The Future of Indoor Skydiving

Ivars Beitans, CEO AERODIUM. April 12, 2022

The indoor skydiving industry has seen rapid growth in the last decade. The operators who were the first ten years ago enjoyed a demand that generated a good return on their investment, but today the industry is slowing down! A different approach is needed to bring the bodyflying to the masses. 

Strategy for the growth of indoor skydiving industry

Let’s look at a simple example – football (aka soccer in the USA). It’s the world’s most-played sport because it is free or very cheap to start – you only need a ball and a grass field to begin. The next level of players you can find in schools and small-town competitions. They already buy special gear and rent their local stadium. Then only a few best reach the level of professional football players where they can be well paid and sponsored.

If we want to grow the number of professionals, we need more beginners who can afford it (both money and time-wise). And one thing can not exist without the other: to have football stars, we have to have masses interested in this game; to have a mass sport, we have to have roles models who encourage young kids.

For skydiving to thrive (both as a sport and a business), it needs to be more accessible for kids and beginners. Because then the overall number of people who have tried it will grow, thus there will be more people who are training and eventually more pro flyers competing. 

By the way, Toms Īvāns started training on a “mini” tunnel – only 1.6 m (5.2 feet) in diameter. And six years later – he became World Champion in 2018 and won the solo Freestyle discipline at Freestyle Open Wind Games 2020 again. You can see his “From Chef To Champion” story here.

Strategy for growing indoor skydiving industry.

My suggestions for manufacturers

Manufacturers have to work on ways to reduce the costs of flying and improve safety. All manufacturers have to work together to minimise potential hazards and solve them proactively: 

  1. with passive safety measures – fool-proof technology that eliminates the possibility of any human error on the operator side and minimizes consequences of human error on the flyer’s side;
  2. with active safety measures – actively educating, training, and supervising the operator.

At the same time, manufacturers have to innovate in technologies to reduce overall costs – both fixed costs of building a tunnel and running costs of operating it. Lower expenses for operators will make flying accessible to more customers. And that will benefit all stakeholders.

I think manufacturers should pay more attention to the needs of operators – firstly, their costs, and secondly, their investment risk. Naturally, operators want to use a product that has proven itself, and they want the option of easy exit if the business fails. Every business needs an exit strategy.

For example, smaller tunnels are cheaper and therefore pay off sooner. Quick setup of portable units allows clients to test business. Shopping malls and resorts need tunnels with a smaller footprint, better modularity, and easier installation. Such tunnels will make their life easier and flying more affordable for end-users.

My suggestions for operators

Location, location, location! That’s the main lesson learned from operating an adventure business in Latvia. It is crucial to define who is your core customer (e.g. skydiving enthusiasts, private parties, or tourists) and estimate if you have enough customers in the area to make the business viable. 

Make sure you approach a large audience – young, old, guys, girls etc. When I started Aerodium, I made the mistake to target too narrowly. The communication featured a skull and stressed the adrenaline of flying – as a result, all the clients I got were extreme-thrill-seeking guys, which is just a fraction of clients we are seeing now. 

An early poster from Aerodium Sigulda in Latvia.

My view on indoor skydiving sport 

Every professional sport starts in childhood. This principle applies to any sport, including the discipline of body flying. For example, Aerodium in Latvia cooperates with the local municipality to organize “Young Flyers School”. And we see that this subsidized flying time creates recurring customers. Imagine what is possible when indoor skydiving becomes an official Olympic sport and governments start subsidizing it!

For experienced and ambitious flyers, we recommend flying in different tunnels – it will enrich your experience and hone your skills because flying experience in every tunnel is different.

Skydiving competitions are perfect events for meeting fellow enthusiasts to challenge and inspire each other. However, competitions could be made more viewable for wider audiences. People would be able to understand what is going on if there were fewer disciplines and more defined rules. Furthermore, a shorter duration of the competition would retain the attention of spectators.

Of course, everyone in the sport will benefit from increased visibility. We should strive to create more impressive flying competitions. By the way, our industry has an advantage here – bodyflying looks impressive. For example, scuba diving might never become an Olympic sport because it’s not so easy to be a spectator.

Conclusion

I feel that there is a long way to reach wide popularity (and Olympics), but I am inspired – indoor skydiving is uniting many enthusiastic, passionate, and intelligent people. We are sure our favourite sport will grow and prosper in the future!