For thousands of years, mankind has looked to the skies with envy for the birds that floated free high above. The idea of being able to join them in their activity drove men and women for years to attempt to solve one of the most basic desires, which was to fly. Now, mankind has soared in hot air balloons to incredible heights, built airplanes and jets that defy the sound barrier and scrape the edge of outer space, and have sent men to the moon.
Yet for some thrill seekers, this isn’t enough. They want to fly through the air just like those winged creatures that can dive and turn and roll, chase and evade prey and predators alike. To be able to spread one’s arms out wide and use knowledge and skill to guide them in their flight continues to call to the most extreme adventurers.
The result is called wingsuit flying. This fairly new development of sport was born out of this evolutionary desire, this connection to the birds and the sense of freedom, of excitement, of speed and agility. The activity itself requires an extreme amount of skill, as well as fearlessness, as the speeds that are attained and the terrain that is often covered, expect the greatest respect and forgive very little.
Experienced wingsuit flyers have many years of skydiving experience under their belt and are usually certified skydivers. Some of the most extreme videos of wingsuit flying show some of these avid enthusiasts scraping the edge of cliffs or buildings, practically close enough to tough the surface of the rock with their bare hands, all while cruising at seventy, eighty, ninety, and even over one hundred miles per hour.
These experienced professionals make wingsuit flying look so easy that anyone could do it, but there is a calculated experience and training that goes into each of these jumps and without the proper training, without the proper equipment and guidance, and without considering the right location in which to make that jump, the excitement can quickly turn into tragedy.
Anyone who is considering wingsuit flying should discuss their desire with an experience wingsuit flyer. They can also discuss this desire with certified skydiving instructors and professionals. Wingsuit flying is for the most resilient and die hard individual, sometimes referred to as the ‘adrenaline junkie,’ but if you have the resolve, the desire, and the ability to be patient until you’re ready for that first wingsuit flight, then you can join the ranks of those incredible men and women who soar like the birds and chase excitement down wherever it tries to hide.
Getting Started: What to Know
Before getting started in the sport of wingsuit flying, there are several things that someone should test about themselves to determine whether or not this sport is even worth pursuing. The first thing is to determine one’s fear of extreme heights. If you can’t climb to the top of a tall building and look down, or if you have a serious compunction to avoid stepping toward the edge of a rock cliff high up over the countryside, then wingsuit flying may not be the best choice for your thrills.
Wingsuit flying, much like base jumping, is generally monopolized by the daring souls who have an affinity for the dangerous activities in life. If you have a hard time dealing with high speeds in tight traffic situations, for example, then wingsuit flying is something you may not wish to consider.
However, this isn’t a hard and true fact of life. Not for everyone. Wingsuit flying doesn’t have to take place in the most extreme locations and it doesn’t have to involve the same time of thrill that base jumping offers. Many wingsuit flyers limit themselves to the same airplane jumps as they would when skydiving. The only real difference there is that instead of simply freefalling and possibly guiding yourself to a certain location, you would use a wingsuit to simulate the act of truly flying, getting anywhere between one to three minutes of flight time in before the parachute would need to be pulled.
It has been well documented that people who have an inherent fear of heights have gone onto to enjoy skydiving more than they ever thought imaginable. The lesson here is to determine whether this is something for you, whether on the extreme end of jumps or the most basic of skydives, and if so, where to go from there.
What Does It Take to Learn to Wingsuit Fly?
Before anyone can strap on a wingsuit and take to the skies like the majestic eagle, they must first learn how to skydive. It harkens back to the old adage that before one can learn to run, he or she must first learn to walk and in order to do that, he or she needs to learn to crawl.
Doing anything in life requires small steps and in the case of wingsuit flying, those steps take time. How much time will be determined by the individual and one person’s actions or expectations should not be conveyed onto someone else. For example, it may take one individual a few months to go from their first skydiving lesson to their first wingsuit flight. However, it may take another person a few years.
Don’t rush through any of the steps in the hope of reaching your goals quicker. The sport, under the right guidance and instruction, is considered quite safe, but the wrong moves at the wrong time can be devastating, even fatal. Any time a person jumps from an airplane, or the base of a cliff, or some other location, there is risk. Maintaining safety should always be priority number one.
How to Start the Wingsuit Flying Experience
The first thing that you will need to do is find a certified and qualified skydiving instructor. There are many options available to determine if wingsuit flying is right for you. The first is the tandem skydive.
The tandem jump is basically a jump where a certified skydiving professional jumps with you, harnessed to you the entire time. You are positioned at the front so that you can experience the full breadth of the dive itself, from the moment you leave the plane to the minute your feet touch the ground.
