Skysurfing is an exhilarating discipline of skydiving that combines the thrill of surfing and the freedom of the sky. Despite its decline in popularity, the sport continues to captivate daredevils and adventurers. But what exactly is skysurfing, how did it begin, and what does it take to become a skysurfer? Let’s dive in to find out.
SO – WHAT IS SKYSURFING, REALLY?
There are various types of skydiving; we refer to these as disciplines. Skysurfing is one of those disciplines. Specifically speaking, for skysurfing, a skydiver attaches a specially made sky “surfboard” to their feet to perform acrobatic stunts in the air. The board is different from an actual surfboard – they are smaller and have a lower profile. Sky surfboards are less like a surfboard you’d see in the sea and are more akin to a snowboard.
This slow-mo video on YouTube gives a really good intro, allowing you to leisurely observe the sport:
What is the difference between skysurfing and skydiving?
While traditional skydiving focuses primarily on freefall and parachute deployment, skysurfing adds another layer of complexity and thrill by incorporating a board. This allows the skysurfer to execute intricate stunts, flips, and rotations that are not possible in standard skydiving. However, this added complexity also increases the level of difficulty and risk, requiring more extensive training and skill mastery.
Is skysurfing safe?
Skysurfing, like any extreme sport, comes with its share of risks. However, taking proper safety measures can significantly mitigate these risks. This includes undergoing rigorous training, starting with simpler boards and progressing as skills improve, and always jumping with certified instructors or experienced skysurfers. Safety gear such as helmets, goggles, and specialized skydiving suits are also essential. Always remember that you’re performing acrobatics at speeds exceeding 120 mph, so taking every safety precaution is crucial.
HOW DID SKYSURFING GET STARTED?
French skydivers Dominique Jacquet and Jean-Pascal Oron are the original inventors of skysurfing. They took note of how boards were used to ride the waves of water and wondered if it was possible to do the same with air during freefall. Turns out it was – and in 1986, skysurfing was born!
DEVELOPMENT OF SKYSURFING
Slowly but surely the discipline of skysurfing started to gain traction. Interest and participation in the sport peaked in the late ’90s – largely due to its increased media presence and inclusion in the ESPN X Games from 1995-2000.
Since then, audience enthusiasm for skysurfing has remained vivid and even been encouraged by movies like Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Some highly-publicized stunts – like the one that took place at the NASCAR Coke 600 at Lowes Motor Speedway in 2015 – have also helped keep it in the spotlight. Yet, the number of practicing skysurfers has declined over the years and is currently relatively small.
Why has the popularity of skysurfing declined?
Part of the reason the number of skysurfers has plummeted is the steep learning curve and high skill level requirement associated with the discipline. In and of itself, skysurfing is a high-speed sport with considerable risks: you’re falling toward the earth at speeds in excess of 120 mph and your feet are snugly secured in a fixed position on a relatively large, rigid object.
Can anyone learn to skysurf?
Technically, anyone who is in good physical condition and has the determination can learn to skysurf. However, it’s crucial to understand that skysurfing is not a beginner’s sport.. Aspiring skysurfers need to be able to fly in a variety of orientations, both head up and head down (in a seated position or with their head literally pointing toward the ground). These skills take a fair amount of time, training and physical fitness to master.
Within the discipline of skysurfing, there is also a progression. Beginner skysurfers will use a smaller sky surfboard with less surface area. As they increase their skill and comfortability with the sport and equipment, they “graduate” to longer boards.
And once you have acquired superior skysurfing skills, you can be like Rob Harris – who looks a little bit like an upside figure skater in the sky:
How do I get started with skysurfing?
To start skysurfing, you first need to become proficient in traditional skydiving. This usually involves completing a series of tandem jumps and solo jumps to earn a skydiving license. Once you’ve mastered the basics of skydiving, you can enroll in specialized skysurfing training programs. These programs will introduce you to the equipment, techniques, and safety protocols specific to skysurfing. It’s recommended to start with smaller, easier-to-manage boards and progressively move on to more complex equipment as you gain experience.
And yet – one of the innate lessons of skydiving is that anything is possible if you only put your mind to it. Even conquering your most primal fears and flying through the sky. So regardless of the skill or discipline it may take, even skysurfing starts with a person’s very first skydive. Are you up for the challenge? If so, schedule your first jump today!