Skysurfing

From Academic Kids

Skysurfing is a kind of skydiving in which the skydiver wears a board attached to their feet and performs surfing-style aerobatics during freefall.

The boards used are generally smaller than actual surfboards, and look more like snowboards or large skateboards. The attachment to the feet is normally made removable, so that if the skydiver loses control or has difficulty opening their parachute, the board can be jettisoned.

Skysurfing is a distinct skill requiring considerable practise. The simplest skysurfing technique is to stand upright on the board during freefall, and tilt the nose of the board down to generate forward movement. However even this basic technique is a balancing act which experienced skydivers find tricky to learn. The extra drag of the board tends to upset the balance and make the skydiver flip over. The jumper must also learn to control the board and their body position so as to open the parachute in a stable configuration. More advanced aerobatics such as loops, rolls and helicopter spins, are more difficult still and are tackled once the basics have been mastered.

Because of the possibility of dropping the board, not every skydiving club permits skysurfing, and only a minority of skydivers have attempted this recent specialisation in the sport.

When a skysurfer is filmed by another skydiver falling alongside them, the resulting film gives the appearance that the skysurfer is riding on the air in the same way a surfer rides on a wave. The downward motion is not very apparent and this creates the illusion that a skysurfer is gliding on air currents like a sailplane or hang glider. In fact a skysurfer always falls at a high speed comparable to any other freefalling parachutist.

There are examples of early experiments in skysurfing going back to the 1980s, but it became popular and gained recognition during the 1990s thanks to the efforts of the first few exponents to master the more complex aerobatics, such as the late Patrick de Gayardon. The rise of skysurfing coincided with other new-age disciplines in skydiving, such as freestyle and freeflying. Freestyle skydiving is a balletic, mostly individual style which seeks to extend the sport beyond the traditional belly-to-earth flat position used by most skydivers who make formations with their bodies. Freeflying is also a form of skydiving using a variety of body positions, such as head-down or feet-to-earth, while still building formations with others. These evolutions in skydiving have widened the appeal of parachuting in general and given it a refreshed image of fun, youth, and vitality, taking it further away from the traditional image of a daredevil stunt.

Notable skysurfers

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