Published: February 11, 2019
For ages, the siren songs of both sky and sea have been incredible draws for daredevils. This is where the risk is worth the reward: a few minutes of death-defying acrobatics, thousands of feet in the air and above the humdrum of the mundane, or moments of jubilation atop the pummeling force of the ocean's waves. Skysurfing was an attempt to bridge that gap between sea and sky. As a sport, it is a captivating form of skydiving with a mountain of interest, but a diminishing number of participants. And yet - there's no denying its allure. Let's check out what makes it so special.
So - What is Skysurfing, Really?
There are various types of skydiving; we refer to these as disciplines. Skysurfing is one of those disciplines. Specifically speaking, for skysurfing, a skydiver attaches a specially made sky "surfboard" to their feet to perform acrobatic stunts in the air. The board is different than an actual surfboard - they are smaller and have a lower profile. Sky surfboards are less like a surfboard you'd see in the sea and are more akin to a snowboard.
This slow-mow video on YouTube gives a really good intro, allowing you to leisurely observe the sport:
How did Skysurfing get Started?
French skydivers Dominique Jacquet and Jean-Pascal Oron are the original inventors of skysurfing. They took note of how boards were used to ride the waves of water and wondered if it was possible to do the same with air during freefall. Turns out it was - and in 1986, skysurfing was born!
Development of Skysurfing
Slowly but surely the discipline of skysurfing started to gain traction. Interest and participation in the sport peaked in the late '90s - largely due to its increased media presence and inclusion in the ESPN X Games from 1995-2000.
Since then, audience enthusiasm for skysurfing has remained vivid and even been encouraged by movies like Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Some highly-publicized stunts - like the one that took place at the NASCAR Coke 600 at Lowes Motor Speedway in 2015 - have also helped keep it in the spotlight. Yet, the number of practicing skysurfers has declined over the years and is currently relatively small.
Skysurfing Skill Progression
Part of the reason the number of skysurfers has plummeted is the steep learning curve and high skill level requirement associated with the discipline. In and of itself, skysurfing is a high-speed sport with considerable risks: you're falling toward the earth at speeds in excess of 120 mph and your feet are snugly secured in a fixed position on a relatively large, rigid object.
The learning progression in skysurfing is also anything but gentle: A jumper must obtain an advanced skydiving freefall skillset before even attempting their very first skysurf. Aspiring skysurfers need to be able to fly in a variety of orientations, both head up and head down (in a seated position or with their head literally pointing toward the ground). These skills take a fair amount of time, training and physical fitness to master.
Within the discipline of skysurfing, there is also a progression. Beginner skysurfers will use a smaller sky surfboard with less surface area. As they increase their skill and comfortability with the sport and equipment, they "graduate" to longer boards.
And once you have acquired superior skysurfing skills, you can be like Rob Harris - who looks a little bit like an upside figure skater in the sky:
Are YOU the Future of Skysurfing?
Because of the demanding skill requirements, there are currently only a handful of skysurfers out there. Because there are only a handful of skysurfers, there are not many individuals that can instruct others to skysurf. Thus - it's difficult to find someone to teach skysurfing. It's a skydiving Catch 22!
And yet - one of the innate lessons of skydiving is that anything is possible if you only put your mind to it. Even conquering your most primal fears and flying through the sky. So regardless of the skill or discipline it may take, even skysurfing starts with that one very first skydive. Are you up for the challenge?