Tourist numbers soar due to sky-diving

BIGWAVE Skydive featured in the Illawarra Mercury print copy dated January 31,2024 – page 4 by Connor Pearce


Normally, when Warilla pilot Shane O’Neill is 15,000 feet up in the air, he’s strapped in with the door closed.

But just before Christmas, Mr O’Neill was staring out the door of the plane over Shellharbour, ready to jump.

Mr O’Neill is one of the lucky few who have taken the leap with Shellharbour skydiving operator Big Wave Skydive since the business began operating last year.

Tourists and Locals taking the leap

After years of back and forth with Shellharbour City Council, the new business, run by experienced skydiver Robert Verner, got up in the air for a 12 month trial period in 2023.

So far, 300 people just like Mr O’Neill have taken in the view of Shell Cove and Bass Point from the air, and while many people only skydive once in their lifetime, Mr O’Neill said once he touched down at the Shallows Reserve with his son Coehn only a few moments behind, he was ready to jump in the plane again.

“Once you depart the aircraft and free fell, it was very, very exhilarating,” he said.

“I’ve done aerobatics in aeroplanes, and it would be up there with that level of excitement.”

When Natalie Harris’s father and cousin visited her in December, the English tourists were after “something fun” to which Ms Harris proposed the idea of skydiving.

Ms Harris’s grandfather was a skydiver for a living, so the idea had a special resonance for the family. Once in the air, Ms Harris said the standout was seeing her home in Shell Cove from a different angle.

“The conditions on the day were amazing, the water was that turquoise, beautiful blue.”

Stunning location

Mr Verner said while the location is stunning from the air, to be able to takeoff from Shellharbour Airport land next to the Shell Cove Marina and dining precinct made for an enviable package, and has attracted numerous international tourists to the area.

“The infrastructure that’s getting built around Shellharbour and Shell Cove really makes it a viable business, and a good tourist attraction for the area as well.”

Based on the experience so far, Mr Verner said he is hopeful of being able to confirm a second landing location for when the wind turns southerly and to enable the business to run on a permanent basis at the conclusion of the trial.

Having won over international visitors and Shellharbour councillors, Mr Verner said it was a privilege to be able to sky dive from that location.

“I had a picture in my head, but when I got up there it was way better than I could imagine.”