Unusual jobs: Staying grounded while aiding high flyers

By Beck Vass

Brad Smith at the office. Photo / Natalie Slade
Brad Smith at the office. Photo / Natalie Slade

His "office" is 192m up in the sky, but to Brad Smith it's like a walk in the park.

The operations manager for SkyCity's Sky Jump is completely at ease walking around the widest part of the Sky Tower - he's done it 7000 times.

But, he says, it took two or three months before it felt "normal" to be up there, and he remembers feeling really tired at the end of each day 18 months ago, when his job supervising walks and jumps from the Sky Tower was still sinking in.

"Obviously, in the environment that we work in, we can't afford for anything to go wrong. So there is all the safety awareness that is constantly going through your mind. It's very mentally draining as well as sometimes physically."

The 28-year-old has coped with many meltdowns on the 120m Sky Walk and has even held people's hands as he led them around the outside.

But that's all part of the job. So is gaining trust within minutes of meeting people, making them feel safe and entertaining them - all while being conscious of health and safety requirements and not making mistakes.

A trip around reveals exactly why he's good at his job. He is extremely relaxed, beginning by pointing out various landmarks.

It's all very interesting but Rangitoto looks much better from down below, or from behind a pane of glass where it's not quite so obvious how high it is.

But, he quickly coerces us into stepping backwards over the ledge after we said we wouldn't, a dizzying drop looming below.

Soon after, it seemed safe to look down without that giddy feeling.

This was all part of his plan. That's why he made us lean out, so we learned to trust the ropes - something he did seven years back, when he answered an ad to become a guide for Waitomo Caves, taking tourists caving and abseiling.

"Because I've been around ropes and harnesses for so long, I know their strengths and limitations. So I know what I can and can't do, and with that understanding comes the trust ... You learn to trust it, and then it becomes second nature."

Mr Smith's toes repeatedly step over the edge throughout the 30-or-so minutes, instinctively knowing their limit.

The job also involves hosting people - sometimes film crews - out there, which in itself can be high-energy and demanding. He has led actress Charlize Theron and actor Seth Green.

However, he says, one of the tougher situations is when families are completing the walk together and the children are more confident than their parents at leaning over the edge.

"The mums and dads really freak out about their kids. It's a fine balance, trying to know where you can step in with parents. You don't want to undermine the parents' authority but at the same time, you want the kids to have fun and provide some entertainment.

"It's the ability to know how to push people and how far to push people without breaking them."

The thing he loves the most about his job is seeing the sense of accomplishment in people who overcome their fears. "You get used to seeing fear in people's eyes [but] the scared people that we take around give you the most satisfaction."

But not everyone shares his passion. "My Mum doesn't like to hear about my days at work. When she talks to me she'll ask me about the weather, or something exciting like that."

- NZ Herald

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