Its fair to say that the general public thinks of skydiving as being strapped to a person while making a tandem skydive. Or simply jumping from a plane and being in a belly to earth position until you end up under a parachute. Yet in reality, there are many different types of skydiving disciplines one can learn and progress in. When I first found myself entering the sport, I kind of assumed the same generalized thought of skydiving. Actually, I was not someone who knew anything about the skydiving sport before my first tandem. Discovering that there was different skydiving disciplines within the sport was shocking for me!
There are many different avenues that one can take in skydiving. And its really interesting to be able to learn about all the different styles of flying that skydivers have to choose from. Lets take some time today to briefly share with you the different disciplines in skydiving. Now you can get an idea of why we keep going back for more and becoming addicted to skydiving!
Belly flying, relative work or formation skydiving
All these different names! But they are the same style of flying, and the original body position that skydivers learn. The position has the skydiver falling in a belly to earth orientation. Belly flying is what skydivers learn first, to get the basic foundation of skydiving skills. To be honest, many skydivers quickly move onto other disciplines without really nailing down their belly skills precisely. Yet there are those who remain active belly flyers, refining their skills.
Belly flyers will join with others into groups or even teams for competition. Which is called relative work or formation skydiving. Groups practise team work and flying abilities creating formations in freefall and accumulating points. Points are given for each specific formation created, which involves taking grips on a flyers body. Formations are completed in a pre-determined order. Points are awarded for the correct completion of the pre-determined formations and how many are achieved in the skydive.
Tracking is also another basic skill that is taught to skydivers. It is a very essential skill to have in skydiving because when it is time to deploy your canopy, you will have wanted to create a lot of distance/separation from other people on the jump. Near the end of a free fall at a predetermined altitude, the skydivers track away (fly horizontally away) from each other to deploy their parachutes.
Tracking is also a type of skydiving jump as well. It is really fun, like playing follow the leader in the sky with your friends. To begin, flyers start by tracking “flat”. Either on their bellies or backs, flying horizontally like superman! Cool right? This is a very fun way to skydive close to your friends.
Alright, so this is the next step up from flat tracking. The elusive angle flying, which is basically a faster, stronger and more skill controlled tracking. Its flat tracking on steroids. And it is not easy, it takes a lot of practise to be able to fly angle tracking jumps. Skydivers can fly on their bellies or backs, however, now they are orientating their bodies with a pitch. So the body is not gliding flat, nor is it completely vertical, thus the name angle flying! This is a really intense and fun way to skydive with your friends.
Here we have another discipline of body flight that has a few avenues within itself. Lets take a look of the different types of free flying within the skydiving sport.
Vertical Formation Skydiving (VFS)
VFS skydiving is flying in a vertical orientation with either your feet to the ground, or head to the ground position. This is a very fast form of flying, in comparison to say the belly flying position. Very soon after moving on from belly flying, skydivers try out vertical flying, also called free flying. Its fun and fast, but takes practise and dedication to control! VFS is also a type of competitive skydive. Groups fly together, and similar to the RW or FS flying, there are predetermined formations (grips) to take in a certain order, and points are awarded for the successful completion.
Freestyle skydiving is basically artistic skydiving, like dancing in the sky! Its a very beautiful type of flying to watch. The different type of creative movements are basically up to the skydivers own imagination. There are certain moves that are required to perform if in a competition. But the choreography can be completely up to the skydiver. You can try to imagine a ballerina or dancer in the sky, and this is similar to freestyle skydiving.
The term free flying can be a pretty loose title for a type of flying. Skilled skydivers are able to fly some pretty creative movements, through a 360 degree axis. Taking movements from many disciplines and creating their own jump flow. With greater body flying skills becoming present, the types of free flying jumps are changing and pushing the edge of what was once thought possible in the sport!
Parachutes are mainly thought of as our life savers and ride back down to earth. Which they are! However, canopy flying does not simply end there! Canopy or parachute piloting has its own disciplines within the sport of skydiving as well. It takes a very precise canopy pilot to perform safely in these disciplines, and of course, a lot of practise!
This is actually a very wonderful discipline for onlookers to enjoy and witness. Since without video you cannot see what is happening in freefall, canopy swooping is available for everyone to watch! Canopy pilots who are in the discipline of swooping are flying their parachutes towards the ground at much faster speeds and covering more distance on landing. Sometimes there are ponds/water, and the “swoopers” skim overtop and then land in the grass! Its really incredible and technical discipline in skydiving, with little room for error, and injury risk is high if performed incorrectly.
Competition swooping can include distance covered, horizontally across the ground (the swoop). As well as the canopy pilots can perform artistic manoeuvres, such as turning their bodies and flying their canopies while their body is turned the other way! Which is why I think swooping is a really exciting discipline for the general public to watch, because they are right there in front of the action!
Canopy formation or canopy relative work
Canopy formation is usually referred to as CRW. This discipline consists of canopy pilots coming together to create canopy formations and flying together in close proximity. Not only are many people flying their parachutes close together, they are even taking grips with their feet onto the other canopies, linking the formations together. Its an incredible visual for people to be able to see these formations on the ground, and makes for some spectacular photos and videos!
This is a very common and well known skydiving discipline. Most people who don’t skydiving are aware of wingsuits, and usually they assume you are jumping off cliffs BASE jumping with them. Because that is what they see on YouTube! Yet in reality, most skydivers who fly wingsuits do not jump off cliffs, just out of airplanes, and are incredibly passionate with in their skydiving discipline!
Not everyone can fly a wingsuit. In fact, you actually need a minimum of 200 skydives before you can try it out. Skydivers must take proper training and start on smaller wingsuits. This skydiving discipline involves gliding horizontally across the sky while flying/falling at a much slower speed than a regular skydiver. Which means their skydives tend to last longer that other disciplines, and they cover a great distance in their suit. With practise wingsuiters graduate to larger suits and flying in formation with others. Performing flocking together, they can also perform other tricks like barrel rolls and carving!
Exactly what you think it is, skydiving at the fastest speed you possibly can! It is an individual discipline, as you are flying your own body to fly at the fastest speed you can. In a head down orientation, wearing clothing with the least drag and resistance as possible to generate the fastest speeds. Speed skydiving is rather new but growing. Speed skydiving competitions are now becoming popular, and its incredible to see results of humans flying their bodies up to speeds of 500 km/h.
Keep coming back
The world of skydiving is so much more than just jumping out of a perfectly good airplane! As you now know, there are so many different types of disciplines within the skydiving sport. Hopefully you can see why this sport keeps us pushing for our own personal growth and development and why we love to skydive!
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