To outside onlookers, BASE jumping may seem like a simple sport for ballsier-than-most thrill-seekers. It can take you to some amazing places, that's for sure – and combined with a wingsuit, it's the closest thing to human flight there is.
What you don't see is the calculation and planning that goes into chucking yourself off something that's at least six seconds above the ground.
Six seconds above the ground? What the heck does that mean?
One of the world's most seasoned BASE jumpers, Miles Daisher, steps in to explain. “The simplest way to measure a BASE jump is to drop a large rock off the exit,” says Daisher. “It's the old fashioned way of doing it, but six seconds means you can jump, throw the chute, grab the controls and land.”
Of course, there are more modern (and precise) ways of doing things. You can use an altimeter to determine the altitudes of the LZ (landing zone) and the exit point, and use simple arithmetic. Or you can use a laser range finder, like in the picture below.
But height isn't the only concern – “Winds play a big role in the safety of your jump. I usually spit or throw grass or pieces of paper to see what the winds are doing from jump to opening height,” says Daisher. “Wind socks or flags are great for reading ground winds, so you know which way to approach your landing.”
And you can't forget about the landing. “You WILL land somewhere,” says Daisher. “Best to have a nice place to set down. Most low BASE jumps have super-tight landing areas, and require skill to fly into. When I scout jumps, the main things to look for are height and a good place to open your parachute. An overhanging exit point that will put you out of the way of any structures is better. Then you'll need a good landing area and a clear path to fly into it. A good landing area is free of obstructions or at least lets you come in clean and has a little wiggle room for overshooting!”
Cedric Dumont has done BASE jumps from as low as 34m – just over 100 feet. What made it doable? “The landing was big and straight ahead, so it was safe to do!” says Dumont.
Finally, it's important to be ready not to jump. Says Daisher: “If I can't visualize the jump all the way through to the landing, or I have a weird feeling in my gut that I can't control, then I'll step back and not jump.” And above all? Keep your eyes open – “Vision is the biggest sense that BASE jumpers use!”
Get your fill of BASE on our Facebook page.