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Parachuting | Under the Sun Sports to get a Suntan

Since the earliest times man has wanted to fly like the birds.  Who has not heard the story of Icarus and his wax wings that melted when he flew too near the sun? The parachute has helped man come close to the feeling of at least gliding like the birds.  Though the parachute dates from China in the 1100’s, it was not until the late 1700’s and Frenchman Jacques Garnerin did exhibition parachuting from balloons, that it gained more interest.  Sport Parachuting or skydiving really became even more popular after the return of soldiers from the battlegrounds of World War II.

Sport Parachuting or skydiving takes many forms and the primary association in the United States is the United States Parachute Association (USPA).  The association exists to promote safe skydiving through training, licensing and certification programs, thus making airports more amenable to parachutists using their facilities.  The association also promotes competitions and endorses record setting programs.  A former soldier instituted the forerunner of the USPA in 1946 to standardize safety rules and training.  Internationally there does not seem to be a single organization to coordinate skydiving amongst the many national organizations. 

SKY DIVING is basically jumping from an airplane wearing a parachute with the desired result of landing safely on Mother Earth.  First timers may tandem dive with a trained and certified jumper at one of many skydiving sites throughout the U.S. before trying it on their own.  The first parachute patent was given to Štefan Baniĉ, Slovak inventor of the parachute used by our military in WWI.  An award is given yearly to the person deemed to have supported parachuting most effectively that year.  On January 18, 2010 the award went to former President George H. W. Bush, who made a jump on June 12, 2009 to commemorate his 85th birthday.  Purportedly the oldest person to jump was 101 years old!  For avid skydivers, sun protection should be a consideration.  Spending time in the sun at altitudes with thinner UV protection, your skin and eyes should be protected.  Sunglasses, sun goggles or sun shields for helmets are advised with exposed areas being covered with sunscreen or tanning lotion.

BASE JUMPING is the act of jumping from a fixed object with height rather than from an airplane or balloon.  BASE is really an acronym for the types of objects to jump from using a parachute, those objects being Buildings, Antennae, Spans (bridges) and Earth (mountains, cliffs).

SKYSURFING consists of a person (sky surfer) jumping out of an airplane with a specially designed board, who is accompanied by a teammate with a helmet mounted camera (camera flyer).  The camera flyer films the sky surfer doing tricks with the board while freefalling.  You add dimensions and aerodynamics not usually present in surfing or snowboarding and some quite unique and exciting tricks become possible.  At the appropriate height the sky surfer and his teammate release their parachutes to make a safe landing back on Mother Earth.  While in regular surfing you deal with sun and water reflection; in this case, you are dealing with sun and thin atmosphere, another sunburn factor.  Eye protection in the form of tinted sun goggles or tinted helmet shields to protect your eyes from sun glare is something to consider.  Exposed skin areas may require sunscreen or if a good base tan is already established, tanning lotion will help protect the especially delicate face area.

PARASAILING was born in the 60’s when Frenchman Pierre Lamoigne, a parachute teacher, attached a parachute to his car and caused his student to become airborne.  Known as parascending, a student wearing a parachute was towed until he reached the height allowed by the tether then he was released to glide to earth.  When the student was not released parasailing was born.  In the 1970’s, American Mark McCulloh furthered the sport with the invention of the winchboat and a tourist attraction was born.  Multiple inventions by this man has made parasailing a safe industry.  Primarily practiced in the sun and around water, proper sun protection with sunglasses or sun goggles is advised.  Waterproof sunscreen or tanning lotion is advised since swimsuits may be the apparel of choice.  Due to the fact you are soaring above the earth, sunhats or sun visors are probably not practical.

PARAGLIDING is a fairly young sport, while dreamed about for centuries; it did not become reality until the 1960’s.  The “Forgotten Father of Paragliding” was David Barish, who patented the Vortex Ring Parachute in 1957.  It is still used by the military today to deliver supplies and equipment from winged aircraft to the people on the ground.  In 1965, Barish and his son test flew a high-performance gliding parachute that became the Barish Sailwing and a sport was born.  The United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association (USHPA), is an organization whose main purpose is to promote this sport through pilot safety, training and certification while maintaining a relationship with the FAA for airspace use.  Launching from mountains or cliffs, paragliders are harnessed into a seat suspended beneath a wing shaped chute.  Some may choose to practice this sport without mechanical means but motorized units are available.  Records of hundreds of miles have been set for straight distance, roundtrip distance and triangular course distance.  In addition to the “wings” a reserve parachute is worn for safety.

BANZAI SKYDIVING is an extreme sport exported from Japan and consists of throwing a parachute out of a perfectly good airplane and then leaping out with the hope that you can catch up with your parachute before reaching the ground.  Extreme is right!


WINGSUIT FLYING is the combination of hang gliding and skydiving by use of specially designed suits called wingsuits.  While the flyer has some control, in order to land safely, a parachute must be used.  Until parachute deployment, wingsuit flyers streak horizontally at high speeds and are also able to perform aerial acrobatics.  The suit enfolds the flyer from neck to feet with a panel between the legs that acts like the bird’s tail while panels from wrist to waist act like wings, as in a gliding not flapping.  Wingsuit flying is most definitely an extreme sport that takes experience and nerves of steel.  This is a rather elite sport limited to a small group of people.  The time spent accessing the points to launch from may often take hours while the trip down takes minutes.  Like Banzai skydiving this is a most dangerous form of skydiving.  Hours of climbing in the sunny thin altitude of a mountain means you need to consider sunscreen or tanning lotion for sun protection.  A sun hat that can be safely rolled up and tucked into the suit along with sun glasses or sun goggles could make the results of the climb even more enjoyable.  Sunburn has the effect of putting a damper on fun.

So many people do not think of eye protection from the sun beyond the glare annoyance.  When you attain a greater age, it becomes clearer that better eye protection from the sun’s UV rays at a young age would have been wise.  Those who participate in the various parachute related sports definitely need eye protection from the wind and sun.  Whether it is sunglasses, sun goggles or tinted shields on the helmet, any one of them should be part of your gear.  Even though suits of various types are often worn, the face and possibly hands are still exposed to the sun’s UV rays and if not protected with sunscreen or a tanning lotion the results can be most uncomfortable. 

While waiting on the ground for your turn or watching your fellow skydivers land safely, be sure you are properly protected from the sun with sun protection products, sunhats and sunglasses.  Be sure to check out our store for “everything under the sun” and most of all have fun and be safe! 

-Miss Suntan

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