Sky High

Sky diving in eurobodalla

For more than 15 years, the owner of Skydive Oz has had one of the best views of the coast: from the sky.

Skydivers at SkyDive Oz Moruya

Typically, holidaymakers see an airport as a mere stepping stone to their final destination. However, a growing number of visitors to Eurobodalla not only make a beeline for Moruya Airport, but choose to stay there.

They’re the customers of Skydive Oz, a Moruya-based skydiving centre that now has such a good reputation, particularly for its training programs, that skydivers in the making come from right across Australia to learn to ‘solo’ with Paul Smith and his team.

“They come here for seven days to get a licence that allows them to jump with their friends,” says Paul, who began Skydive Oz twenty years ago.

Tandem skydive landing on the beach

Back then, the business involved a plane, a couple of parachutes and Paul, living out of a Toyota Coaster as he travelled Outback New South Wales taking customers from country towns out for jumps.

“We just drove town to town, a bit like a circus,” he laughs.

It was while running a weekend tandem skydiving trip for a group of bankers in the Eurobodalla fifteen years ago that his interest in living and working locally fell into place.

“A former manager from Moruya Airport rang me after that trip and asked if I’d be interested in opening a business there,” Paul says.

Pre jump instruction for skydivers

A keen surfer at the time, Paul didn’t need to be convinced – he flew back to Moruya the next day for a discussion with the airport’s management, and never looked back.

“I wanted somewhere on the beach to set up an operation with student training facilities – something that would be different to everyone else,” he says.

Last year, Skydive Oz licensed 215 students, most of whom stay onsite at the airport on a package that includes instruction, food and accommodation. While the beachside location is attractive, it’s only part of the appeal for skydivers-in-the-making.

“Everything is top notch – the planes, the equipment and the facilities, there’s nowhere else in Australia like it,” he says.

Skydivers post jump

Customers may be there for an amazing experience, but that experience doesn’t involve sleeping in:

“We generally we start 7am because there’s a little bit of prep involved getting everything ready, and we usually jump until they are worn out,” he says.

For newcomers to skydiving, this usually means three or four jumps a day.

“It’s mentally exhausting for them because they are learning,” says Paul.

Skydiver ready to board the plane

The busy facility doesn’t only focus on training: tandem jumpers come for a one-off skydive, the business hosts regular skydiving events, and many Australian records have been set in the skies above the top of the airport.

“It’s quite unique, we do about 20,000 to 24,000 jumps here a year,” Paul says.

An impressive number of those jumps are completed by Paul and his team. While the business owner recently logged his 16,000th jump, each of the 16-17 employees of Skydive Oz are similarly obsessed with the sport. Staff turnover is low:

“We’ve got a really solid crew here. A lot of our staff have just had kids and bought houses here: they’re established and settled into the area,” he says. “They come and they stay.”

Skydivers ready for take off

Sounds not unlike Paul himself. While his surfing is a little neglected nowadays, it’s more due to a lack of time than interest: there are only so many hours in the day, and his long association with planes eventually surpassed his love of a good wave.

Today, if he’s not flying planes or doing jumps for Skydive Oz, Paul is up in the air training for competition aerobatic flying.

“My passion is really all things to do with flying,” he says.

Still, whether from the sky or the ground, Paul never fails to appreciate the opportunities for adventure that abound in the region he’s settled in.

“There’s 4WDing, kayaking, biking, seaplanes. And it’s such a beautiful part of the world – it’s unreal,” he says.

South Coast Seaplane tour
Paul Smith’s top 5 things to do in Eurobodalla
  1. Visit Moruya markets.
    “They have the best local produce and artisan products (and pizza!).”
  2. Check out South Coast Seaplanes.
    “Even if you don’t want to jump out of a plane, you can still see the coastline from one.”
  3. Hit the beaches.
    “We have so many in the area, and so few people on them. Ozy and Radar love the dog-friendly ones.”
  4. Take a Region X tour.
    “This local operator offers heaps of things to do on land and water, like sea kayaking.”
  5. Enjoy the pubs.
    “There’s The Waterfront, the Adelaide, Broulee Brewhouse, Big Niles Brewery, Tilba Winery, just to name a few.”