When you look at it, it may not look like much: A clear, circular tube with a metal mesh at the bottom and a little control room clinging to the side. When we first saw a tunnel, we weren’t sure what to think, either. Sure, we’d heard from other skydivers that it was pretty amazing in there–but seriously?
We gave it a go anyway, of course. Our first attempts proved those other jumpers right, and it wasn’t long before we were truly, madly, deeply wrapped up in the artistic and athletic pursuit of bodyflight. It makes us stronger, more agile, more precise skydivers.
But that, my friends, is far from all the tunnel does. Some of the most startling growth we’ve seen hasn’t been in skydivers. It’s been in kids.
The history of kids in the wind tunnel is a pretty straightforward one. Since the age of entry for the wind tunnel is 3, lots of tunnel-obsessed skydiving moms and dads started to bring their kids in for some quality family time. What they discovered is that the “windytube” is an optimal learning environment for even tiny children and that kids reap enormous benefits from their experiences there. Here’s what they’ve found out:
Practicing the details of proprioception (the sense of the relative position of neighboring parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement) is pure gold for young children. The wind tunnel strengthens these skills in a uniquely thorough way, providing a 3D environment for kids to dial in their body position and help their young neural connections grow in an unprecedentedly robust kinda way.
Sitting on the couch has nothing on playing in the ‘tube’ with your family, friends, and coaches. It’s active, connective and physically engaging, and kids love it! We’ve even noticed that kids would usually rather watch other people flying than break out their phones between sessions. Cool, huh?
Safety is important to parents–as it should be. Happily, flying in the tunnel is just as active but a heck of a lot safer than, say, dirt biking, football, or even climbing trees. (Though we won’t begrudge our kids some tree-climbing.) Suffice it to say: it’s pretty hard to scuff a knee in the wind tunnel.
You’ll notice a focus on safety when you visit the wind tunnel. You’ll see that everyone in the tunnel wears a helmet; that lots of people, both young and not-so-young, wear knee and elbow pads; that there’s a tradition of careful communication between the people in the tunnel and the people in the control room; that there are emergency shutoff switches and fail safes. It’s obvious: tunnel technology supports safe bodyflight (and unstressed parents!).
Nothing expands a kid’s horizons like preparing for and executing a competitive performance. Make no mistake, though–this is nothing like the piano recitals of our youth, nor is it a soccer match. It is highly individual, requires exquisite focus, and is loads of fun for the whole family.
Check out Maja Kuczynska, for instance: by the time she was 16, she was winning international competitions.
The junior leagues of the tunnel competitions we host at Paraclete XP just keep getting more amazing, and the next generation of competitive flyers are earning their wings in our Youth League. We can’t wait to see what they come up with.
All that proprioceptive processing is a workout for the young mind as well as the young body. We’d love to know just how many connections are built in each individual tunnel session because we’re constantly amazed by the rapid development of the kids who start flying with us. Over the passing months and years–across the board–they gain an impressive amount of poise. They sleep better; they demonstrate confidence with their peers and within the classroom environment; they blossom.
Want to expand your kid’s horizons? Get them into a glass tube. You’ll be amazed at the result.
The entire staff is extraordinarily professional and gracious. They are extremely safety conscious while at the same time giving everyone as much freedom as they can safely manage. A rare combination. While we (adults) were there, our instructor also suited up and trained a 2-year-old boy and a three-year-old girl.