Squirrel suit diving, wingsuit flying, and wingsuiting are all different terms used to describe the same insane act of flying through the air using a special type of jumpsuit. The squirrel suit itself is aerodynamically sound, having two arm wings and a leg wing.
So what’s the deal with wingsuit diving?
History of the Squirrel Suit
The origins of the wingsuit are actually fairly… unpleasant. The first squirrel suit dive ever recorded was in 1912, when Franz Reichelt jumped off the Eiffel Tower wearing his prototype squirrel suit and promptly splattered on the ground below.
Unpleasant, yes, but certainly the start of a new era. Throughout the 20s and 30s, people began to experiment with different wingsuit designs. Unfortunately, a lot of these pioneers also died, leading to a bit of a hiatus in wingsuit development.
It wasn’t until 1994 when wingsuits hit the mainstream thanks to Patrick de Gayardon. His wingsuit design, composed solely of fabric, allowed people to use inflatable wings that functioned like miniature parachutes.
De Gayardon demonstrated that you could do some pretty crazy stuff with a wingsuit. In one of his famous stunts, he jumped out of an airplane and several minutes later flies himself back into the same plane thanks to his squirrel suit.
After De Gayardon showed people that it was more than possible to fly around using a wingsuit, other people began to make their own designs. Nowadays, wingsuit competitions abound and you’re able to purchase wingsuits online or from special outlets.
How to Start Wingsuit Flying
You might be wondering how these people end up using their wingsuits. As demonstrated by the early squirrel suit developers, it’s a pretty stupid idea to just suit up and jump off a building if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Fortunately – at least in the United States – the regulations and requirements to start wingsuit diving are laid out pretty clearly. Here’s what you have to do.
First, start skydiving. If you’ve never been skydiving before, you might have to do your first jump tandem (attached to your instructor). This is a very intimate way to get to know the sport.
Keep skydiving. You have to be really serious about skydiving to become a (legal) wingsuit diver. The United States Parachute Association says that you should have jumped at least 200 times in the last year-and-a-half.
Sign up for a newbie’s course. The Wingsuit First Jump Course (or WFJC) is available to people who have completed their 200-plus skydiving jumps. You might be able to find someone to instruct you prior to completing 200 jumps, but it’s not recommended and could very well be dangerous.
Get your gear. You’ll probably already have your own parachute gear by the time you’re skilled enough to start wingsuit jumping. It’s recommended that you rent your first actual wingsuit rather than buying one.
Find a good coach. Once you’ve finished your first jump, you’re going to want to learn more. Find a coach who can instruct you in the ways of the squirrel suit.
Squirrel suit jumping, or wingsuit diving, is a blast. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of dedication and time to be able to get yourself into one of these funny-looking suits.
On the bright side, this is to help minimize the chances of you falling 500 feet to your untimely death.