Is Skydiving the Most Extreme Sport?

Monday, July 31, 2023

The act of jumping out of an airplane is well known for its adrenaline-pumping, daredevil antics, but officially, is skydiving an extreme sport? You might even be wondering, is skydiving a sport at all? 

The Cambridge Dictionary defines extreme sports as those that are very dangerous and exciting, for example, skydiving and bungee jumping. Well, since it’s right there in the definition, skydiving must be an extreme sport!

Extreme sports are known for being risky and, well, extreme. So how does skydiving measure up to all the other extreme sports out there? Let’s break it down! 

What is an Extreme Sport?


We all know that activities like golf or basketball definitely qualify as sports. We also know that they’re missing a certain verve that comes with extreme sports. So, beyond the official definition, what makes a sport extreme?

Extreme sports are all about the inherent risk involved and the way they make the participant feel. Adrenaline is the common denominator between all extreme sports, and it’s also what makes these sports so appealing. 

Sure, taking a three point stance on the goal line with five seconds left in the fourth quarter comes with its fair share of adrenaline. All the best athletes harness adrenaline and channel it into success! But it doesn’t compare to the blood-pumping excitement of pushing the limits of what’s humanly possible.

And skydiving isn’t the only way to enjoy extreme sports. Land lovers can participate, too! Surfing, mountain biking, and snowboarding are all extreme sports for different interests. There’s even something called extreme ironing, which is exactly what it sounds like! 

Dispelling the Myth of Skydiving as the Most Extreme Sport

learn how to skydive

Skydiving is often seen as the poster child of extreme sports (see above definition). As a famous bucket list item, action movie cliche, and inspirational quote graphic, skydiving gets its share of attention. 

But does it really deserve to be seen as the king of risky endeavors? Let’s take a look at some other extreme sports and see where skydiving falls in the risk category. 

The extreme sport that’s probably the closest cousin to skydiving is BASE jumping. Skydiving and BASE jumping are often lumped into one category by outside observers, but they are actually quite different! For starters, BASE jumping involves leaping off of a fixed object, while skydiving is always from some type of aircraft. 

BASE jumping is also quite a bit more dangerous than skydiving. According to 2022 statistics from the United States Parachute Association, the fatality rate of skydiving is 1 in every 195,000 jumps. (Better for tandem skydiving which has seen an average of 1 student fatality per 500,000 jumps over the past 10 years.) The BASE community doesn’t track the total number of annual jumps made so figuring out the fatality rate of BASE jumping is tricky, but conservative estimates are 1 fatality per every 2,300 BASE jumps. Talk about extreme! 

How about a comparison that doesn’t involve flying through the air? SCUBA diving is one of the most common extreme sports, which would make it seem like one of the safest, right? Actually, SCUBA diving is also more dangerous than skydiving. The SCUBA diving fatality rate is 1 per 50,000 dives, which is nearly four times that of skydiving! 

All activities, extreme or not, come with a certain amount of risk. Extreme sports tend to involve more risk than other sports or hobbies, but even the risk associated with extreme sports varies from sport to sport. 

As it turns out, there are way more dangerous things you can do than go skydiving. Jumping out of an airplane is statistically less dangerous than driving in a car, which, I think we all can agree isn’t even supposed to be extreme. 

Unique Challenges & Skills in Skydiving

In the same way that every extreme sport has its own risk vs. reward, they each come with their own set of challenges. And often, the unique challenge is what draws athletes to that particular sport. 

The two main challenges in skydiving are time and altitude. Falling toward the earth at 120 mph (or faster) means that a skydiver only has so much time to enjoy the jump. This requires both extreme mental focus and technical physical ability to do safely. 

Experienced skydivers train hard to learn proper body position for a stable freefall. And that’s not all. Skydivers also need to know how to navigate their body and parachute in different wind conditions, and how to control their parachute in accordance with that navigation. That means learning several different techniques for all the phases of the jump. 

Skydiving also requires a calm, focused mind. Jumpers are literally racing against the clock from the moment they step out of the airplane, and they need to have the awareness and reaction time to handle anything that could happen during the skydive. Even a regular jump with no issues requires altitude awareness and quick thinking. Add an emergency situation, and now the mind has to be fully prepared and razor sharp. 

This timed aspect is what sets skydiving apart from many other extreme sports. Sure, there are some others that involve flying, but adding the rapidly-approaching ground is what makes skydiving the ultimate rush! 

Safety Measures & Professionalism in Skydiving

how to breathe while skydiving

As with any risky activity, certain safety measures are developed to try and mitigate that risk. We aren’t all devil-may-care people! Some of us only enjoy jumping out of airplanes because decades of research and development has made the sport as safe as possible. 

The main organization responsible for the rules and regulations that govern skydiving is the aforementioned United States Parachute Association. The USPA has been around since 1946, so you can bet that they’ve learned a thing or two about skydiving safety in that time. Of course, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has stringent rules and regulations that impact our industry too.

Everything in skydiving is governed by regulations from the airplanes we fly to the training we need to earn certifications. Instructors are required to go through a stringent certification process, and skydiving centers like Oklahoma Skydiving Center are expected to adhere to certain basic safety requirements. Each dropzone even has a Safety & Training Advisor who is the ultimate authority on all things safety! 

(But don’t go spreading all this around, we like upholding the super-cool daredevil reputation that people around the world have given us.)

Ready to get extreme? We can’t wait for you to jump with Oklahoma’s most experienced dropzone! Book your time in the sky today!

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