Great Book of BASE is here! BASE jumping explained


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Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 22, 2011 - 05:53pm PT
Couple new videos from the Author of The Great Book of BASE

Not sure if you have to be a (retired) wingsuit base jumper to appreciate JUST HOW SICK THIS IS!!!

the Fet

Aug 31, 2011 - 02:38pm PT
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member

Topic Author's Reply - Aug 3, 2010 - 02:05pm PT
I actually wrote an essay on why i quite BASE jumping for the book. Ill check with the author/publisher to see if its ok for me to post it here in a few months once the initial sales push is over

Any progress on posting here? I'd like a nice reminder why I shouldn't get into BASE.
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 31, 2011 - 03:26pm PT
Found my essay! This is from the Great Book of BASE jumping

by Chris McNamara

I saw my first BASE jumper while hanging out 2000 feet up El Capitan on the unrelentingly steep ‘Dawn Wall’. After sunset, my partner and I were on our portaledges eating dinner. Suddenly, we were shocked to hear a freight train heading right at us. It was either that or a big falling rock was about to clean us off the wall and kill us. But as we looked up, we a saw not a freight train or a giant rock but a falling body—perfectly horizontal and perfectly composed. The body didn't make a "whishing" sound. Instead, there was a violent ripping noise as though the air was being torn apart. Before we knew it, the jumper had passed 30 feet away and was gone. We were terrified, gripping the edges of our portaledge with hands and feet. Then, once we realized we weren't going to die, we turned to each other and I said, "That’s the coolest thing I've ever seen!"

In the beginning, I had no intention of jumping. But my girlfriend did, and one night I went along and climbed a 500-foot power tower with her and her ‘mentor’ who was giving her a first jump. After that, it seemed so easy to start that I just had to do it. I didn't even have skydives, which is of course how you’re supposed to do it. Standing at the exit point, I half hoped we could both just back off because of the sketchiness of the entire situation. But then it was my turn, and if figured… Sh#t, everything is worth doing once. And it was. While physical time is finite, mental time is quite elastic. Those two seconds before my canopy opened lasted forever.

After making a few BASE jumps I was into the sport but not grabbed by it. The rewards didn't seem to outweigh the risks. Then, I saw ‘SuperTerminal’, a video created by the Norwegian VKB jumpers. They were terrain flying with homemade tracking suits (modified wind breakers). Not only were they flying, they were flying CLOSE to stuff. That movie changed my whole perspective of BASE from a sport about falling to a sport about flying. Who doesn’t want to fly!? Clearly, I had found the inspiration to wingsuit BASE jump.

I’m a climber, and climbers always wish they were a part of the Golden Age: That period in the 60's and early 70's when all the big firsts were being done in Yosemite, and all previous standards were being shattered. That period in BASE jumping started with the first commercially available wingsuit in the late 90’s and will probably continue for another five years, or maybe a decade. After that, in all likelihood the progression will continue at a much slower pace. Climbing progression didn't end after the early 70's, But climbers with a sense of history realize that the sport will never again evolve that quickly and with that much excitement. The Golden Age of Wingsuit BASE is now.

When evaluating a jump, fear is your friend. It knocks some sense into you. However, once you have committed to the jump, fear just makes you tense and can reduce you to half of your self. At times, while standing on an exit, I decided to jump but my head was not straight. Sometimes, in those cases, I said, "Ah, f*#k it." Not because I really meant it - but because it cleared my head and let me relax. Once you have committed, you want to be like Robert Duval in the movie "Apocalypse Now." Bombs are going off all around him but he puts what he can't control out of his head, doesn’t seize up with fear, and generally kicks ass.

That being said, I, like many jumpers, had too many close calls. Most BASE jumpers usually have a brush with death within just a few years of jumping. For me, it was trying to out-fly a cliff band, realizing I wouldn't make it, and opening only 30 feet off the deck. There’s nothing like a three-second canopy ride to a boulder-field landing to wake you up… at least for a little while. But the truth is that when you’re motivated and progressing in BASE, a brush with death usually doesn't make you stop for too long. If anything, it reinforces your belief that things can be bleak for a split second… and then totally work out. This is a dangerous misconception.

BASE takes you way past an ordinary life and into a life of the endless unknown and countless possibilities. It’s no surprise that something so good comes at a hefty cost. Of the roughly 150 BASE jumpers that I’ve met, more than 10 are dead now. There is no escaping the brutal fact that if you meet a lot of BASE jumpers, in a few years a shocking number will no longer be around.

BASE jumping doesn’t seem to get safer with more experience. Sure, more experience can save you from making basic errors, but more experience also brings more confidence to push yourself farther. Once BASE jumping no longer has the same excitement it did originally, you look for new ways to make it exciting by trying new things. Even worse, that adrenaline you have when you first start—that mixture of fear and excitement that keeps you focused, eventually leaves. Things become routine, which is the last thing you want to happen. I realized this, and decided I needed to get out of the sport before I died BASE jumping. Here is what I realized:

• BASE jumping is probably the deadliest sport in the world.
• It is also probably the coolest.
• The best jumps are usually when you are just a little out of your comfort zone and pushing your own limits.
• The only way to be truly safe while BASE jumping is to not BASE jump.

