Discover the Thrills of SkySurfing: An Interview with a SkySurfing Athlete Tom Guns

July 05, 2024 9 min read

Discover the Thrills of SkySurfing: An Interview with a SkySurfing Athlete Tom Guns

Have you ever imagined gliding through the sky on a surfboard, performing breathtaking stunts against the backdrop of the endless blue sky? If that sounds exhilarating, then you’re in for a treat!

Welcome to the world of skysurfing, a sport that combines the adrenaline rush of skydiving with the artistic flair of surfing. This unique and daring sport is not just for thrill-seekers but also for those who appreciate the beauty and freedom of the skies.

What is SkySurfing?

Skysurfing involves jumping out of an aircraft and using a specially designed board to perform tricks and maneuvers during freefall. It’s a sport that requires a blend of skill, courage, and creativity.

Skysurfers attach a board to their feet, much like a snowboard or surfboard, and then perform a series of spins, flips, and turns as they descend towards the earth.

Interesting Facts About SkySurfing

1. Origin

Skysurfing emerged in the early 1990s as an offshoot of traditional skydiving. The sport was developed by French skydiver Patrick de Gayardon, who combined his passion for skydiving with his love for surfing. His innovation led to the creation of the sky-surfing board and the techniques that define the sport today. De Gayardon’s demonstrations and competitions helped popularize skysurfing and established its place in the extreme sports world.

Another important figure is Jerry Loftis, the original owner of Surfflite. Jerry helped create the skysurf program and created about 90% of the board back in the day. They both basically started the sport at the same time.

2. Equipment

The primary equipment for skysurfing includes:

SkySurfing Board: These boards are typically smaller and more streamlined than traditional surfboards, allowing for greater control and maneuverability in the air. They are made from lightweight, durable materials such as carbon fiber or composite materials.

Bindings: Skysurfers use specialized bindings to attach the board to their feet securely. These bindings are similar to those used in snowboarding but are designed to withstand the forces of freefall.

Parachute System: Like all skydivers, skysurfers use a parachute system that includes a main canopy and a reserve canopy for safety.

Jumpsuit: A specially designed jumpsuit helps reduce drag and allows for better movement and control during freefall.

Helmet and Altimeter: Safety gear includes a helmet for head protection and an altimeter to monitor altitude and ensure timely deployment of the parachute.

3. Competitions

Skysurfing competitions are held at various levels, from local events to international championships. These competitions typically involve two key components:

Freefall Performance: Athletes perform a series of tricks and maneuvers during freefall, judged on complexity, execution, and style. Common tricks include flips, spins, and rotations.

Videography: Skysurfers are often accompanied by a camera flyer who films their performance. The footage is then reviewed by judges to assess the quality of the performance. The camera flyer's skills are also evaluated, as their ability to capture the best angles and moments is crucial.

4. Training

Training for skysurfing involves several stages:

Skydiving Proficiency: Aspiring skysurfers must first become proficient skydivers, mastering basic freefall techniques and parachute deployment.

Board Skills: Training on the ground with a skysurfing board to develop balance and control.

Simulation: Wind tunnels can be used for simulated freefall practice, allowing athletes to refine their techniques in a controlled environment.

Progressive Learning: Beginners start with simpler maneuvers and gradually advance to more complex tricks as they gain experience and confidence.

5. Safety

Safety is paramount in skysurfing, and several measures are taken to minimize risks:

Thorough Equipment Checks: Before each jump, skysurfers rigorously check their gear, including the board, bindings, parachute system, and safety devices.

Training and Certification: Skysurfers undergo extensive training and must be certified by recognized skydiving organizations. Advanced training courses focus on emergency procedures and risk management.

Buddy System: Skysurfers often jump with a partner or team, ensuring mutual support and assistance in case of emergencies.

Emergency Procedures: Athletes are trained to handle various emergency situations, such as board malfunctions or parachute issues. They practice cutting away the board if necessary and deploying the reserve parachute.

The Athlete's Perspective

To give you an insider’s view of this exciting sport, we interviewed a seasoned sky-surfing athlete Tom Guns. Here’s what they had to say:

What inspired you to start skysurfing?

What inspired me too skysurf, couple of things inspired me to skysurf. I’m a 90s kid and skysurfing was very big growing up in the X Games and it was always something very visually appealing to me! Also watching Ryan Patrick Productions videos on social media. He has done a lot of jumps with my Skysurfing mentor “KeBe San” watching him lead angles and head down spin just sent it for me wanting to achieve those same goals.

Can you describe your first skysurfing experience?

Well initially I wasn’t allowed to skysurf at my home DZ, so I had received my board from “KeBe“ and naturally wanted to jump the board, so I went to a different dropzone scared they wouldn’t let it on the plane. But they did I was all alone at a new DZ got on that plane and strapped on the board and took that first leap. So nervous I felt I might throw up!

How do you prepare physically and mentally for a skysurfing session?

It’s good do basic workouts be strong in the legs basic cardio. I don’t workout as much as I should - currently working on getting stronger physically. I also use balance boards to work the core and stabilizer muscles in the legs. As far as mentally when I get on the plane I’m completely focused leaving everything behind on the runway. Taking a deep breaths before I leave the plane and putting on the board. Knowing how to recover gives me a sense of control and calmness knowing I can control the board and if worse come to worse I can cut the board away.

Can you explain the basics of skysurfing for those who have never heard of it?

Basically skysurfing is freeflying with a board attached to your feet. It makes things more challenging which I like! For those who have never seen a board it basically a modified snowboard with bindings your feet go into with a two ring system and a cutaway system in case of emergencies.

