Ninety years ago this month, the cover of Popular Mechanics, May 1927, shows a sport that inexplicably never caught on: Balloon Jumping! As described in the magazine, a balloon of about 18 feet in diameter was attached to the jumper’s shoulders. In his pockets, he would carry lead weights. The balloon and ballast would be balanced so that the man’s net weight was about four pounds. Thus equipped, the jumper could leap to a height of about 40 feet and travel about a hundred yards. In favorable wind conditions, jumpers were known to travel over a quarter mile in one stride.
The balloon was filled with 3500 cubic feet of gas. In the event that the gas expanded in the hot sun, the balloon was fitted with a valve, allowing the jumper to vent excess gas, preventing uncontrollable lift.
After the jump was complete, the complete outfit could be packed into a large suitcase.
This video shows the sport in action, although it doesn’t look quite as graceful as depicted in the magazine: