Licensed jumpers enjoy skydives that generally fall into one of several skydiving disciplines. Within each discipline are a variety of types of skydives, ranging from “fun jumps”—purely recreational skydives—to competition jumps to large-formation records. These categories are not all-inclusive, and skydivers can participate in jumps that involve variations or combinations of the different disciplines.
Sometimes referred to as “belly-flying” or “relative work,” formation skydiving involves jumpers falling in a belly-to-earth orientation and building formations by holding onto each other’s arms or legs. Formation skydives can range from 2-ways to groups in the hundreds.
Freeflying is most akin to aerial acrobatics. Jumpers fly in all orientations—most commonly upright or upside-down—and can fly over, under and around each other. Vertical formation skydiving is a branch of freeflying that involves jumpers building a series of formations in a mix of upright and head-down orientations.
Wingsuit flying is one of skydiving’s newest disciplines. A wingsuit is a specialized jumpsuit that uses fabric to create arm and leg wings on the jumper. The wings allow the jumper to cover large horizontal distances across the sky while maintaining a very slow descent rate.
In canopy piloting, often called “swooping,” skydivers fly high-performance canopies that can generate high vertical and horizontal speeds. By performing speed-inducing maneuvers, these very experienced skydivers can glide inches above the ground for hundreds of yards at speeds approaching 75 mph.
In skysurfing, a jumper attaches a board, similar to a snowboard or wakeboard but made specifically for skydiving, to his feet and performs aerial acrobatics in freefall, including flips and spins. While skysurfing is visually appealing and has been included in events like ESPN’s X Games, few jumpers still pursue this challenging discipline.
In canopy formation, sometimes called “canopy relative work,” jumpers open their parachutes immediately after exiting the airplane. They then fly their parachutes together and build formations by holding onto each other’s canopies.
Freestyle is most akin to aerial ballet, with a jumper performing a graceful dance in freefall.
Freefall Style & Accuracy Landing
Often referred to as “the classics,” style and accuracy are skydiving’s oldest disciplines. In style, an individual jumper performs a pre-determined series of loops and spins in freefall as quickly as possible. For accuracy, a jumper under his parachute tries to land on a quarter-sized dot on a landing tuffet.