When planning new Scout activities, the first question to ask yourself is: In what official BSA publication is this activity listed? If the answer is “it isn’t,” then it might be time to look in another direction.
Having said that, the official BSA handbooks and other materials have evolved over the years. That’s because it’s essential for the BSA to continue to appeal to each new generation of youth.
After all, words like “GPS” and “smartphone” were not in there from the beginning.
You can imagine Scout leaders in the mid-1990s going, “I understand why we use a map and compass, but at the same time, my Scouts are really interested in this brand-new GPS thing. Why not use it, too?”
Something similar has happened with an activity called indoor bodyflight.
According to a recent alert from the BSA’s health and safety team, requests from units who’d like to try out this activity have increased in the past few years. Some leaders even see value in it as a STEM program.
So is indoor bodyflight an authorized Scouting activity? Well, the answer is complicated.
Indoor Bodyflight Defined
First things first: Skydiving and parachuting remain unauthorized and restricted by the BSA. There is no wiggle room on these.
Indoor bodyflight — basically skydiving in a giant indoor vertical wind tunnel — is different.
These wind tunnels simulate a free fall from an airplane by generating an airflow of up to 165 miles per hour. Once you get the hang of it, you can basically float in mid-air. After a lot of practice, you can learn to rise and dip and flip and do all kinds of other tricks.
I’ve tried it, and, yes, it’s really, really windy. It’s also pretty darn fun.
Under the guide of an instructor, first-time bodyflight-ers will wobble and wiggle like crazy before eventually settling in. Imagine trying to keep your balance while lying down on a two-by-four. It’s kind of like that. You have to find your center of gravity and learn exactly how to hold your arms out to stay “afloat.”
What You Need to Know
If you’re thinking of taking Scouts on an indoor bodyflight outing, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Make sure the facility is listed in the International Bodyflight Association directory.
- Confirm the instructors are qualified through the IBA program.
- Adhere to any restrictions the facility has in place.
- Wear eye protection and ear protection. (Trust me: You won’t argue this one once you get there.)
The IBA-approved facility we visited as a family allowed participants as young as 3, but keep in mind it takes a lot of patience to get the hang of it, much less master it. It isn’t the cheapest activity you can choose, either, so it’s up to do you decide if your Scouts will get enough bang for their bucks.
With indoor bodyflight, as with all situations not specifically covered in the Guide to Safe Scouting, the BSA health and safety team advises that “activity planners should evaluate the risk or potential risk of harm, and respond with action plans based on common sense, community standards, the Boy Scout motto, and safety policies and practices commonly prescribed for the activity by experienced providers and practitioners.”