The indoor skydiving contest, the Wind Games, is unlike anything else – there aren’t many world championship events held in a small vertical tunnel. In 2017, the competition’s shining light is a 14-year-old girl from Singapore, Kyra Poh.
For the uninitiated, the Wind Games sees contestants compete in a number of different rounds inside a wind tunnel facility in Catalonia, Spain.
Teenager Kyra Poh was named 2017’s ‘world’s fastest flyer’ after winning gold medals in the solo speed and the freestyle categories. In the tunnel, competitors must perform flips, turns and routines while controlling their height in wind speeds that can reach 230km/h and relentlessly try to push them through the roof. Done properly, it appears as though competitors are floating effortlessly, when in reality every move requires immense strength, technique and concentration.
There were 200 indoor skydivers in Spain for the 2017 competition, with Poh not only one of the few women competing, but also taking part in her first major event against adults.
Wind tunnel facilities have developed thanks to consistently evolving technology that harnesses four high-power turbines so that a continuous adjustable vertical air flow is generated. This allows anyone to recreate the feeling of freefall in a safe space.
Horizontal wind tunnels have existed since the late 18th century. They were used in aerodynamics and for automotive advancement and took on particular importance during the Second World War as warring air forces constantly looked for advantages over their enemies.
To improve bomb, helicopter and aeroplane design and, more recently, parachute training, vertical tunnels were later created. These generate air flow so that it is directed upward through the chamber. As a result, any object – or person, as in this instance – can remain static in the tunnel by balancing the velocity of the air flow coming from underneath with gravity by adjusting their body shape, and as a result, their resistance.
The Wind Games includes a number of different event categories, with solo freestyle joined by freestyle two-way, speed solo and four-way dynamic, among others. In the solo speed category, competitors must complete a routine in the fastest time possible, whereas in freestyle, competitors are graded on their choreography and the difficulty of the moves performed in their routine. The four way dynamic event is a beautiful discipline that combines great teamwork and amazingly precise flying skills – the type you see done by skydive teams in midair.