The advantage of the tandem jump is that you don’t need any special training in order to perform it. There is usually just a few short lessons in how to land in order to avoid injury to ankles or legs, but beyond that, the instructor is responsible for guiding you two to the ground and pulling the chute.
This is a great first test to see if wingsuit flying would even be an option. Why? If you can’t handle the tandem dive, if your fear is too intense and you wouldn’t wish to go back up and do it again, then you may not be a good candidate for wingsuit flying.
The next step is to sign up for and train to go on a solo skydive jump. This is where you jump by yourself, with no one harnessed to you, but in a group, whether it’s with other novice jumpers or with experienced professionals. You are fully responsible for all aspects of the dive, from pulling the chute at the right time to guiding yourself to the landing zone, to easing yourself onto the ground.
These dives require some classroom work and other training in order to fully understand the entire aspect of the skydiving experience. When you have solo skydiving down and there aren’t any issues that you have, meaning you are comfortable will all phases and prove that you can maneuver and control your dive from beginning to end, then you are ready to begin your wingsuit flying experience.
How Wingsuit Flying Works
One of the most difficult aspects of wingsuit flying to get used to is steering oneself through the air like a bird. The fabric and the design of the wingsuit is unique and the human body was simply not designed for this kind of experience. It takes some getting used to.
There are several methods that are used to help train people in the art of using a wingsuit, but the most popular is called the wind tunnel. In effect, this is not a tunnel but the wind is generated from a massive fan below the person’s body. This fan simulates wind resistance during a free fall.
The power of the wind generated during this exercise is enough to lift a person’s body into the air. From there, the individual will learn to balance and maneuver themselves using the wingsuit. Shifting the arms back will help a person accelerate while dipping the arms to one side or the other will be used for steering.
A person can also shift their entire body to one side to alter their experience. This entire training exercise is akin to some surfing instructions that use virtual waves, or wave generators to allow people to get used to balancing on a surfboard before taking to the open waters. Getting used to the feel before being thrown into the actual situation can be life-saving.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the attraction of wingsuit diving?
Different strokes for different folks, basically. The idea of wingsuit flying is that it gives a person the sense of true and free flying, without anything around them, or anything guiding them. They are free to maneuver however they would like, just as the birds in the sky do.
Of course, wingsuit flying can be done from more than just an airplane and for some extreme adventurers, this is the true thrill. To be able to graze the side of a building or cliff when base jumping is an adrenaline rush that is difficult to duplicate. It’s certainly not for everyone and those individuals who are thinking about taking up wingsuit flying should take the necessary steps and precautions to remain safe.
Is wingsuit diving safe?
Wingsuit diving, when done with caution and care, is as safe as skydiving, which has become an exceptionally safe recreation. The redundancy in skydiving of having two parachutes, one as the primary, and one as the secondary, has saved many people from serious injury and possibly even death.
However, as with any activity of this kind, wingsuit flying does carry with it some measure of risk. How much risk is entirely dependent on the person taking part. At no point should anyone feel pressured into this activity nor should anyone feel that they must be subjected to another individual’s carelessness.
Safety is the rule and when that is done, then wingsuit flying is relatively safe.
Where can I purchase a wingsuit?
While there are many manufacturers that make wingsuits, they aren’t available in every corner clothing, sporting, or specialty shop. You can find some of these wingsuits online through certain distributors, but quality is what matters most when it comes to wingsuits. As in scuba diving, you wouldn’t want to head deep underwater with secondary quality equipment and you shouldn’t consider heading up into the sky with a wingsuit that could tear or fall apart or fail for any number of reasons.
Contact your local certified skydiving instructor and find out what the best wingsuits are and where you can purchase one. Most of these shops will have them available, but without the proper experience, they may reserve the right not to sell them to you.
I’ve been skydiving for years, and I’m certified, what do I have to do in order to winguit fly.?
Contact your local skydiving professional and inquire about their requirements to wingsuit fly. Different instructors will have different expectations and requirements, as well as different methods of teaching wingsuit flying. Shop around if you feel more comfortable as being comfortable with the people with whom your surround yourself should be tantamount to a safe and enjoyable wingsuit flying experience.
Wingsuit flying isn’t for everyone, but if skydiving is something that has interested you for years and you think about the thrill of flying like the birds, then wingsuit flying may be the perfect answer to your desire for thrill and excitement. Wingsuit flying can be very safe, or it can be very dangerous, putting the individual and others at risk for the chase of excitement. It all depends on the individual.
Wingsuit flying is an experience like no other and for those that are willing and able to pursue this fantastic recreational activity, its rewards can equal a lifetime of stories and memories to share with friends, family, and strangers for years to come.