What equipment is essential for skysurfing, and how does it differ from traditional skydiving?

The only essential equipment that is different from regular skydiving is the board itself. Everything else is the same from helmet to rig to the suits. Skysurfers typically do not fly with an (RSL). In case of malfunctions we want to be able to clear the malfunction and get stable before the next parachute is deployed.

How do you ensure safety while performing skysurfing stunts?

To stay safe during skysurfing, have basic freefly skills, know your recovery positions just like regular skydives. Know where your handles are and cutaway handles are located and routed correctly. Quintuple check handles and board straps there is no more for complacency. In skysurfing or skydiving in general one mistake can be catastrophic!

What are some common misconceptions about skysurfing?

"All the OG skysurfs spun to their deaths!" Ridiculous statement made by most skydivers that skysurfing is the most dangerous thing in skydiving. In my opinion, it is safer than wingsuiting and here is why: I can cut my board away anytime I feel it’s necessary to; and on wingsuiting you can not cut a suit away. You're stuck in that suit!

Can you share a memorable or thrilling moment you’ve had while skysurfing?

That’s hard one. I’ve had a lot and I celebrate the small victories just as much as the big ones. Being told I could skysurf at my home DZ definitely felt like a huge moment, being able to show people it’s possible and can be done. Also, being able to get some of my friends to start skysurfing with me!

What advice would you give to someone interested in trying skysurfing for the first time?

It’s recommended to have at least 200 jumps and freefly capabilities. If you can’t hold a solid head up you probably shouldn’t be flying a board. Make sure you’re ready. Be able to free fly well! Know how to back fly and fly head up! Be comfortable with spins take a deep breath and jump!

How do you think the sport of skysurfing can gain more visibility and popularity?

Skysurfing is definitely able to gain more visibility through social media and video vs how it was back in the day that they didn’t have social media and GoPro everywhere. It's easier to gain exposure these days and to gain popularity. We probably need competitions to come back for skysurfing, so people will want to learn and have something to work towards as well as well known skydivers to give it a shot. When people see them on a board, it will be the next big thing again!

What are some of the biggest challenges facing the skysurfing community today?

The biggest challenges facing the skysurfing community is probably the common misconceptions surrounding skysurfing and trying to change to popular opinion that skysurfing isn’t this unattainable discipline that everyone spins to their death! A lot of the skysurfing OGs are still around and waiting for SkySurfing to make it come back!

Can you talk about a time when you faced a significant setback or injury while skysurfing and how you overcame it?

Knock on wood, I haven’t had any significant injuries skysurfing, and I’m 100 jumps into skysurfing.

How do you balance the thrill of the sport with the risks involved?

Well, skydiving is already inherently dangerous, so in my head as long as I do my gear check’s properly and I’m in the right state of mind the thrill is completely worth it. If you’re not feeling it at the moment it's better to just sit on the ground till you’re ready. SkySurfing gives me a sense of accomplishment and self confidence.

What role do competitions play in the skysurfing world, and have you participated in any?

There are currently no competitions that include skysurfing at the moment. We have a few things in the works, so keep your eyes and ears open for what’s coming!

How do you see the future of skysurfing evolving in terms of technology and techniques?

I think this second wave of skysurfing is going to bring a lot of new innovations into skysurfing from the boards (Batman style board the has wings to carve clouds) we use to moves and flying abilities. We have a lot more tunnel flyers and free flyers today compared to back in the day. So I’m excited to see what my fellow flyers will do to push the envelope!

Are there any particular locations around the world that are ideal for skysurfing, and why?

Skydive city Zephyrhills, Florida, is currently the skysurfing capital of the world. I believe we have had more skysurfers visit zhills and more SkySurf jumps in the past year then anywhere else! Plus they understand skysurfing and loading order and we have a sweet swoop pond to skim the boards across, as well as nicely kept grass for some smooth landings.

Can you discuss the sense of community among skysurfers?

Currently the community of skysurfing is building steadily. I have created a group chat forum for skysurfers around the globe of new skysurfers, and some original skysurfers from the 90s to discuss skysurfing and to pass information to one another, to work as a team, to help each other improve, and to pass ideas around. It's been pretty awesome to have them all in one place to communicate!

What personal goals do you have within the sport of skysurfing?

Some of my own personal goals in skysurfing is to be able to shred angles on a board and to shed light on SkySurfing by sharing my passion with others! Lunatic Fringe Podcast and social media have been a huge help to reach people in skydiving. I’ve had multiple people message me wanting to learn how to skysurf and where they can find a board, and that’s where I connect them with KeBe!

How can enthusiasts and newcomers alike get involved and support the growth of skysurfing?

Keep an open mind, be willing to learn and accept something that may seem new! Skysurfing has been around for a while, so embrace the tradition of skysurfing and skydiving alike.

It's been awesome to be able to find my niche in skydiving and being able to add something to the community of skydivers. From debunking false misconceptions, to showing people that it’s possible to learn something that may seem out of the realm of a normal person. Also finding other people that are sharing the same passion as me! Following the crowd was never for me!

Exciting, huh?
So, are you ready to experience the thrill of sky-surfing? Check out the amazing design Tom Guns has envisioned and created in partnership with us, designed to elevate the skysurfing community.

Whether you’re an enthusiast or a newcomer, there’s no better time to get involved and support the growth of this incredible sport. Join us in spreading the excitement of skysurfing and take to the skies with confidence and style, and don’t forget to share some love with Tommy in his socials!

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