Many people are afraid of heights but some use height as a basis for adventure. I would like to tell you a little bit about skydiving and a few of its variations. Skydiving is a recreational and competitive sport in which a person exits an aircraft, free falls, then parachutes the remaining descent to the ground. Exit is usually made at an altitude between 3,000 to 13,000 feet. Free fall lasts for up to 1 minute. Depending on the orientation of the body during free fall, the jumper will reach terminal velocity at speeds of 120 to 220 mph. Many people view skydiving as a highly dangerous sport, but deaths rarely occur.
It is approximated that only 21 are killed each year, which is around 1 out of 150,000 jumps. A safety course is required to skydive, and many people make their first jump with an instructor. This jump is called a tandem jump, in which the instructor and jumper are strapped together. Another option for the first time jumper is called static line. In this type, a cord is attached to the parachute deployment rig on one end and to the aircraft on the other. The cord is automatically pulled when the jumper reaches the cords length during free fall. The parachute has two steering toggles.
When the left is pulled, the parachute turns left, when both are pulled it acts as a braking system. There is a tear away cord that can be pulled in the event of a malfunction during deployment. In this case, a back up parachute would be used. With proper training and safety measures, skydiving is an almost indescribable experience. I have been skydiving six times, but there are many variations that I have not yet experienced. The three most extreme are BASE-jumping, skysurfing and stuff jumps. Each variation of skydiving is unique and requires a certain level of skill and nerve.
Considering the fact that the jumper may use anywhere with enough altitude as their platform, BASE-jumping is probably the most common and action packed. BASE stands for buildings, antennas, spans and earth. These are the areas used for BASE-jumping. In this sport a person jumps from a fixed object and then deploys their parachute. BASE jumps are made from around 2,000 feet and the jumper rarely reaches terminal velocity due to slower air speeds and lower altitude. This type of skydiving is featured in many action movies and is seen as a fringe extreme sport or stunt.
There is an official day here in the state of West Virginia dedicated to BASE-jumping. Bridge Day is held in October each year at the New River Gorge. There are up to 50 staff members to assist jumpers. Around 80,000 people attend. Jumpers may jump from any of the BASE areas in the park that day and may make as many jumps as they are able in a 6-hour window. The bridge is shut down during this time. There are designated landing zones and the jumpers can be viewed from the bridge itself, the hiking trails and various other locations in the park.
Because this type is significantly more dangerous than any other type of skydiving, with deaths occurring at around 1 per 60 participants, BASE jumpers must have a certain number of aircraft jumps before they are permitted to register for BASE jumping. Sky surfers are daredevils who loves to show off and are much more skilled than basic or BASE skydivers. Sky surfing is a recent specialization variation in which a person with a detachable board attached to their feet skydives and performs snow boarding type tricks during free fall.
The simplest move is to stand upright on the board and tilt the nose down for forward movement. The extra drag of the board and the task of balancing, with wind forces up to 50 mph against the board and body, make even this basic task complicated to master. Without proper control the board itself makes the jumper tend to flip over. The jumper must also learn to control the board and the position of his/her body to be stable when opening the parachute. Many experienced skydivers find this difficult to learn.
Experienced sky surfers can preform tricks such as loops, rolls and helicopter spins. Sky surfing is not permitted at all skydiving organizations due to the possibility of dropping the board, which falling at terminal velocity could cause serious injury or death to anyone it may come in contact with below. Stuff jumping is for the extremist who loves skydiving and smashing things. Stuff jumps are made from an aircraft with a rear door and an unoccupied empty space on the ground. After exit, the jumper exits with some object, such as a bicycle or inflatable raft.
They then fall with the object, and let go of it after deployment of their parachute, leaving the object to smash into the ground at terminal velocity. Some stuff jumpers compete to see who can closest hit a target marked below with their object. These are just a few of the variations of skydiving. Skydiving is not for the faint of heart and should be done with proper training. There are private skydiving centers and many airports that offer skydiving lessons and the training needed. With the necessary knowledge and safety measures, skydiving is a sport that everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime.