What happens when you turn the world’s deadliest sport into a competition? Welcome to the World Wingsuit League.
Outside's long reads email newsletter features our strongest writing, most ambitious reporting, and award-winning storytelling about the outdoors. Sign up today.
On October 12, BASE jumper Jeb Corliss and 15 other competitors will launch themselves off a 900-foot cliff in China’s Zhangjiajie National Forest Park. This is the inaugural event of the World Wingsuit League, a coalition of men and women who fly to the ground through an aerial obstacle course, popping their chutes only at the last possible moment. The jumpers will (1) launch from a cliffside, reaching speeds of 130 miles per hour. Then they’ll (2) snake around a platform and (3) duck beneath a wire, before finally landing about 2,600 feet below on a narrow road. Three judges will monitor the action, disqualifying pilots who veer off course. Whoever flies the fastest in the finals of the three-day, elimination-style tournament will get $20,000 from sponsors including—who else?—Red Bull China. WWL president Iiro Seppänen hopes a safe kickoff will lead to international TV contracts. Still, he says, “some of the appeal is in a certain black element you can’t control.”
1. THE LAUNCH
Pilots will jump one at a time from a wooden platform built into a limestone cliff, about 2,600 feet above the landing zone.
2. THE TURN
The crux comes 10 seconds into the flight, when athletes must turn nearly 90 degrees around a tennis-court-size platform.
3. THE FINALE
The most dangerous move is just before the landing, when wingsuiters must navigate through a triangle-shaped window bounded by a steel cable that spans a 600-foot-deep canyon. If they fly above the cable, they’ll be disqualified. If they strike it, they’ll be sliced in half.
The pilots will be fitted with helmet cams, and 16 HD cameras will be placed at the launch, turn, and finish.
Several ambulances will be located along the course, and three more will be stationed near the finish, along with 10 mountain-rescue rangers.