, ensuring flow-on spending to the local cafés, hotels, travel agents, shops and restaurants. There’s no doubt this on-spending supports and strengthens the local economy.

Twenty-eight years after his first jump, Archie is living his dream. What does he love most about the job?  It’s pretty clear; spending the days doing what he loves - flying airplanes and skydiving in a spectacular setting, in the place where he grew up, with the added joy of giving people one of the best experiences of their lives. “It’s stressful, but rewarding”, says Archie.

And finally - I nearly forget to ask - “How do you get those fabulous photos”? The secret, I’m told, lies in the “GoPro” wrist mounted cameras - a special licence is needed to wear one while jumping.

As we leave, Archie is on his way to Dubai where he has scheduled in some training time in a state of the art “wind tunnel” facility - the next big thing in adventure sport and the perfect place for incurable skydive devotees to hone their free-falling skills and stay at the top of their game.
Find out more:
Book a Tandem Skydive: Phone (07) 55 99 1920
Address: 1/78 Musgrave Street, Kirra
When Can I Jump?  7 days a week, other than Christmas and other public holidays