If you want to take sports to a whole new exciting level, maybe skydiving is what you are looking for. This extreme sport, along with bungee jumping, cliff diving, paragliding and many others that let you experience being up in mid air, is best for people who love heights and that exhilarating rush of adrenaline in the bloodstream.
Earlier forms of the parachute
It is believed that parachutes were used in Ancient China way back during the 1100s, and parachute-like sketches and devices were said to have conceived by Leonardo da Vinci. However, parachutists worldwide give the credit to French inventor Andre Jacques Garnerin as the one who made the first parachute. This had a support to keep the chute open and a basket to hold the diver. In 1979, he made the very first parachute jump from a balloon over Paris, later on followed by jumps in France and England.
The development of the flexible parachute followed, this time featuring a trapeze bar instead of a basket. Thomas Baldwin, an American inventor, became the first American to have descended from a balloon with a parachute in 1987. Leslie Irvin, another American, smartened up the design with his hand-operated chute, and made a free-fall jump in Ohio in 1919, revolutionized parachuting and paved the way for a new sport.
Valuable military contribution
When the Wright Brothers made the first aircraft flight in 1903, however, no developments were made on parachute designs. Barnstormers, who were aerial performers traveling throughout the US every year and whose specialty was jumping in parachutes, gave the aviators and parachutist during the World War I one of those light bulb moments. The military began using parachutes in their missions during World War I, serving as fast get away for observers on balloons, who drew enemy fire from up above enemy territories.
World War II used parachute-equipped soldiers – paratroopers. Paratroopers were employed on D-Day – the invasion of Normandy, France – on June 6, 1944, where more than 1,000 transports dropped them to secure the flanks and beach exits on the assault area.
The excess of unused nylon parachutes after World War II and military sport parachuting associations by the US Army paved the way for parachute diving in the United States as a form of leisure activity. Experimentation with aerodynamics, such as coming up with radical modifications and new designs and materials that improved steering and flight all together, led to enhanced parachutes suited for extreme sports use.
Apart from use of sport skydivers, various parachute designs – such as the military HAHO (high altitude, high opening) designs, smoke jumping designs, and other structures and equipment for two- and four-person tandem diving – were developed for different functions. The HAHO allows soldiers to fly over large areas stealthily, while the smoke jumping designs allows firefighters to reach into remote forest fires from low altitude.
From the 1980s onwards, the sport became more and more popular. This is also because with further technological developments, equipment used to skydive became more and more reliable, lightweight and easier to operate and maneuver. From there, sky’s the limit for people who wish to experience the adventure of free falling in mid air.
Appearing much safer, fun and accessible to almost anyone, skydiving has since established itself to be one of the most treasured leisure activity and extreme sport alike.