The History of Skydiving
Antique Skydiving History
Since the dawn of imagination, mankind has had the yearning to break free of their gravitational bonds and fly. After all, flying is one of the most dreamed about things in the world. From the thrill of the heights to the absolute freedom achieved while falling through clouds and looking out over the horizon, the allure of flight is one that cannot be ignored.
Who came up with the crazy idea to jump off of tall things?
The concept of free fall (or falling in style) began with the idea that most thrill seekers use today called “base jumping”. Falling from the height of a building or tall surface and landing safely on the ground had its recorded start during the 12th century in China. People at that time would find large cliffs or outcrops and jump using makeshift parachutes out of whatever material they could find. It would take another 300+ years before the theory of flight with a parachute was conceived.
The beginning of what we now see as modern skydiving?
From found sketches by the famous Leonardo Da Vinci of cone shaped parachutes to the first parachute jump executed for recreation by Andre-Jacques Garnerin in 1797. There was little to be known about the Age of Exploration in terms of jumping. What we can tell you about is that very first fun jump done by the Frenchman Andre.
As one of the first balloon pilots, it may have not been surprising to Garnerin’s friends and family when he took that leap from his own balloon on October 22, 1797. He had flown to approximately 3,200 feet above the ground before detaching his own parachute from the balloon he was operating and although his landing was chaotic to say the least (he had not included an air vent) he did manage to land unscathed around .8 kilometers from his take off site. He would then convince his wife to parachute as well and Jeanne-Genevieve would later make world records being the first female parachutist two years later.
It would be nearly a century before the early stages of what we now consider modern skydiving equipment would be conceptualized. The invention of the harness was not put into place until 1887 by Cpt. Thomas Baldwin. Three years after that the first condensed parachute would be showcased with a backup parachute by Kathchen Paulus.
After the initial shock it had given to spectators watching the events of carnivals and daredevil acts, parachuting became well known and popular. The military would pick up the idea and run with it in the 1930’s during WWI. Forty years of using the typical round parachutes in the military and the occasional daredevil would spawn the idea of using a bar or ram-air parachutes we use today.
Many retired military men and women would have to jump out of airplanes multiple times during their service. This lead to the addiction of skydiving for fun. After the wars, the military personnel would purchase aircraft and together with their friends take advantage of their old parachutes. This began the modern age of skydiving.
Skydiving: A Modern Masterpiece
Skydiving has grown significantly to what it has become in the 21st century. With the invention of the AAD towards the end of the 1900s and the consistent progression in safety that skydiving has completed it is no surprise that over 500,000 people jump annually. Between competitive skydiving, sky surfing and swooping, you could say this adrenaline fueled activity has become something of an art form. In 2012 Felix Baumgartner made headlines by breaking the speed of sound and jumping from the highest point at 127,852 feet...this would later be broken by Alan Eustace. We always want to go higher don’t we?
So why should you attempt at joining the thousands of people who have made their personal mark on history?
Because you can. Literally. Each day we grow more and more technologically advanced. If you had asked Andre-Jacques Garnerin if he ever imagined us now having AADs and Altimeters he would probably laugh. But with the growth of this technology comes the growth of civilians wanting to complete jumps. After all, who doesn’t like to hear the words “extra safety” when talking about going skydiving?
So why not? Having this experience (for some) is a once in a lifetime choice. While, as you can see, those of us who enjoyed it so much have made a career or hobby out it. No matter the ending result, the feeling of flying is one that everyone should come to know. Gravity rules were made to be broken, right?
"Unfortunately, gravity is like the unrelenting ball-and-chain that's always holding you down...and consequently, mankind has been forced to fall rather than fly."
Modern Skydiving History
During World War I, observation balloon pilots were issued parachutes as rescue devices in case they had to bail out. It was only after World War II that skydiving became a hobby when excess parachutes were used by former soldiers who loved what they did in the military so much they began freefalling for sport. Skydiving has since changed and evolved into more than just safety and show, and is now a legitimate recreational sport that encapsulates would-be thrill-seeking adrenaline junkies worldwide.
Today, skydiving enthusiasm has taken off in multiple forms ranging from competitive skydives, formation skydiving, sky surfing, and skydiving schools located across the globe. Hundreds of thousands of people take the plunge every year experiencing extreme skydiving at speeds over 120 miles an hour. This isn't flying, it's falling with style, and that smile isn't on your face afterwards because you're glad its over, it's there because you have just landed from jumping out of a plane over the skies of Los Angeles metro area at 14,000 feet. You did the most extreme sport out there and lived to tell the tale!
"This isn't flying, it's falling with style...."