Indoor skydiving is the adrenaline sport of the moment, and in contrast to its outdoor cousin, it starts from the ground up. No need to fling yourself out of a plane and freefall to earth before the parachute opens. With indoor skydiving, all you have to do is step into the vertical wind tunnel and be lifted up to give you that flying sensation. Sounds easy, no?
Bodyflight, to use the technical term, is a serious sport with its own official body, the International Bodyflight Association (IBA). Away from the competitive sphere, it’s also a fun activity for all ages from 3 years upwards and for those who weigh less than 18 stone or 115 kg.
There are over 60 wind tunnels in the world including several specialist venues in the UK where you can learn to skydive. Every flyer is given one-to-one hands-on instruction and assistance and, of course, all the necessary equipment to make sure that your experience is safe and enjoyable.
So far, so good but not everyone gets it right first time, with sometimes hilarious results. Don’t forget that, unlike a ride in a theme park, you are in complete control of what you do in the wind tunnel, so if you’re not too sure about the right body technique to ‘ride’ the air flow, things may literally go topsy turvy.
Here’s how it works in 5 basic steps:
Enter the wind tunnel
The wind tunnel pushes air vertically upwards to create the same freefall conditions you would experience if you were to jump from a plane. To enter, the instructor will ask you to keep your arms crossed and lower yourself through the door. Initially, your instructor will give you a hand until you’ve mastered the first basic step.
Resist the temptation to jump or launch yourself into the wind tunnel, as your body position and shape won’t allow you to be in control.
Adjust your body to the air flow
The next step is to get used to being in the wind tunnel and learn to achieve a stable horizontal position. Focus on maintaining an arched body position, pushing the hips forward and raising your head, hands and feet.
Spend a few minutes adjusting to the pressure of the air flow from below until you feel comfortable in your position. Your instructor will be there to tell you what to do and correct your position as necessary.
Learn to turn
Once you know how to keep a stable horizontal body position in the wind tunnel, you can apply the basics of aerodynamics to learn how to move around inside the bodyflight simulator. Don’t worry, your instructor will tell you exactly how.
To turn, dip the shoulder and arm slightly on the side you want to turn and point your hands forward, keeping the rest of the body arched and your arms and legs symmetrical, as is shown in the video below. More advanced skydivers can use their arms, legs and chest to perform turns, and with plenty of practice you will get there too.
Learn to move back and forth
You can use the same air displacement principles to move your body forwards and backwards, simply by changing the position of your arms and legs. Push your legs into a straighter position to that your body tips up slightly, moving you forwards. Bring your feet closer to your bottom and push forward with your arms to go backwards.
The more you practice, the quicker and smoother your movements will become, until you can stop and change direction at will.
Learn to fly up and down
The last step to learn the basics of indoor skydiving is to learn to fly up and down in the wind tunnel, also known as increasing and decreasing your fall rate. To go down (increase your rate of descent), assume the stable arched horizontal position you now know so well, and push forward with your hips. Bringing your arms closer to your body will allow you to fall even faster.
To slow down (decrease your fall rate) and fly up, do the opposite: relax the hips and cup the air with your chest, while spreading your arms and legs. Making as big a surface with your body as you can increase the air resistance and slow you down.