jumping is without a doubt my favorite sport in the world. If I had to give up
all other activities and keep only one, it would be BASE. The feeling you get
when you leap off of a stationary object is like nothing else in the world.
Nothing. You are jumping into dead space, with absolutely no noise or wind
resistance. Since the jump starts from a standstill, you experience the full
effect of acceleration toward terminal velocity. This is entirely different from
jumping out of a noisy airplane that already has velocity and is creating wind
resistance. Don't get me wrong. Jumping out of an airplane still feels
incredible, but just cannot touch a fixed object exit.
BASE stands for four different types of objects: Building,
Antenna, Span, or Earth. Span is just a nifty word for bridge or cable car. I
have by far most of my jumps off of cliffs (Earth), followed by
bridges, and only a handful of jumps off of buildings and antennas. I
don't particularly like antennas (AM/FM towers) only because of the harmful radiation effect
and voltage zaps you get from climbing around on them.
Buildings are a lot of fun, but typically illegal. So you have to sneak into them during the wee hours of the night, with a getaway car and driver waiting. This certainly adds to the excitement, but I am not much into sneaking around in the middle of the night anymore. Cliff jumps are my favorite because you have to hike your ass off
and you get to hang out in beautiful places.
BASE jumping is extremely dangerous, and not for the faint
at heart. The gear only holds one parachute (which is usually all you would have
time for anyway), so if you get a malfunction, there is no backup, and you are
toast. For this reason, BASE rigs are packed very carefully, which takes a bit
of time. I actually hate how long it takes, but I never rush it. I can
shove my skydiving parachute in the pack in less than five minutes and not give
a crap what it looks like, but a 30 minute BASE pack job with one weird element
can bug the hell out of me. That is part of the rush I guess. There is just no
time to deal with problems on BASE jumps. They are typically done below 800
feet, and very often in the 200 - 500 foot range. To give you some perspective
on this, skydivers pull at around 2500 feet to give them time to deal with a
malfunction. Another major factor in BASE jumping is that very often there is a
wall of some sort behind you (natural or man-made). So if your parachute doesn't
open on heading, you can get flung around and hit whatever is behind you, which
could be disastrous.
The first few years I was in the sport, my primary focus was on aerial maneuvers. These can be hairy in BASE because you need to be
in a good body position to open your parachute correctly. Flips and spins don't
help this cause. My first flip (a back gainer) scared the hell out of me but
came out good. I wanted to keep pushing it. I started doing doubles and triples,
and finally a quadruple. It is a timing thing. You just need to count your flips
and start your parachute deployment at exactly the right time. Sometimes this
can get confusing at night or off of a strange object. You also need to be
consistent on your flip rotation speed so that you know how many flips you can
pull off in a given altitude. Then you start adding twists to really get your
hair standing on end. The best I could ever do was a front flip to a half twist front to a back flip, in ugly form. There is some really cool name for this but I have no clue what it is.
In 2000 I was one of the first of a small group of BASE jumpers to use a wingsuit in the sport. The suits were small back then and it was all about trying to fly as far away from the cliff as possible. Every year the suits got bigger and we could fly further, competing against one another for distance. Around 2005 the focus shifted toward "proximity flying", which is flying as close as possible to the terrain. This is also the same time period that Youtube came into existence, so no need to explain any more on this subject...you have already seen it.
A couple of awesome BASE objects: The
KL Tower and The Cave of the Swallows.
Large BASE Photos