A Sport Is Born

One of the most legendary skydivers of all times, the American Lew Sanborn, commented on one of our recent Facebook posts about the name "indoor skydiving." And whenever the holder of the first D-License issued in the United States speaks up, people tend to listen. More comments came almost instantly.


Lew Sanborn, D-1

Lew Sanborn's comment read:

"Let's call it indoor body flying. It is not skydiving: no plane, no parachute and no serious danger. What do YOU think?"

Other comments were added almost instantly, one of them by 4-Way World Champion Andy Gerber:

"I say we call it whatever D-1 wants us to call it!"

While I don't want to preempt the discussion on what will be one of the topics addressed during Indoor Skydiving 2020 | 1st Global Summit by FAI – under the working title "Name of the Game" – I would point out that after all it took to establish "skydiving" in popular language as well as in the dictionaries, we may as well take advantage of it. Now that even the FAI Parachuting Commission is about to be renamed "Skydiving Commission!"


Has a new (and different) sport been born with "indoor skydiving" or is it simply a #VariationOfTheSameGame? What are the consequences of a relatively small community being fractioned into even smaller groups by purists possibly making too many distinctions?


All of this will be subject to debate during the summit, with expert input provided by panelists coming from similar outdoor sports that have developed indoor events in the more recent past. Two of these sports will feature in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics: climbing and surfing!


A Sport Is Born


I did this piece on Lew Sanborn's movie for another publication. But to those who don't know Lew, it gives an excellent idea of his impact on skydiving.

“A Sport Is Born” is the title of an acclaimed film that was produced between Paramount Pictures and the magazine Sports Illustrated in July 1960. It was directed by Leslie Winik, a specialist with a long pedigree in sports: boxing at the Madison Square Garden, New York Giants football, New York Knicks basketball, etc. What made his 12-minute short an instant success with the audience – it was released in October 1960 and played at theaters across the United States – was its topic, SKYDIVING, as well as never seen before footage shot air-to air-by Lew Sanborn.


The “Leaping Legend Lew” or “D-1,” as he is known in the community of what has long become an established sport, was not only among the first skydiving entrepreneurs in all of the Americas, he was also one of the world’s first free fall cameraman, definitely the first whose images made it onto the big screen in a major studio production.


Together with a handful of other pioneers, Lew had opened up the first commercial drop zone in the U.S. (Parachute Incorporated in Orange, Massachusetts) in 1959. Training the public at large – from legal adulthood to the age of declining physical fitness – in the emerging sport was suddenly a viable proposition. After all, Lew and his colleagues had come up with the syllabus for first jump courses to be taught in a single day – and with a progression system that led fledgling skydivers through different levels to expert status, the D-License. “A Sport Is Born” tells the story of these men.


Some 60 years later and at the age of 89, D-1 is still at it, leaping out of a perfectly good airplane every chance he gets. He has made close to 8,000 jumps so far and plans to continue as long as possible. It’s an addiction! is how Lew describes what keeps him in the air. About the only accolade he didn’t receive in what is one of the most distinguished careers in skydiving is the Academy Award for which “A Sport Is Born” was nominated 1961 as Best Live Action Short Film.



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