In the long history of ski jumping, there were many different techniques to reach the longest possible jump.
At the end of the 18th century, ski jumping evolved from the alpine downhill in the Norwegian province Telemark. At the beginning, snowhills, snow-covered woodpiles and barn-roofs were used to jump over. The so-called Optrakke-style was used at this time. In the inrun, the knees and the upper part of the body are slightly bent forward. Just before reaching the take-off, the upper part of the body is straightened up and catapults in the air. During the jumping phase, the jumpers pulled their feet close to their body to make the jumps look higher. With this style, 10-20 meter long jumps could be achieved. The first verifiable measured jump took place in 1808. Leutnant Olaf Rye made a jump of 9.5 meters over a man-made snowhill. 1860 Sondre Auverson Nordheim from the city Morgedahl/NOR reached a length of 30.5 meters.
Throughout the years, they noticed that the pressure while landing is much weaker when landing on an oblique hill. That's why the landing zone has been moved from the plain to the slope. With that the jumping style also changed and the sta-rak-style (sta-rak = upstanding) has developed. The jumper is in a completely straight position while in the flight phase. It looked more elegant and brought more style-score-points, which were more important than the points for the length of the jump at that time. Only the movement of the arms of the Optrakke-style stayed the same and was used to stay in balance. 1883 Torju Torjussen introduced the telemark-landing and until today this landing-style gets high style-score-points. Because of the higher style-score-points, a new style, the Truppe-ned-style (top low), was developed. The skis were parallel to the hill, that means the tops of the skis point downwards, that's were the style got it's name from. This jumping-style didn't stand the test, because the jumpers lost their speed because of the high air resistance, and with that, they also lost length in their jumps.
At the end of the 19th century, many Norwegian ski jumpers emigrated to the United States, because they could earn money with ski jumping there. On the contrary to Norway, in the USA the jumping length was everything that counted. The audience only wanted to see spectacular and long jumps. The size of the jumping hills increased, which led to longer jumps and a higher speed in the inrun and more air resistance afterwards. That's why the jumping-style was changed again. 1912 the stretch-forward-style established itself, where the jumper stretched his upper body forward. The air resistance was as low as possible and the jumper could gain speed. At the Olympics 1924 in Chamonix, the Norwegian Tullin Thams came out on top with that style.
The stretch-forward-style existed in different versions. Birger Ruud, one of the best jumpers his time, jumped the Königsberger-style. The specialty of this technique was the extreme hip bend. Also the Austrian Sepp Bradl developed his own version of the stretch-forward style. Other than the usual, he didn't paddle with his arms, but he stretched them forward. With this technique he reached the 100-meter-mark in Planica 1936.
In 1926, the earlier ski jumpers and the Swiss engineer Straumann and his collegue Andreas Dächer discovered that the air is a supporting factor while flying. They detected that putting the arms close to the body is much more aerodynamic and you could bring longer jumps. His theory was realized in a practical way 20 years later. In the forties, he developed his theoretical jumping style with some jumpers. The technique varied in how much the body was bent forward and sometimes it changed over to an almost fully stretched flying position. Also the jumpers held their arms close to their body and they used them as some kind of paddle to maneuver in the air. This techniques was first called the Danish-style, but later on, because of the posture, it was also called fish-style or drip-style. The jumping style developed by Dächer and Straumann had its break through in the fifties. A further name for this style of jumping was Finnish-style, because this jumping-style became really important for the young Finns, and they won a lot of competitions with that technique.
The “arms-stretched-technique”, that was favoured by many jumpers, was a competitive alternative to the established “fish-style” until the seventies. At the end of the eighties with the development of the V-style, the fish-style got called parallel-style because the skis were held parallel to each other.
In 1984, the Swede Jan Boklöv revolutionized the sport with the invention of the V-style. The strange thing about it was that he only wanted to make a forced landing. At a training jump he couldn't stay in balance and he split his skis to make a forced landing but Boklöv didn't fall. He felt a supporting air pad below him. He saw the chance that this jumping style could get him on top. 1986 and 1987 Boklöv won the Swedish championships. But he couldn't cause a sensation in the whole ski jumping sport. The stunning length of his jumps didn't get him far because he got bad style-score-points because of his style. His jumping style was smiled at, and they called it frog-style or Boklöv-shears. In the season 1988/89 he finally made a break through with his new style and he could win five World Cups and the overall ranking. The Swede benefited from a rule change, that said the V-style could only get one point less as a “punishment”. Already in the next season the first jumpers tried to change over to the new style. Nevertheless, there were still some discussions because they still got less style-score-points.
Already at the beginning of the eighties, the Canadian Steve Collins jumped an “inverse” V-style. Despite the high drain of points he became Junior World Champion 1980. On March 9th, 1980, he was able to win on the big hill in Lahti, just before his 16th birthday and with that he is the youngest winner of a World Cup ever. In addition to that victory he also finished two times on third place and he reached 18 top ten placements. His last World Cup competition was in December 1991.
The change to the V-style brought many difficulties for most of the jumpers. Because of the changes, some successful jumpers couldn't jump as well as they did before and they faded away from the winners lists. All in all, there are about 8 jumpers who could win with both techniques. Among them are Ernst Vettori, Jens Weißflog, Dieter Thoma, Roberto Cecon, Andreas Felder, Heinz Kuttin, Stefan Horngacher and Ari-Pekka Nikkola.
With the development of the V-style, the hills needed to be changed completely. The jumpers flew about 4 meters over the hill and clearly longer with the new style. Furthermore the flight path was adjusted by reducing the tilt of the inrun and the profile of the landing zone changed to reduce the pressure when landing.