If you’re anything like me you’ve got a real thirst for adventure and love to feel adrenaline coursing through your veins by doing extreme sports. If Danger is also your middle name then you will want to join me in this sport, but it’s not for the faint of heart!
I’m talking about wingsuit flying, it’s the extreme sport right now.
What is wingsuit flying?
Wingsuit flying is a little bit like skydiving in a way, but you wear a specially made suit for it. Skydiving is so yesterday’s news anyhow. The suits can be called wingsuits, squirrel suits or birdman suits – they really do make you look a bit like a superhero as the name suggests. The suit has wings on the arms and legs and it’s really aerodynamic. Parts of it inflate and allow the wearer to cover impressive flying distances. And the person can control their speed, lift and direction too, so they aren’t totally at the mercy of the elements. Practice makes perfect and a good wingsuiter can achieve speeds of up to 220mph. That’s pretty damn fast by anyone’s standard!
Starting wingsuit flying
Wingsuiting isn’t just the kind of thing where you can turn up and have a go. It’s a complicated discipline and a lot could go wrong if you don’t know what you’re doing. So you start wingsuiting by doing something which isn’t wingsuiting. You will need to do a bit of skydiving first – a lot of skydiving actually. As it is a very similar discipline you’ll need to build up quite a wealth of skydiving experience – the more the better.
You’ll need to find a static line (RAPS) or accelerated freefall course (AFF). You will have a whopping two days of training on the ground before any actual jumping takes place. You need to be fit. Regular workouts to keep your body in great shape are a must as wingsuiting is incredibly physically demanding.
Now you’ll finally be able to complete your first beginner jump.18 solo jumps later and you’ll be legally qualified as a skydiver and you’ll be able to do it at any skydiving centre, anywhere in the world.
I know, it’s a lot of effort and you still haven’t so much as tried on a wingsuit. Have patience, my friend, you’re almost there.
Your skydiving skills will need some honing. You can expect to do another 200+ jumps. You’ll be an expert before long! And that’s the plan. To minimise the risk of wingsuit flying you need to be at one with the conditions, knowing every possible eventuality you could experience.
Another preparation you can make is taking up BASE jumping, the extreme sportsman’s extreme sport. Be careful though. Do it off a bridge over water to start. It’s all about getting a feel for the freefall, not about being a daredevil. And you want to live to do your first wingsuit flight. There are qualified BASE jumping instructors who can help you get started and minimise the risk of an accident.
And now you’re finally ready to start.
How much does wingsuit flying cost?
Are you sitting down? You’re really going to need to while I tell you this.
Beginner’s skydiving – $1800
Additional jumps – $6000
Parachute – $3000
Additional equipment – $750
Wingsuit – $1200
Wingsuit course – $750
The prices are only an estimated, but that comes to a grand total of $13500 and that’s before you make regular jumps. It’s a pretty hair-raising amount of cash to part with, but that’s the price of cool. You are going to have the most interesting and dangerous hobby of everyone you know and you’re going to be the centre of every party you ever go to. In that case it’s money well spent.
Taking it to the next level
Once you’ve mastered the basics – and I say basic here loosely because even the easiest aspects of wingsuit flying are complicated – you can take things up several gears.
Wingsuit BASE jumping (or BASE flying) is the next logical step to make you stand out from the crowd that little bit more. It’s a new skill and it’ll take a while to master, but yur knowledge will now be immense and with great care you can be doing this as part of your jumping routine. If this doesn’t impress people nothing will!
Remember though, it’s a different kettle of fish and you would want to make sure you have plenty of experience with ordinary BASE jumping before attempting it in a wingsuit. It is recommended that you have completed at least 50 BASE jumps before even considering it.
Technology is your friend
When wingsuit flying you can track your flight – or someone else can – using GPS. You can then later check on your PC all the statistics such as speed, length of flight and angle of descent. This is all important for reviewing your flight afterwards. You can learn a lot from the statistics gaining valuable experience for future wingsuit flying.
And make sure you have a camera! A Gopro on your helmet or even a (carefully) handheld camera if you’re experienced enough will produce some epic footage to show to your friends. They’ll so want to be you!
Remember though, there is an element of risk involved in wingsuit flying, way more risk than most other pastimes. There’s not much chance of dying while collecting stamps, but with wingsuiting there is a significantly higher chance. Always make sure you follow safety procedures and never attempt anything too advanced, too quickly. There have been a number of BASE jumping and wingsuit flying fatalities and you don’t want your name adding to that list. You want to live to jump another day.
And that’s it for the lecturing! Now go and have fun and get your jump on, dude!
If you want to learn a bit more about wingsuit flying and check out some pretty cool videos of it, head over to http://www.wingsuitfly.com/ and take a look.