As a fitness trainer, I naturally enjoy challenging my limits. Skydiving, for a period, was an activity I was somewhat addicted to. I’ve jumped about 150 times and could talk for hours about the subject.
It’s a freeing and exhilarating experience that’ll throw all your troubles away for a brief 30 to 60 seconds of freefalling. And for hours afterwards, as well. That said, the skydiving world holds a lot of fascinating facts worth exploring.
From its early presence to its repertoire of records, skydiving tells multiple stories. Check out the list below to learn more about this adrenaline-filling sport.
The impressive title goes to Alan Eustace. The American Computer Scientist hitched the long ride from approximately 135,889 feet above ground level. For reference, typical skydivers jump around 14,000 feet above sea level.
Eustace accomplished this feat by collaborating with Taber MacCallum, a co-founder at Biosphere 2, which is a research facility owned by the University of Arizona. To make the jump, Eustace suspended himself from a helium balloon over Roswell, New Mexico.
Jay Stokes holds the record for most skydives jumped in a single day. He jumped over 640 times. It translates to an average of 27 jumps per hour. Pulling this exceptional record took heaps of mental and physical endurance on Stoke’s part.
Now, he wasn’t satisfied with this record. Stokes wanted to aim higher and reach 700 jumps in under 24 hours in 2016. Unfortunately for the pro-skydiver, bad weather wasn’t on his side that day, and he had to stop at jump number 292.
Inviting your furry friend for a long jump will likely offer an exhilarating experience. Nevertheless, most dogs that skydive are specially trained military-grade canines. Getting your pet with you might be a more complicated process.
The federal aviation authorities aren’t too accepting of it. In this case, it’s best left to the professionals. Taking your dog skydiving can overstimulate its senses, so I suggest keeping them on the ground for this adventure.
Yes, you read that right. A mouth-controlled camera takes all the photos you see of skydivers bracing through the air. The pro-photographers use three methods to complete this process.
They can use the “tongue switch” mechanism, where the photographer holds the camera’s trigger between the teeth. The shot snaps with a tongue push of a button. This method bears the best results in terms of control.
Skydive photographers also use the “bite switch” technique. All they have to do is bite the compression trigger to take the picture. Despite its ease of use, some photographers tend to misaim their bite.
Lastly, there’s the “blow switch” method. In it, the photographer holds a tube in their mouth that connects to the trigger. When blown, the camera takes the snap. Although it’s the easiest to implement, it’s also the hardest to control since the camera person can accidentally blow during the jump.
Although you’re jumping off and technically freefalling at about 120 to 180 mph, that feeling of your stomach coming up into your throat never actually happens. Since you’re jumping out of a plane that’s going about 100mph, you’ve already got a wall of wind to push against.
If you jump off of a hot air balloon or a helicopter, those first thousand feet are where you really feel it until you get up to terminal velocity.
In just one year, a jaw-dropping 38,824 people were fatally involved in a motor vehicle accident. Meanwhile, skydiving has claimed a comparably lower number of 21 people. To put things in perspective, going on a short trip to your work is deadlier than a jump from a moving plane.
The fatality rate is for skydiving is far below that of driving.
Growing up, you’ve likely seen several parachutes in cartoons that were round and shaped like a mushroom. Nowadays, you won’t find this kind of parachute in commercial use.
Instead, skydivers use ram-air canopies. They extend to the sides of their users and act as a sort of wing, where the sides can be pulled to steer you exactly where you want to go. This allows you to land on a target with a graceful landing.
The “shroom” chutes are jumped every now and then by people who just want to see what it is like. This has a not-so-gentle landing.
You may have seen a wide array of action movies featuring parachute scenes. They typically involve the protagonist attacking the villain and talking down to them.
I hate to break it to you, but no one can hear you when you freefall. You can shout as loud as you can, but the sound of the wind rushing will drown you out. Consequently, skydivers communicate with a series of hand gestures.
Fact #9: The Parachute Invention Stemmed Five Centuries Ago
In one of many of Da Vinci’s sketches, he drew a design of a pyramidal cloth parachute in 1485. Following that design, André-Jacques Garnerin completed the first parachute jump using a hydrogen balloon in 1797.
He also tied a basket under the parachute, mimicking the modern hot air balloon. Meanwhile, the first official skydiving title may go to the U.S. Army Captain Albert Berry.
His descent occurred in 1912. An alleged conversation happened during the ordeal where Berry told the pilot, “That’s where we belong,” while gesturing to an insane asylum below.
He jumped 1,500 feet and landed using a parachute attached to his harness. Although Berry’s skydive was attestable after being witnessed by multiple army men, another man attempted to claim his title.
That man was Grant Morton, a notorious adrenaline seeker in the 1900s. He accomplished several dangerous feats. Instead of jumping from a moving airplane, Morton jumped from hot-air balloons. One of his tamer leaps was above Venice Beach. Other jumps ended with power lines.
