Wingsuit racing is easily one of the most badass sports to ever exist. These guys hit speeds of 200 MPH while soaring through the sky racing against each other with nothing but a wingsuit on. A WIRED magazine profile earlier this year detailed just how physically demanding the activity is:
The championships, hosted by the US Parachute Association, test competitors on three disciplines, each measured in a window between 3,000 and 2,000 meters of altitude: average speed, distance covered, and time spent aloft. Each flyer gets three jumps in each category, and is tracked via a GPS module on their helmet. They’re rated on a curve—whoever goes fastest, farthest, or stays in the window the longest gets a 100, everyone else a percentage of that—and scores are averaged to find an overall winner.
The three disciplines are related, but each has its own challenging aspect, Ridler says. Time’s about falling as slowly as possible; it’s “the most physically excruciating,” Ridler says, because it requires stretching out as far as possible in the wingsuit, to increase surface area. Distance is more than a function of how long you’re aloft, since going faster takes you farther. Speed’s about more than how fast you can Icarus your way back to Earth, because what matters is horizontal speed—so you need some distance to score well.
Competitors also need to account for the behavior of the wind, and hope there’s no rain, which Ridler compares to being sandblasted in the face. At least they don’t encounter any birds or bugs while flying at speed, since they pull their chute around 1,000 meters, above most critters’ range.
Go read the whole thing over at Wired. Check out some footage above from the recent Red Bull Aces wingsuit race above. And read about the former Navy SEAL who just set the record for the longest wingsuit jump of all time.