20 Oct 2017

60-second guide to Indoor Skydiving

Indoor Skydiving is spectacularly impressive to watch – especially when the best in the world are competing, like they are this weekend at the 2nd FAI World Indoor Skydiving Championships in Montreal, Canada. 

But for the uninitiated, it can look confusing too. Here’s our 60-second guide to understanding Indoor Skydiving.

Where did it come from?
The sport developed from skydiving, which is traditionally done by jumping out of a plane. It started when skydivers started to look for a way to train without the expense and time-constraints of jumping from 10,000ft. Think of it like an indoor gym for skydivers – somewhere they can train. It wasn’t long though before it caught on as a sport in its own right – today you will find plenty of Indoor Skydivers who have never jumped out of a plane.

How do they float like that?
The athletes fly inside the tunnel on a jet of fast-moving air. The heavier the athlete, the more wind they need. A typical wind tunnel can turn the wind up to 300km/h or more. When athletes compete, they will tell the wind-tunnel operator what percentage they want the wind tunnel to operate at – 65% of 300km/h is 195km/h, for example.

What does it feel like in there?
Like floating on air! Like outdoor skydiving it’s noisy because of the wind, so all athletes wear ear plugs. When teams are inside, they must communicate using pre-determined signals, as they can’t talk to each other. 

Stepping inside a wind tunnel for the first time involves a bit of a leap of faith – first-timers typically go inside with an instructor, who helps them learn the basic belly-down, arch-shape of a beginner skydiver. When you go belly down for the first time, it really is like floating on a cushion of air – imagine trying to stay on top of an inflatable mattress as you float down a fast-moving river. It’s a lot of fun!

How does competition work?
There are two disciplines – categories – of Indoor Skydiving: Formation Skydiving and Artistic Events. 

Formation Skydiving (FS) includes a sub-discipline of Vertical Formation Skydiving (VFS). In Artistic Events (AE), athletes compete in Freestyle or Dynamic (D)

Athletes compete as teams of four (4-way), two (2-way), or on their own. 

There are three competition categories: Open (which can be single-sex or mixed teams); Women; and Junior. Juniors are 17 and younger – some of the youngsters here in Motreal are not even teenagers.

What happens when they go in the tunnel?
In Formation Skydiving each team has a pre-determined routine of several manoeuvres that they must complete as many times as they can in 45-seconds. The manoeuvres, or formations, are chosen by random draw at the start of the competition – so all teams perform the same routine.

When a team goes into the tunnel they start to work through their routine. For a formation to count, the team members must execute it properly before moving onto the next formation. If a team doesn’t execute it properly, that’s called a bust.

Judges watch the teams and count the number of successful formations. It’s quick work – hold, hold, hold, hold. Each successful hold is worth one point. A bust is worth zero (not a negative point).

The best teams will score around 30 points per 45-second session, depending on the difficulty of each formation.

In Freestyle, there are fewer pre-determined elements, and more weight given to creativity and artistry. 

How long does a competition last?
There are 10 rounds per discipline. With 23 teams here in Laval, expect each full round to take about 40 minutes. 

After a couple of rounds, you will be able to see the top teams rise to the top. You will also see differences appear – the difference between 30 and 31 may seem slight, but over the length of the competition it’s the difference between gold and silver.

The 2nd FAI World Indoor Skydiving Championships is on 20-22 October 2017 in Laval, Montreal. Follow the action including the Livestream throughout the competition at www.wisc2017.com