What is Parachuting?


Parachuting is an adventurous sport involving free falling through the air while attached to a parachute. Parachuting is carried out from a 4,000 meter elevation, with individuals jumping and immediately deploying their parachute. It’s a thrilling and one of a kind adventure for those bold enough to take part.


Dating back as far as the 1100s in China, individuals would jump from cliffs to the ground with makeshift parachutes. A few centuries later, Leonardo DaVinci created the first blueprints of a parachute in 1485, but was not tested until 2000. In 1797, Andre-Jacques Garnerin was officially the first person to make a successful parachute descent using a canvas canopy and a small basket tied to a hot air balloon. Later, in 1919, Leslie Irvin was the first person to make a free fall jump, and soon after in the 1930s, it became a competitive sport.

Playing Surface

Parachuting Playing Surface

Parachuting involves jumping from a high point, such as a plane, helicopter, high cliff, or mountain. These elevated areas need to be about 10,000 feet above the ground for there to be ample time in the air to descend. Once the individuals have jumped and deployed their parachutes, they descend to the ground, which can be any area that has enough open space for parachuters to land.

Parachuting Equipment

Parachuting Equipment

When parachuting, several pieces of equipment are needed to ensure that individuals who participate are safe and have a good experience. The most important pieces of equipment are a parachute and activation device for parachute deployment. Next, a pair of goggles and helmet help guarantee the parachuter is protected during their descent. Additionally, knowing the altitude is crucial in this sport, so having an altimeter will help determine when to deploy the parachute. 

Here is the essential parachuting equipment you should have:

  • Activation device
  • Altimeter
  • Goggles
  • Helmet
  • Parachute


Parachuting is performed as a recreational activity as well as a competitive and extreme sport. The objective is the successful descent from a high elevated point to the ground via parachute. For competitive and experienced parachuters, objectives are more advanced as they perform acrobatic movements prior to landing on the ground. Parachuters may have skills ranging from tracking, free flying, wing suiting, and canopy work, in which they can maneuver their descent to the ground.

Rules and Regulations

Parachuting Rules and Regulations

There are a set of rules and regulations regarding parachuting at all locations. The basic ones include specific age requirements, being that participants must be at least 18 years of age. Additionally, there are often weight limits capping at about 225 pounds and depends on other factors. Safety is everyone’s responsibility and it is required for all participants to review emergency procedures before the jump. Similarly, participants should always get their gear checked prior to jumping and be ready to perform any emergency procedures in the event of a malfunction.

Here are the most important parachuting rules you should know:

  • Minimum age limit of 18 years of age
  • Weight limit between 200-250 pounds, but depends on instructor and gear weight
  • Safety is everyone’s responsibility
  • Emergency procedures should be reviewed and participants must know how to react and perform if there is a malfunction
  • Gear must be checked prior to the jump
  • Be aware of one’s surroundings at all times, especially when jumping and descending


Parachuting Lingo

Here is the common lingo and slang in parachuting:

  • Arch: The desired body position that is the most stable when free falling
  • Burble: A dead spot of air that normally comes behind a parachuter as they move through the air
  • Cutaway: Term used when releasing the main parachute if the parachute is malfunctioning
  • FS: An acronym for formation skydiving, where parachuters jump together with their belly flat
  • Sucker hole: A break in the clouds that give parachuters a false sense of a hole even though there are issues with the weather
  • Whuffo: What non-parachuters or skydivers are called by people who parachute or skydive


Parachuting Players

Professional parachuting is one of the few intergender sports in which females are more acclaimed than their male counterparts. These specific women were some of the famous pioneers and impactful people involved in making parachuting popular.

Here are the most famous parachuting players you should know:

  • Tiny Broadwick
  • Kathe Paulus
  • Jeanne Genevieve Labrosse-Garnerin


There are only a couple of major leagues that are notable in the realm of parachuting. Often, skydiving and parachuting are used interchangeably, so the National Skydiving League is one of the most famous leagues. Additionally, the United States Parachuting Association (USPA) has a team of athletes that represent the U.S. in international competitions, cups, and events. 

Here are the most popular Parachuting leagues you should know:

  • United States Parachuting Association
  • National Skydiving League

Events and Competitions

The United States Parachuting Association is an organization that conducts the National Parachuting and Skydiving Championships, which holds seven different competitions. The USPA oversees all competitive parachuting activities and works alongside the Federation Aeronautique Internationale which is in accordance to any international championships and competitions that are held. 

Here are the most seven popular types of events in parachuting:

  • Canopy Formation: Individuals open their parachutes immediately after jumping and proceed to link together to create formations.
  • Canopy Piloting: Parachuters fly their parachutes through a course and are judged on their speed, distance, and accuracy
  • Artistic Events- Freefly and Freestyle: Free flyers often choose a vertical formation or sit up position during freefall while freestylists perform a sequence of fluid ballet-like movements.
  • Formation: Teams perform a designated formation or series of formations classified in three stages: advanced, intermediate, and open.
  • Mixed-Formation: Teams perform a sequence of formations in three orientations: vertical head down, vertical upright, and belly-to-earth.
  • Vertical: Teams perform formations in a vertical formation.


Is parachuting dangerous?

The risks involved in parachuting are quite low. There is 1 death in about every 500,000 parachuting jumps and according to the National Safety Council, someone is much more likely to die from getting struck by lightning than die from parachuting. There are chances of injuries when free falling, landing, and from parachute malfunctions, but these chances are very low. 

How far up are you when in a parachute?

When parachuting, individuals are often at an altitude of about 10,000 feet and can go over 15,000 feet but will require oxygen use to avoid hypoxia. There are also options to go lower, between 7,500 and 8,000 feet. 

How long are you in a parachute for?

A typical parachute ride lasts between five to seven minutes, with the freefall included and lasting up to 40 to 50 seconds. However, the time often depends on other various factors including altitude, weight, and equipment.

How old do you have to be to parachute?

In the U.S., the age requirements for parachuting is to be 18 years old or older.