Learn How it All Started

The History of Skydiving

Skydiving History: From Inception to Fruition

Since the dawn of imagination, mankind has had the yearning to break free of their gravitational bonds and fly. After all, the ability of flight is one of the most yearned for super powers 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. And it was that allure that spiked skydiving’s evolution.

Whose bright idea was this again?

The history of skydiving regarding the concept of free fall (or falling in style) began with an idea hundreds of years ago that translates to what thrill seekers call “base jumping” today. Falling from the height of a building or elevated 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 theories applied to skydiving’s evolution of flight with a parachute was conceived.

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Grass Roots: The History of Skydiving

Antiquated and up to modern times

From sketches uncovered that feature conceptual etchings by well known polymath Leonardo Da Vinci that indicate conical-shaped parachutes to the first canopied jump executed for recreation by Andre-Jacques Garnerin in 1797, intrigue and curiosity has always surrounded humans in flight. This is probably why skydiving’s evolution was so rapid. However, prior to these innovations, conceptualizations and the execution of flying stunts, there was still too little to be known about the age of exploration in terms of skydiving evolution. That is until Mr. Ganerin decided to surprise and thrill with his experimentations and demonstrations. This is where the history of skydiving gets interesting.
The History of Skydiving: Ballooning
The History of Skydiving
The History of Skydiving and Parachuting
The History of Skydiving: Military and Skydiving
Thank you for your contribution to parachuting history, Mr. Garnerin!

As one of the first balloon pilots, it may have not been surprising to Garnerin’s friends and family when he took that preliminary 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. Although his landing was chaotic, (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 set world records as the first female parachutist in parachuting history. It would be nearly a century before the early stages of what we now consider modern skydiving equipment would be visualized. The invention of the harness was implemented in 1887 by Cpt. Thomas Baldwin. Three years after that the first condensed parachute would be showcased with a backup parachute by Kathchen Paulus.

The History of Skydiving: Skydiving's Forefathers
The History of Skydiving: Skydiving and Parachuting in the Military

The History of Skydiving’s Forefathers

And so the history of skydiving grew. After the initial shock and awe given to spectators watching parachuting events at carnivals and outrageous daredevil feats, canopied jumps 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 thrill-seeker would spawn the idea of using a bar or the ram-air parachutes utilized today, this marking a unique moment in parachuting history.

Many military men and women would have to jump out of airplanes multiple times during their service. This led to the addiction of skydiving for fun. Following their release from service, former military personnel would purchase aircraft and would take advantage of their old parachutes. Thus began the modern age of skydiving.

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 free falling for sport. Skydiving has since evolved into more than just safety and show, and is now a legitimate recreational sport that enthralls thrill-seekers and adrenaline junkies worldwide.

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More Convention Regarding the History of Skydiving

Skydiving has grown significantly to what it has become in the 21st century. With the invention of the Automatic Activation Device (AAD) toward the end of the 1900s and the innovations in skydiving safety it is no surprise that over 500,000 people choose to 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?

Today, skydiving enthusiasm has taken off in multiple forms ranging from competitive skydives, formation skydiving, sky surfing, and Accelerated Freefall (AFF) skydiving academies located across the globe. Hundreds of thousands of people who take the plunge every year experience the extreme nature of skydiving by free falling at speeds of roughly 120 miles per hour. This isn't flying, it's falling with style, and that smile that’s on your face afterward isn’t there because you're glad it’s over. It's there because you just landed expertly after jumping from a plane over the city of Los Angeles at 13,000 feet elevation. You pulled off one of the most extreme activities out there and lived to tell the tale!

Why endeavor to find a place amongst the greats in the history of skydiving?

Because you can. Literally. Each day the relative benefits regarding skydiving grow more technologically advanced. If you had asked Andre-Jacques Garnerin if he ever imagined us having AADs and altimeters he would probably laugh. But with the growth of this technology comes the increase in numbers of civilians wanting to complete jumps. After all, who doesn’t like to hear the words “extra safety” when talking about jumping out of a plane?

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 rhyme or reason, the feeling of flying is one that everyone should have the opportunity to get to know.

Gravity is king, but rules were made to be broken, right?