The sport of skydiving is literally in Andy Farrington’s blood. The extreme sports athlete and member of the Red Bull Air Force made his first jumps in utero while his mother was pregnant.
He didn’t officially start skydiving on his own until he was 16, and he’s made about 1,000 jumps every year since. Now 20 years later at age 36 that amounts to 20,000 total jumps.
The longest he’s ever been without jumping out of an airplane or off a cliff has been no more than two weeks.
“It’s not necessarily a fix, but obviously just like with anything you enjoy a lot, you don’t want to go without it if you can help it,” Farrington told LiveOutdoors from his home in Shelton, Washington where his family runs a skydiving school called Kapowsin Air Sports. He along with his parents, sister, wife and cousins are all involved.
Founded by his grandfather after World War II as a skydiving club outside Olympia, his parents turned it into a full flung business in the late 1970s. As the sport evolved and gained popularity, so did the business and Farrington took full advantage of that.
He is now at the top of a sport that’s constantly pushing the limits of what’s possible when it comes to the human body both physically and mentally. Delivering heart-stopping videos to the masses, Farrington is at home soaring at speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour with nothing more than a pair of goggles and a helmet for protection.
He and other elite athletes in the Red Bull Air Force are preparing for a monumental flight later this year in what’s known as XRW formation. The team will converge in Moab, Utah after Thanksgiving with wingsuits and high performance parachutes in formation as a stunt pilot performs aerobatics around them.
The group will fly like this together past a cliff where a BASE jumper plans to leap off simultaneously. It sounds complicated, but to hear Farrington explain it, the feat sounds like just another day at the office.
“It should be pretty cool,” he said.
Along with jumping out of airplanes, Farrington also jumps off cliffs and performs stunts in Hollywood movies such as Godzilla, Transformers 3 and Iron Man 3. This year he won the Red Bull Aces wingsuit slalom competition for the second year in a row.
Last year he starred in The Unrideables: Alaska Range, a film featuring the sport of speedriding, which combines skiing and parachuting to conquer previously unrideable terrain.
He’s basically living every child’s dream, that is, if we all had guts made of iron. It’s quite an amazing resume for any athlete, let alone one that involves sports with such extreme dangers. And would you believe he’s never had an injury?
“Knock on wood, I’ve never sprained an ankle or anything,” he said.
We caught up with Andy on a day off for a quick phone interview. Here’s what he had to say:
Q: Do you feel like skydiving is in your blood?
Oh yea, definitely. I’ve been around it my entire life, so I’ve known pretty much nothing different than being at an airport and a skydiving center and being around airplanes. There’s nothing I would rather be doing.
Q: What was it like as a kid growing up in a family that ran a skydiving business?
Growing up I could pretty much do whatever I wanted. I could ride dirt bikes, sky dive and play sports. The only thing I couldn’t do was ride street bikes. That was the one thing where my parents laid the law down and said you’re not going to be riding around on a little tiny motorcycle with thousands of other people trying to kill you.
Q: Do you own a bike now?
Q: Do you think now your parents would trade the wingsuit for a motorcycle?
Not at all. (laughing)
Q: This year you won the Red Bull Aces wingsuit slalom competition for the second year in a row. How do you train for something like that?
The slalom course is definitely a little difficult to train for but you have an idea of what the glide ratios and the turns and the banks will be like. So when you’re jumping instead of jumping out and flying a straight line you’ll just kind of imagine turns and courses so you’re getting used to flying every different angle and glide ratios as you can imagine.
Q: What about close proximity flying where you get really close to the ground or a ledge? It looks really dangerous. Is that something you like to do also?
I don’t do a whole lot of it. But yea, it’s pretty dang fun.
Q: Is it really as dangerous as it looks?
As long as you understand glide ratios and take the correct steps to get to that spot. To say that it’s safe might be a little bit of an overstatement, but you can do it correct and safely. Let’s say you do jump one and you fly the line you want to fly kind of high and you scout it out. And you watch video and check Google Earth and all the tools you have available. And on the second jump you can get a little closer, and on the third jump you can get quite a bit closer. You use it like stepping stones. Normally after you’ve flown a particular line two or three times on the same day you should go do something else so you don’t get overly confident because it does get comfortable pretty fast and that can surprise a lot of people.
Q: Is that something that you watch out for, that you’re careful of, getting too comfortable?
Oh yea, you have to tame yourself and control your inner thoughts. Something can seem easy in ideal situations, but you are close to the terrain and many different objects so you have to check yourself and not be overly-confident and get careless.
Q: Is there a certain amount of fear that you want to have then?
Oh yea, it’s your body telling you to correct stuff.
Q: One of the coolest things we’ve seen you do is speedriding where you maneuver a parachute on skis? It looks like incredible fun but also really dangerous. Is that something you do often?
That’s the great thing about living here in Washington. I’ve been super busy skydiving all summer long and once December comes it flips a switch and we go up to the mountains and do a lot of speedriding and playing in the snow.
Q: So that’s something you do just for fun?
Fun, hobby, sport, you can call it my job.
To learn about Andy Farrington and his upcoming stunts visit RedBull.com
Photo credit: Balazs Gardi/Red Bull Content Pool