Yesterday I was asked by a writer to “describe the feeling of wingsuiting in 20 words or less.”
Absent the ability to describe the emotions, physical experience, or mental responses to a wingsuit skydive, I chose to use one trite phrase; “Dream of flight fulfilled.”
And felt somewhat ‘dirty’ for it afterwards.
I then went on to give it more thought for self-expression, outside the printed media. Why is it that the non-skydiving world is in constant awe of the “squirrel suits” that streak across the sky, these micro meteors in nylon that can be tracked from the ground? Too many episodes of “Animal Planet? Fascination with “Rocky and Bullwinkle?”
After all, flying is merely a series of calculations based around variables and constants, coupled with basic aerodynamics, right? But to a skydiver/body pilot, a wingsuit skydive is so much more complex than just math. Math is factual, and imagination has to precede fact. We must first long for flight before achieving flight. Man has imagined and dreamed of flight for centuries as evidenced by writings of the ancient Chinese, Greek, Mayan, Egyptian, and other ancient cultures. Man that could fly was also known as “god.”
If only they could see me now!
Could it be we feel god-like as we soar through the blue, chasing clouds and skimming the layers? Certainly, a wingsuit is a triumph of the soul, and regardless of the planning, effort, dirt dives, replanning, discussion, and execution of the jump…we savor our temporary victory over gravity each time our feet leave the earth-like deck of the aircraft. Each leap logs a moment of elation, a triumph of the spirit which sets us apart from our ground-bound earth-mates (most of whom constantly exclaim they ‘could never be so brave’ thus proving our superiority over couch potatoes)
When we participate in the flocks, the commonality of effort bonds body pilots as surely as the fabric that binds our bodies, providing a sub-culture that most could never comprehend. We are tied in spirit as we work towards a seemingly simple yet complex goal of flying in a natural formation, no different than the birds that we emulate. Would birds believe us to be masochists in comparison?
We use the math to justify our jump, but in truth, one cannot quantify spirit. We measurebate using GPS, logging altimeters, and topo-charts as pornographic aids. For some, a three-minute flight is the ultimate goal. For others, those three minutes are as dismissable as blue pocket lint. Some are content with exiting an aircraft for each jump; others seek canyon walls as their launch pad. A few seek not to emulate nature but technology, strapping rocket motors and jet nozzles to back, arms, and feet, seeking but a few extra seconds of precious celestial glory.
Therein lies the dichotomy of the modern skydiver. As the freeflying movement reduces working airtime to as little as 35 seconds per skydive, a body pilot seeks to increase either distance, time-in-air, or both, occasionally crossing a 3 minute milestone.
Both are at opposite ends of the speedway, one moving faster and the other more slowly, both ever in a downward path. One is a graceful vertical dance and the other no less graceful, but entirely a horizontal mambo with the sky.
We’re at opposite ends of the same circle, I suppose. Doing the same thing as differently from each other as possible. I happen to like the nylon, and wouldn’t deign to define what drives theVRW or freefly skydiver.
Inexplicably, or perhaps clearly comprehensible, wingsuit skydiving enjoys a phenomenal breadth of age; both 70 and 18 year olds alike appreciate the nylon straitjacket that offers a freedom not easily described in “20 words or less….” We don’t seem to mind that some of us are too old to be any good, and some are ignorant of the simplistic beauty found in the quiet of the flight.but we do share a common bond. Chicks really dig a guy with nylon wings… just ask us. We’ll talk to you all day long about our Dances with Daedalus.
Even as Minos’ seashell; risers lead to lines lead to canopy lead to PC like honey to an ant with a string…we crawl back to the air as quickly as aluminum allows.
And so my dear reporter friend (the writer who got the story all wrong anyway), I not-so-politely submit to you that the response you seek to understand has far less to do with the answer to the question, than it does with the person asking.