Skydiving Explained: The Types, Orientations & Disciplines
There is so much more to skydiving than tandem jumping. True, tandem skydiving is the gateway into this incredible sport but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are all kinds of skydivers, all kinds of ways to fly and a multitude of activities and disciplines within the sport. There’s so much to learn and master when it comes to skydiving, the possibilities are endless and the sky is quite literally our playground.
TANDEMS, STUDENTS & FUN JUMPERS
Each year in the US over 500,000 people try skydiving for the first time via a Tandem Jump. Regular people with little more than a 10-minute training class, strap themselves to licensed tandem instructor and experience the thrill of a lifetime.
For many, that first tandem jump is all it takes to become hooked. The next step into the skydiving world is becoming a student jumper. There are several approved programs for becoming a licensed skydiver. Generally speaking, you can become licensed in as little as 25 jumps. The program jumps are some combination of tandem skydives, jumps with two unattached instructors, jumps with one unattached instructor, jumps with a coach and solo skydives. Learn more about becoming licensed.
Fun jumpers are licensed, experienced skydivers who do it just for the fun of it! These people are truly passionate about life and want to enjoy it to the fullest with their fellow skydivers. They spend the summer just jumping out of airplanes and enjoying the ride over and over again.
BELLY, BACK, FREEFLYING, ANGLE
Skydiving is more than just falling if you do it right. You can adjust your body position to achieve many different orientations of flight. You can fly upside-down, right side up, on your belly, on your back, at an angle and more.
Belly Flying, Tummy Flying or Flat Flying indicates a skydiver’s body position during freefall will be a belly-to-earth orientation. It is the most commonly used and most stable freefall body position. It’s the same body position used throughout a tandem skydive and the first orientation a jumper will learn to fly in.
Freeflying is a general term describing orientations of flight OTHER than belly-to-earth. This involves Vertical orientations such as Head Up (Sitflying), Headdown or both combined.
Angle flying is an orientation somewhere between vertical and horizontal. The angle of one’s body position relative to the wind can cause this type of flying to involve increased horizontal movement across the ground.
FS, VFS, HYBRIDS, MOVING, SWOOPING, FLOCKING, CRW, WINGSUIT, BASE, SKYSURFING
FORMATION SKYDVING (FS):
Formation skydiving or Relative Work (RW) is generally defined as two or more skydivers flying relative to each other and taking up “grips” (touching each other) while in a “belly to earth” position. Jumpers will use specific body positions and customized jumpsuits to assist them in staying relative to another skydiver or group of skydivers.
VERTICAL FORMATION SKYDIVING (VFS)
Vertical Formation Skydiving (VFS) is a variant of Formation Skydiving where two or more skydivers flying relative to each other and taking grips in a “headup” or “headdown” position. Each jumper uses specific body positions and customized jumpsuits to assist them in staying relative to another skydiver or group of skydivers.
Hybrids are a relatively new activity in skydiving. Hybrids are extremely difficult to perform due to the drastically different freefall speeds of different orientations. They combine vertical and horizontal formation skydiving into a single formation in freefall.
“Moving” involves increasing the speed and distance being covered across the ground, rather than flying “in place” as with other disciplines. This includes both Angle Flying and Tracking. A more horizontal angle (close to a standard belly-to-earth position) that involves increased forward movement across the ground is considered tracking. As the pitch becomes more vertical and the speed across the ground increases the jump would be reclassified as Angle Flying.
Canopy swooping involves inducing speed by diving the canopy at the ground and then allowing the canopy to recover and glide horizontally just above the ground. This is one discipline that you can easily observe from the ground. This technique can help advanced canopy pilots to reach speeds over 60 miles per hour across the ground!
Flocking involves deploying your canopy as soon as you leave the aircraft and eliminating the freefall portion of your skydive. The focus of the jump is to fly your canopy relative to other canopies, close together but without touching.
CANOPY RELATIVE WORK (CRW)
Canopy Relative Work or CRW (pronounced “crew”) is similar to flocking except that the goal is to “dock” or “link” or “stack” with another person’s canopy and build a formation. Formations can involve as few as two parachutes or up to dozens of parachutes.
Skydiving with a wingsuit allows a skydiver to glide long distances across the ground and significantly extends freefall time.
B.A.S.E. jumping is mainly an underground activity which involves jumping from fixed objects with specialized parachutes. B.A.S.E. is an acronym for 'Building', 'Antenna', 'Span' and 'Earth'. Base jumping has only recently become more 'mainstream'. There are several events and locations where Base jumping is legally permitted and more formal instruction is offered.
Sky surfing is more of a “fad” than a discipline. Almost no one actively sky surfs. A board is a dangerous and unnecessary addition to a skydive and limits your ability to jump with others. Skysurfing has dropped significantly in popularity over the years.
Some of the above-mentioned disciplines of skydiving have become competitive disciplines. There are national and world championship skydiving competitions hosted each year for the best skydivers in the world to compete in a multitude of disciplines.