Skydiving as a Competitive Sport

Competitive sky diving has its roots in 1930’s Russia. In its early days, skydivers would compete on target landing precision. Ever since then, the sport has come a long way. Today, competitive skydiving is coordinated by (FAI) Fédération Aéronautique Internationale in collaboration with the (IPC) International Parachuting Commission. The first ever competition coordinated by (FAI) occurred in 1951 in Yugoslavia. Way back then, style, accuracy, and freefall were the only criteria being judged. Today, as you shall see below, the criteria have greatly expanded. Competitive skydiving now includes disciplines such as formation skydiving, freestyle, style skydiving, skysurfing, precision landing, and canopy formation. Keep reading to find out more.


In this exciting discipline, skydivers use boards specifically designed for skysurfing (known as skyboards) to do maneuvers such as barrel rolls and loops in the sky! This sport was invented in 1986 by Jean-Pascal Oron and Dominique Jacquet. Ever since then it has grown in popularity and currently done competitively. Judging criteria involves the number of maneuvers conducted and interestingly, the skill of the flier handling the camera in capturing moments perfectly! Some skydiving championships include ESPN X games, the USA National Sky Surf Championships, SSI pro tour sky surfing, and the Sky Surfing World Championships.

Precision Landing

This is perhaps the oldest discipline tested in competitive skydiving. It once was the only discipline tested, back in the ‘30s. As the name suggests this discipline is tested for how accurately a skydiver can land on a decided landing point. This point is usually 1.9-inch disk rigged with an electronic sensor for measuring landing distance from the middle. The first accuracy landing competition organized by (FAI) was in 1951, in Yugoslavia. In the early days, lightly modified military parachutes. The sport has a long way since then.

Freefall Style Skydiving

It is also popularly known as freefall gymnastics for its resemblance to its on-ground counterpart. As the nickname suggests, freefall style skydiving essentially involves performing gymnastic maneuvers in the sky. Competitive style skydiving is judged for the speed of the maneuvers and excellence in execution. The first ever freefall style skydiving competition was held in 1962 at the World Championship in Orange in the United States, coordinated by (FAI). Today, judging is done with the aid of high-quality cameras that produce video for analysis. Competitors usually start out at an average altitude of 2200 m above ground. As they achieve freefall speed, they begin their maneuvers. There is a time limit of 16 seconds in the beginning rounds. Competitors who perform beyond the time limit are eliminated. There is also a different category for freestyle skydivers under the age of 25.

Canopy Formation

Also known as Canopy Relative Work, this discipline denotes the movement of two or more skydivers in close proximity or in actual contact with each other. The discipline developed in the early 1980s when thrill-seeking skydivers began performing interesting maneuvers such as sitting on their partners’ canopies. Since then, canopy formation has become a competitive discipline. It is judged in three categories; the four-way sequential, the four-way rotations and the two way sequential. The four-way rotation involves a group of four skydivers. Having been given a time restriction of thirty seconds they are tasked with creating a four stack set-up. The world record for this category belongs to Russia. The record holder for the four-way sequential is the United States as is the 2 way sequential. Judging may occur in two ways. Each teams camera operator my either live stream footage or deliver it upon completion of the discipline.

Formation Sky-diving

Involves the performance of a pre-arranged routine in the sky usually involving two to eight skydivers. This discipline may be carried out horizontally or vertically. The competition comprises of ten rounds with each round having six formations. Technical performance is the criterion used to judge this event. Video footage from the videographer skydiver is used to assess performance. The best performing team is that which has accomplished the highest number of technically sound formations within the given time limit.

The First eXtreme Relative Work Competition

A new entry in the world of competitive skydiving is (XRW). The competition was held in 2018 by Alter Ego.