Wingsuiting: A New Professional Sport

Wingsuiting, the act of jumping off cliffs, out of airplanes, from hot-air balloons, or any other high-elevation apparatus, to then take flight via a flying squirrel suit, is about to become a professional sport. Jeb Corliss, perhaps the sport’s most recognized madman, wants to bring some organization and money to it. It’s about time.

The first competition of the newly formed “World Wingsuit League” is set to take place in mid-October near the Hunan, China, city of Zhangjiajie at a launch point called the Dragon Wall. Competitors will jump off the cliff and navigate a mind numbing serious of bends, rock outcrops and cable cars as they drop 2,700 feet on a course expected to take between 30-40 seconds to complete. It’s an elimination style competition over three days, with 16 athletes taking flight on the first day, 10 on the second, and six to begin the third day before it all comes down to one victor in the end. According to an interview with Outside’s Joe Spring, Corliss says pilots are judged based on their end-time, and the prize money for winners will be “significant.” It’ll be the first time these athletes stand to actually make a living off of their sport.

Check out this video to see Corliss flying the Dragon Wall in China:

Only five months ago Corliss was jumping in South Africa when he smashed against a Table Mountain cliff at 100 miles per hour. He got busted up and broken – he’s been rehabbing ever since – but somehow managed to open his chute and “safely” make it to the ground. The competition calls into question the sport’s inherent danger, where not only will people be wingsuiting, but doing so in the high-stress context of competition in a race. Then again, these people are professionals, so they must know what they’re doing… Whatever happens, it’ll be a wild event, so keep your eyes peeled around early-October for updates. For full details on what to expect, check out Outside’s conversation with Corliss, who speaks on the race format, risk, and what he hopes comes from the event.

By Bryan Schatz