Lindy Taverner

Sissies need not read further

2011-05-11 09:10
Sport24 columnist Lindy Taverner (File)
Lindy Taverner

Extreme air sports are definitely not for sissies, but the adrenaline one experiences in those first few seconds of free fall is so worth any taunting ascent and terror of launching yourself into the air.

I’m going to stick with non-motorised air sports to keep things simple, and start with explaining some of the lingo.

A boogie is a social gathering of skydivers. Typically they have large aircrafts, hold special events and compete in skydiving competitions. The Drop Zone (DZ) is the facility where skydive jumps are performed.

Opening Shock is the force experienced by the jumper due to sudden deceleration during parachute deployment. The Reserve is the secondary or backup parachute and is obviously of paramount importance!

 Firstly, tandem skydiving is a safe, quick and easy introduction to the sport. One is securely attached to an experienced tandem master and exits the aircraft from an altitude of 10 000 - 14 000 feet to experience 30 - 60 seconds of free fall before the large parachute is deployed. It is awesome!

A static line descent can be made after a ground training course that lasts 4-6 hours. The jump involves leaving the aircraft at around 3500 feet, and the main parachute is deployed with a length of webbing attached to the aircraft as the jumper falls away. This, of course, involves a large amount of trust!

For those with the braver hearts, Accelerated Free Fall (AFF) is an intensive course where one’s first descent is from 10 000 - 14 000 feet and accompanied by two highly specialised instructors who guide you in free fall.

BASE jumping is an acronym for Building Antennae Span Earth. It refers to the fixed objects its enthusiasts jump from, such as buildings, cranes and mountains.

Wingsuit flying involves gliding through the air using a special jumpsuit. It is also known as a birdman or squirrel suit. The surface area is broadened with fabric between the legs and under the arms to reduce speed and increase lift, and the wingsuit flight ends with a parachute opening.

According to Wikipedia, “The main difference between the squirrel suit and a flying squirrel is that the real squirrel can use its tail as a rudder and is able to slow itself down while in the air, whereas the wingsuit base jumper still needs a parachute, ”... hilarious.

Atmonauti, also known as angled flight or Furnarimonauti, is a skydiving term for a type of freeflying jump at low angles and speeds. One risky and spectacular technique is flying close to the faces and ridges of mountain, called proximity flying!

Canopy Piloting involves specialised high-speed accuracy flying of high-performance parachutes. Normally practiced over a body of water, there is the bonus of some awesome views of speed-landing water spray.

Next weekend, the May 13-15, the South Africa National Skydiving Championships in Canopy Piloting will be hosted by the Pretoria Skydiving Club situated at the Wonderboom airport.

Gliding (or soaring) involves flying unpowered craft known as gliders or sailplanes using naturally occurring currents of rising air.  Hang gliders, also known as a delta planes, are light, foot launchable, aluminium framed aircraft with fabric fixed wings. Paragliding uses a parachute canopy and is more portable and apparently easier to learn. When I say fly, I mean attempting to stay in a gliding motion with hopefully no free fall!  

The free fall subcategory also includes bungee jumping and cliff diving. I can’t help but be mesmerized by the Red Bull cliff diving competitions regularly viewed on television of late, it makes for spectacular viewing, as does the ultra-cool sky surfers who wear a board attached to their feet and perform surfing-style aerobatics during free fall.

These sports are fun, but the dangers are very real. Any disturbance in the wind, a failed parachute or missed landing can send you hurling to the ground, to the hospital, or even to the morgue. This is all part of the adrenaline rush flying provides!

Lindy Taverner is the editor of the RUSH magazine that was based in the Eastern Cape and recently relocated to Cape Town. Previous issues and updated extreme sport news can be found on her site

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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