When I first started skydiving, I thought for sure that I would want to try BASE jumping. What skydiver doesn’t? BASE jumping has become increasingly visible in just the last few years. It’s featured in all sorts of movies and commercials, not to mention all over youtube, for your viewing entertainment. Almost starts to look safe and accessible! Almost. Because it’s not at all safe or accessible. I’ve given BASE jumping a lot of thought for the past 6 years. I ultimately rationalize the choices I make based on risk vs. reward when it comes to my hobbies. Skydiving to me has relatively little risk with unbelievable amounts of reward. I feel much more in danger driving in a car than I do jumping out of aircraft. They do say driving to the drop zone is the most dangerous part of your skydive! I knew BASE jumping had very high risk, but how much reward?
I had the opportunity to find out for my birthday back in May. I took a first jump course in Twin Falls, ID from one of the best teachers in the sport. I like structure and lots of information, which is exactly what I received from the Snake River BASE Academy. When the time came for my first jump, I felt like I was on my very first tandem skydive again! Having no idea what to expect and pretty excited, but strangely not feeling fear or nervousness. Just like on my first tandem, I kept waiting for the fear to hit me and it never did. The Perrine Bridge is 486 feet high (that’s pretty high!), BASE jumping is legal year round, and the landing area is huge. Plus I had thought about it for many years, had around 450 skydives at that point, knew lots of BASE jumpers, and felt like I had learned enough from the course to make my very first jump. I felt as comfortable as you can possible be before jumping off a bridge.
And then I jumped!
How cute is this beer from a local brewery? It’s called the Knutkase!
I’ve always loved the feeling of falling, so it wasn’t a surprise that I LOVED LOVED LOVED the falling part in BASE jumping. I always feel so free when I am falling and I find the feeling in your stomach to be very pleasant! Unlike bungee jumping where the bungee softly stretches out to stop you and takes you bouncing again, you are VERY abruptly stopped by a VERY fast opening parachute. Ouch. I think it opens in like a hundred feet? (In comparison, my skydiving canopy takes about 1000 feet to flutter open.) Then you get to fly a huge canopy to landing, that part was of course pretty familiar. I can detect a slight bit of adrenaline, but for the most part it’s all about the falling for me. So are the very real risks of death, serious injury, and arrest worth the few seconds of falling??
I’m still trying to decide what role BASE jumping will play in my life. I made a return trip to the Perrine Bridge and also jumped from a 250′ antenna/power tower at home last month. I finally felt pretty nervous on the antenna jump. The climbing part was fine. The slowly putting myself into place on the exit point with nothing to hold on to and lots of bars to hit if I lost my balance and fell to my death part? Not so fine. But again, once I committed to go, I felt totally in control and very much free. It feels like a (very short) escape from reality and I like that.
I don’t think 19 jumps from just two objects is really enough for me to know anything. I’m going to give myself a jump from a building and a jump from a cliff to decide. Maybe I’ll retire after I get my BASE number. I understand that there are many ways to minimize the risk involved, which is the only way I would even consider keeping this as a hobby. But that’s probably like trying to keep blackberry bushes pruned back or keeping an elephant in a toddler playpen. I would only jump easy objects?? Except I would crave more challenge after a while, which could end really badly. So who knows. I’m sure my mother (who is probably reading this) would really appreciate it if I never ever jumped again.
I look pretty good in THE CHEETAH though!