Fact #10: Opening Your Parachute Doesn’t Mean You’ll Go Up
One of the most popular things I’ve heard about from non-skydivers is that you go up when opening your parachute. In reality, you only slow down.
This idea came from videos of skydivers pulling their parachutes while the photographer remains at terminal velocity. The cameraman’s speed makes it seem like the other person is going up rather than easing their way down.
Fact #11: We All Fall at Different Speeds
You probably don’t have the same exact weight as your friends, so you wouldn’t end up freefalling in sync. The heavier you are, the faster you fall.
There are various ways that this can be worked around. Obviously, you want to fall at the same rate as the rest of the group, so wearing baggy skydiving suits helps slow you down if you are heavy, and tight suits helps speed you up if you are lighter.
Fact #12: You Should Eat Before You Skydive
At first, you might tend to avoid eating before the big jump in case you get nauseous. Most people are very nervous before their first jump. Nevertheless, the opposite is true. Consuming a light meal before you skydive will help keep your blood sugar levels consistent.
Now, you wouldn’t want to overdo it with a greasy meal. If you’re going for an early session, you can have a simple breakfast.
Fact #13: Skydiving is Not Age-Limited
Anyone above the age of 18 can skydive in the U.S., and I mean anyone. The oldest skydiver rank goes to Irene O’Shea, hailing from Australia. She completed the impressive feat at age 102. The senior citizen daredevil not only goes skydiving for the adrenaline boost but for charity as well.
O’Shea is raising awareness and funds for the Motor Neurone Disease Association of South Australia. She’s doing so to honor her daughter, who died from the disease.
Fact #14: The Largest Skydiving Formation Featured 400 People
Can you imagine 400 people in the air at the same time? The large formation happened in Thailand, where all the participants linked hands for a brief yet record-breaking five seconds. I don’t think anyone is up for organizing this sort of formation anytime soon.
With a slurry of heads, hands, and legs dangling around in the same space, it’s a wonder nothing went south. The 400 participants had a once-in-a-lifetime experience and endless bragging rights.
Fact #15: Someone Jumped 25,000 feet Without a Parachute
That someone is Luke Aikins. The American Pilot completed this hair-raising jump and landed on a net in 2016.
He didn’t use a wingsuit or a parachute. The Guinness World Record called his leap “Heaven Sent.” The fearless Pilot has over 18,000 skydives under his belt. He also performed a stunt in the widely-acclaimed Marvel movie, “Iron Man 3.”
Fact #16: The Largest Skydiver Demographic is 30 to 39-Year-Olds
Skydiving may seem like a sport associated with the young and rebellious, but it’s more popular among 30-39-year-olds. 33% of the United States Parachute Association falls within that demographic.
The second close demographic group is 40 to 49-year-olds, and they make up over 20% of the organization. Meanwhile, 21 to 29-year-olds fall behind close with a 19% presence.
Fact #17: You Don’t Have to Be Wealthy to Skydive
People often view skydiving as a rich man’s activity. Contrastingly, over 14% of the members of the United States Parachute Association earn an average income falling between $30,000 to $49,999.
That said, you can save up to around $180 to $280 to experience the thrill of tandem skydiving. Prices range according to the height of the jump.
There are ways to cheaply skydive. I have personally washed many an airplane to pay for my jumps. You can also look at filming others or becoming a coach to get your jumps paid for. Not a bad gig if you can get it.
Fact #18: The Largest Wingsuit Formation Featured 100 People
Wingsuit skydiving is notoriously dangerous. Imagine 100 people wingsuit skydiving their way in the same sky. In 2012, this 100-way wingsuit formation plunged from 13,000 feet above the ground.
The record-breaking formation was above Perris Valley in Southern California. The best part about this ordeal is that the 100 participants formed an impressive diamond shape in the sky. They dropped at a speed of 80 mph.
The group organizing this jump was Raise the Sky. The organization invites professional skydivers to go to public schools and discuss the importance of teamwork and facing your fears.
Fact #19: People Get Tattoos While Free Falling
Getting a tattoo is already a tasking ordeal. Imagine getting it while midair. The likes of Nadine Elain from Alberta decided to risk it all and get a tattoo of the well-fitting phrase, “AHHH.”
After falling at 120 mph, the speedy tattoo artist, Shannon Clayden, finished the inscription in less than 30 seconds.
Skydiving is a sport for the fearless. Whether you’re looking to release some tension or get your share of adrenaline, a 10,000 ft. jump ought to do it.
After my skydiving experience, I can safely say that my jump counts will increase in the future. I find the jump meditative yet riveting.
If you ever get the chance to do it, don’t pass on the opportunity. Who knows? You may end up a record-breaker like the daredevils above.