First we made indoor rock-climbing walls so that extreme climbers could hone their skills before tackling real cliff faces, then we took to the mountains and created man-made slopes with smoother bends and steeper descents to test our extreme snowboarders and skiers - Kelly Slater even claims to have created the perfect wave-pool for surfers to practice their craft. Now though, we have gone even a step further with indoor skydiving the latest man-made extreme sport sweeping the globe.
Originally developed to allow experienced skydivers to train, whatever the weather, indoor skydivings popularity has soared over the past few years and is now an adventure sport in its own right. iFLY Downunder is Australia's first indoor skydiving centre, and we took a look at their state-of-the-art centre in Penrith to see what it's all about.
iFLY has two indoor flying facilities that are now in Australia - the Penrith facility one of the largest of its kind in the world, and the other, slightly smaller tunnel on the Gold Coast. Full flying gear is required when entering the chamber, and despite still being firmly on the ground before hand, one can't help but get a little nervous whilst waiting. When you step into the chamber with your instructor, massive wind generators lift you effortlessly into flight - leaving you hovering a few metres above the ground. The correct flying technique takes a bit of getting used to at first and the practice is similar to learning how to float in water for the first time. However, once have mastered the basic levels of flight that's when the fun starts and you can learn to freefly on your back or even head first.
The highlight though is when your instructor signals to you with an upward pointing finger: If you agree, the instructor grabs a hold of you, the wind quickly becomes even more extreme and you are then both propelled to the very top of the chamber. You hover there for just long enough to gauge the full extent of your distance from the ground, before diving down again in a controlled free fall - I haven't been skydiving, but I imagine the sensation of that free fall is pretty damn close; it's a foreign yet exhilarating feeling and will leave you wanting more. The glass chamber and all-round viewing platform also means flights are fully visible to spectators, and the iFLY instructors occasionally demonstrate the full potential of the chambers - as seen below.
Whilst the iFLY's instructors flying style is something of envy, the sport of indoor skydiving is, admittedly, a little odd. The best way to describe the sport would be a mixture of skydiving, synchronised swimming and dancing. Check out this video of 2015 Wind Games Champion Inka Tiitto to get a better idea.
While the competition side of things may not be for everyone, if you're sick of mini-golf and looking for another recreational activity to fill your weekend, iFLY is definitely still worth checking out.