How Humanity Made Falling Into an Artform…
Want a little backstory? This is where we take thousands of years and pack it all into one page. We’re going to try to keep it simple though, because there isn’t anything boring about the history of skydiving, and we don’t want to ruin that theme. Now let’s get to how our favorite sport got started….
The Skydiving.com History of Skydiving
So mankind has come a long way from those humble, wingless origins. Aviation was always a goal, since some guy looked up into the sky and thought being up there would be a good idea. Whoever was first to think that was probably not quite right in the head, but that’s fine, because the idea caught on. Parachuting is no different as far as insane ideas go. With any Google search, you will find that the parachute was born out of a necessity, but caught on as a really strange way to jump off tall stuff for fun.
The first “parachute” was recorded in China, made known by a super important historian by the name of Sima Qian (we don’t blame you if you can’t pronounce that though). The story goes that a parachute was haphazardly put together in a crisis, saving an Emperor’s life from a burning building. Pretty handy. The funny thing is that there are a bunch of stories of people using conical hats, umbrellas, and whatever else they could grab to escape from tall buildings. We’re guessing this is the point that someone decided to do it for fun rather than to escape for one reason or another. And, in our opinion, this is when the real history of skydiving began.
The history books have shown us that Chinese acrobats made use of this contraption as a form of entertainment. This is what blazed the trail for the parachute in Western society in the 1600s. One thing that’s for sure is that once China ignited the idea, the baton was passed to France. Hot air balloons and parachutes became super-French in the 1700s by big names such as the Montgolfier brothers and Andre-Jacques Garnerin. These guys made a spectacle of aviation by providing aerial stunts for the world to see. Also parachutes tended to save them from balloon mishaps, so that was nice. Either way, going up in a balloon and gliding dramatically back down by means of a chute left an impression on Europe, and this solidified a place in history for skydiving.
For once you have tasted flight you will walk the Earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been and there you long to return.Leonardo Da Vinci
Parachutes were obviously a good idea. Maybe not in the sense in that they involve falling from high places, but more so that they make the trip down a lot safer. This concept did initially have its limits… For instance, the first parachutes had frames (we’re talking about the ones that were made with premeditated purpose rather than for a MacGyver-esque getaway). Skip forward to the 1900s and you will start seeing records popping up of flexible designs. A good improvement as chutes were consistently used as a backup plan when daring to push the limits of aviation at the time.
Now, the thing that makes the modern parachute different from all these old-timey inventions is the ripcord. The biggest difference that these made was in safety. Let’s compare: big, bulky chute already out and dragged into the sky with you… Or a nice clean jump where you can then release your chute after jumping. It kind of simplified the process a lot. We’re in the roaring 20’s by this point, by the way.
To state the obvious, parachutes were great for wars. Soldiers dropping in to visit had a safe landing- though they probably weren’t of much use for safety beyond that point. What changed the super serious nature of the parachute was the fact that once all was said and done, soldiers thought that jumping out of planes was pretty damn fun. So they kept doing it. That simple. It became a recreational sport and now can be enjoyed by pretty much anyone (especially when those anyones come to us). The cool part of all this is that history isn’t done yet. We are still learning better ways to fly and better ways to fall. And we want you to be a part of that.
Articles on the History of Skydiving and Parachuting
Groundbreaking Sky Drop Results in 76 Beavers Finding New HomesJanuary 9, 2018
Skydiving History: The Legend Mike “Beanpole” BarberOctober 27, 2017
The First Parachute and the Birth of Modern SkydivingJanuary 11, 2017
View More Skydiving History Artticles