Aspiring BASE jumpers usually have to rack up 200 skydives to get the relevant experience of freefall and canopy control before leaping off a building, antenna, span, or chunk of earth.
Although adventurer Squash Falconer's work as a presenter on adventure TV programmes has seen her motorbiking off-road through Central America and climbing Himalayan peaks, BASE jumping had yet to make an appearance.
But during a scouting visit to Twin Falls, Idaho, where expert BASE jump instructor Daisher runs BASE courses over Snake River Canyon, her producer sprung the surprise news on her: that she was enrolled to do her first BASE jump.
The British adventure gal had nothing but a tandem parachute jump in her skydiving past, but Daisher agreed to provide tailored coaching for Falconer. Why? Not because of her unique name, but because of her canopy skills – she's an experienced paraglider who has flown from the summit of Mt Blanc, among other places.
“I have taught people without any canopy experience before,” says Miles Daisher. “ Usually you want someone who has 100 skydives so they know what to do with a wing over their head. Paragliders have those skills so Squash wasn't that bad off. Her challenge was the controls – you need to man-handle a BASE canopy compared to a paraglider!”
Squash, born Louise, picked up the nickname as a child, and you might think that with a name like that she'd have steered clear of hurling herself at the ground. But she was given an excellent coach in Miles Daisher. The Red Bull athlete has famously done more BASE jumps than anyone else, and has even developed 'skyaking'.
“I have friends that BASE jump, but I'd never felt called to try it,” admits Falconer. “It's difficult to say it's safe, but this place is a controlled environment with good conditions, so it's as safe as it can be.” she explains.
After a few hours of ground school, learning the muscle memory needed to leap off at a 45-degree angle, and the meticulous process for packing a BASE rig, she was lead across Perrine Bridge to do her first static line jump. Daisher would hold her drogue chute from the bridge resulting in two seconds of free-fall before her main canopy would deploy.
“He was talking to me all the time, as we walked, not letting my mind wander and keeping my thoughts on track. He's such an amazing guy but when it comes to jumping he's totally focused and that's really reassuring.”
“It really hit me when I had to climb over the bridge railings,” says Falconer. “I've been in some frightening situations, on mountains and paragliding. But nothing compares to how terrifying this was. Nothing.”
She describes the shock of the chute opening as the “nicest impact”, and over the following 10 days she went on to do a further nine jumps, developing skills each time. “Jumping put me in the most mentally heightened place that I've ever been. I felt intensely alive. It was hard but wickedly brilliant too.”
Daisher concurs – his rookie did well. “The joy was that she's a professional athlete. You don't need to explain every detail of every movement. She understands right away. Of course, it was still a little different – she's used to her paragliding wing with an 11:1 glide ratio, while a BASE rig glides at 3:1 – sort of like a controlled crash, comparatively!”
Falconer will be filming this current adventure travel series until March, and expects it to be on the screen soon afterwards.
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Learning to BASE jump too extreme? This article's author Andy Pag can take you on a tandem paragliding flight in Nepal.