The different types of skydiving and parachuting

Sep 07, 2016 BY Paul McWilliams

It only takes one skydive to get you hooked. And once you are hooked there are many types of skydiving and parachuting to try out, offering bigger, better and just different thrills than a standard skydive.

Types of skydiving Wikimedia image by SKYDIVER1973

If you’re thinking about trying it or have made your first jump and are eager to explore the other exciting types of skydiving, this guide should tell you everything you need to know.

Standard skydiving

Often known as ‘fun jumps’, a standard skydive is a purely recreational experience done for the rush of free fall and majestic views while soaring to the ground. There are plenty of skydiving clubs around where you can meet like-minded people and share the cost of jumping.

When making your first jump or training for your solo qualification you will need to make tandem jumps with an experienced and qualified skydive instructor. It’s usually at the point you exit the plane with your instructor that you get hooked for life.

Tandem skydiving

As mentioned, this is the kind of jump you’ll do when strapped to the instructor, either as a ‘fun jump’ or as part of your training. Initially your instructor will handle all the technical aspects of jumping but as you gain more experience you will start to take on some of this responsibility until you are ready to make a solo jump.

Types of skydiving Wikimedia image by Skydive Laguna

Formation jumping

This is also known as ‘relative work’ and involves a number of experienced skydivers falling to earth with the belly facing down. During freefall they attempt to build formations in the air, using movement skills and by holding on to each other’s arms and legs. Formations can number from two-ways to groups numbering in the hundreds.


This is a form or aerial acrobatics that involves building a series of formations in a mix of upright and head-down orientations. Jumpers fly under, over and around each other in a pre-planned patterns. Vertical formation skydiving is another variation of freeflying.

Wingsuit flying

One of the newest and most exciting types of skydiving, and one that is attracting the most attention. A wingsuit is a specially designed, aerodynamic jumpsuit that uses fabric to create wings between the arms and legs of the jumper. This means they can cover large distances horizontally and even  ‘fly’ very close to the ground.

Recent jumpers have amazed onlookers by flying through mountain crevasses and even through naturally formed stone arches. It is an incredible spectacle but comes with equally stupendous risks. Not for the fainthearted.

Types of skydiving Wikimedia image by Richard Schneider

Canopy formation

Also known as ‘canopy relative work’, this is formation skydiving that takes pace after the chute has opened. Because of this the jumpers open their chutes the moment they leave the plane to give maximum time for canopy work.

Static line

Rather than opening the chute on the descent after freefall, a static line involves a fixed line in the plane to which all jumpers’ chutes are attached. Upon jumping the line pulls a cover off the cute and releases the canopy. You might be familiar with this kind of jumping from war films, as it is a highly favoured military strategy for getting many jumpers out of the same plane quickly and safely.

BASE jumping

The name is a tenuously created acronym describing an activity where jumpers launch from fixed objects. BASE stands for building, antenna, span (usually bridges) and earth (usually cliffs).

Started in the late 1970s by a small group led by filmmaker Carl Boenish, this is another form of parachuting that attract s a lot of attention. Largely because it is highly visual (with jumpers taking off from the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro amongst others) and because it is usually considered dangerous or even illegal – except in certain circumstances.

Types of skydiving Wikimedia image by Xof711

Freefall style and accuracy landing

As well as adrenaline, skydiving is all about style, grace and accuracy in a competitive sense. Which is why these are often known as the ‘classics’ of skydiving. A jumper will perform a routine in the air while freefalling and then has to try and land as close to a designated point as possible once the chute has been deployed, in order to score points.

Canopy piloting

This is also sometimes known as ‘swooping’ for reasons that are obvious if you watch it. Jumpers perform tricks with their canopies, usually designed for high-speed manoeuvres. These manoeuvres often take place just feet or inches from the ground over hundreds of yards, at very high speeds.

It’s a thrilling watch, but only performed by very experienced jumpers. Another of the very dangerous types of skydiving.

We hope you found this guide to the different types of skydiving and parachuting useful. For inspiration, check out the rest of our skydiving articles, also take a look at our skydiving discounts as you could save a fortune.


BASE Jumping, Skydiving
Accuracy Landing, Canopy Piloting, Freefall, Freeflying, Static Line, Tandem, Wingsuit Flying

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