How to Start Wingsuit Flying

Published: August 16, 2021

You may or may not know this already, but NorCal is kind of a big deal when it comes to the world of wingsuit flying. Specifically, the Bay Area is home to some of the world's most impressive "squirrel suit" pilots, who train in our beautiful Northern California skies before heading out to compete in the discipline's major competitions, take part in enormous world record events, and take those suits off the inevitable European cliffs.

And you want in. We know this.

We also know that you know this already, dear reader, as you're a smart cookie--but it bears reiteration: there's a progression involved here. It's a serious progression that takes years to do correctly, and "correctly" is the best way to stay alive throughout the learning process. Suffice it to say: you are not going to go from your AFF to an exit point in Norway in one season. BASE jumping entirely aside, wingsuit jumping is not as simple as getting a skydiving license, zipping on the suit and chucking yourself out the aircraft door.

1. Get The Jumps.

The United States Parachute Association recommends that a jumper make two hundred skydives before putting on a wingsuit. If that seems draconian, it is not. In order to weather the rodeo of learning to wrap your body in a constrictive aerodynamic nightmare and pilot it safely to a successful parachute deployment, you need to have the art of freefall well programmed into your subconscious mind.

You also need to know how to figure out your lifesaving emergency procedures even when that aerodynamic nightmare is pinning your limbs, limiting your visibility and squeezing you into a blackout.

Get the idea now?

2. Trust The Process.

Make no mistake: wingsuit flying is not easy. Do not let a wingsuit pilot tell you that flying a wingsuit is easy. Seriously. They're just fluffing their feathers at your expense.

New pilots are likely to have ugly openings, spinning line twists (some of which require cutaways and reserve rides), flat spins, unimpressive glide ratios, puckery off-dropzone landings, shortbus aircraft exits and terrified facial expressions in their helmets. It takes time and cajones to get through it. Once you get through it, you'll still have occasional facepalm moments. Get the coaching, trust the process and allow your heaps of dedication and hard work to allow your wingsuit career to unfold organically.

3. Love The Process--Enough That You Don't Rush The Process.

Always remember that you're not skydiving in order to get your OMGsorad footage on YouTube. You're here for love. And love, in this sport as in so many other aspects of life, means spending time. Spend the time.

Show up at the dropzone absolutely whenever you can. Spend time on your belly. Spend time in the tunnel. Spend time tracking slick. Spend time in a tracking suit. Spend time monkeying around in freefly configurations. Spend time playing. There is so much you don't know yet--but it'll come, if you relax into it and open yourself up to the full scope of the learning process.

Also worth mentioning: The more skydiving experience you have, the less likely it'll be that you end up putting an epic grass-colored skid mark right down the back of your beautiful new suit...and that's worth its weight in gold, right there.

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» Tyler D.