Imagine wakeboarding, only instead of a boat you’re getting towed through the clouds by an airplane.
That’s wingboarding in a nutshell, and aviation buff Aaron “Wyp” Wypyszynski is well on his way to making this extreme sport real.
When he isn’t working as a flight test engineer in Huntsville, Ala., Wyp is developing and testing WingBoards — a wakeboard-like wing that can provide enough lift for a human to surf through the sky. Except the tow cord would attach to the rider’s body harness, enabling wild maneuvers at up to 170 miles per hour.
“There’s no reason why someone shouldn’t have done this already,” he told Outside Magazine.
Although the setup sounds like an insurance nightmare, Wyp wants this to be no riskier than skydiving. Both the WingBoard and the rider will have parachutes, and the board will be equipped with landing gear for rolling takeoffs. He has plans for automated tow and binding releases to minimize any chance of entanglement.
Wingboarding isn’t quite to the manned prototype phase yet, but Wyp did a successful demo flight last month using a plastic 31-inch-tall fully articulated rider. The 3D-printed model, known as James, was towed by a tiny Bill Hempel Decathlon plane. He has his own working parachute and even did several barrel rolls.
The video is awesome and also kind of funny:
The Wyp Aviation site says it’s about “making the impossible fly.” After seeing how much progress the guy has made with test flights, I can easily imagine humans riding full-scale WingBoards. He envisions wingboarding becoming a regular activity at airshows and resorts.
But who on earth is actually going to do this high-flying sport? Well, surfing behind a plane would appeal to daredevil wingsuit fliers and skydivers who want to do more than fall with a board. These Arizona flight school instructors also spring to mind. And they’ve already got backup parachutes at the ready.