Most jumpers will agree with the four statements above. Usually the first two rise up in your head while the second two are off to the side, creating subtle or not so subtle tension. It’s the conflict between those four statements that makes the sport so intense, complicated, and awesome. It’s why so many people love the sport, so many people quit after a few years, and so many people die.

Is BASE jumping worth dying for? If you have to ask, then the answer is probably no. When I found myself standing at the exit point wondering if it was worth it, then I sensed it was time to quit. I have this rule about jumping, and life in general: "If you’re faced with a big question and the answer is not Yes!!!!" then the answer is no.

Trad climber
a semi lucid consciousness
Aug 31, 2011 - 03:51pm PT
Thanks for posting that!

Trad climber
Sunny Aiea,Hi
Aug 31, 2011 - 03:57pm PT
Thanks for sharing those gave words to those "Not Yes" moments.

the Fet

Aug 31, 2011 - 04:11pm PT
Good stuff TFPU.

The stuff about pushing your limits is so true. Most of the accidents I've heard about were from tandem jumps and acrobatic exits.

The second biggest factor for me in deciding not to BASE jump (the first is I promised my wife I wouldn't do it) is there is too much objective danger. Wind gusts, line overs, 180 openings. I like to push my limits when I'm in control. I don't like to be on the edge when external factors could mess things up.

I would still like to try BASE. Probably on a bridge with little/no under-structure, over deep water, with a round chute.

Ice climber
Aug 31, 2011 - 11:47pm PT
Well put C.MAC
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 20, 2011 - 12:05pm PT

Great Book of BASE Author Matt Gerdes shows some wingsuit footage from Europe shot in the last month. A lot of people these days can buzz an object. But there are only a few others guys in the world who can fly that low above the terrain for that long.

Also, he actually flys up for a brief moment!

An Oil Field
Sep 20, 2011 - 12:49pm PT
The book rules. I can't believe that he did such a good job, not only the writing, but the photographs. It explains it fairly well to someone who knows little and reads it for pure enjoyment. On the other hand, it has an incredible amount of technical information. I regularly see posts on here that are just pointless.

He did a bad ass job, and the production costs must have been sky high. It is worth every penny, even if it is going on your coffee table.

I thought that I was lucky to be jumping in the Golden Age. New objects all of the time, ten people in the world with a hundred jumps. Maybe 20 regular jumpers in the world. NOPE....

Then I started seeing the tracking suits and then wingsuits and realized....oh man. I am OLD!! I missed out!

Really, the wingsuit stuff is incredible, but if you are thinking of getting into it, go read the BASE fatality list and see how many of them are wingsuit jumps. People die like flies. It isn't something you just pick up on a whim, unless you are so stupid that you think nothing can kill you.

Trust me, it can kill you.

I knew some of these people. Everything is cool and then POOF they are gone. The funerals are usually a blast though.

edit: BASE isn't something you can learn from a book.

Hobart, Australia
Sep 20, 2011 - 02:24pm PT
Chris, your essay is one of the most sensible things I have ever read by an adventurous soul. Thank you for that.

Hobart, Australia
Sep 20, 2011 - 02:33pm PT
By the way, can a wingsuit really momentarily gain altitude? Would it be some sort of ground effect? What is the typical glide ratios of the latest suits?

Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 20, 2011 - 02:39pm PT
Glide ratios are in the low 3's at the moment.

You can only momentarily gain altitude if you go into a dive, gain speed, then pop out of it. Evn then, you are BARELY gaining any altitude and even then on for a few seconds.

In these video, Matt is "flying dirty" in the sense he could be flying with a better glide ratio but instead he is flying with his arms back, legs in a little. This allows him to get close to the ground but still "have an out" AKA an option to turn his body into a more efficient wing if he gets too low.

If you are always flying your most efficient that low to the ground then you have no out.

Those brief moments in the video where he goes up (barely) is where he is transitioning from flying fast and dirty to flying super efficiently.
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 22, 2011 - 04:32pm PT
I often have a hard time describing just how deadly BASE jumping is. I usually just say I met probably 150 base jumpers and about 15 are dead now. I think one analogy to where the sport of BASE is right now is where Grand Prix Auto Racing was 50 years ago. This movie illustrates just how gnarly it was back then: Today, I think car racing is really safe. As far as I know last Grand Prix death was Senna. Hopefully BASE will come through a similar transition to becoming less deadly... somehow. And hopefully soon!

PS: An amazing documentary to watch is Senna. Cool trailer here
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 15, 2011 - 05:46pm PT
Here is the latest video of Matt Gerdes shot in China


The Granite State.
Nov 15, 2011 - 05:59pm PT
I remember going to a bridge bungee party at a train bridge in Oroville a few years back.

Myles was draping his canopy over the railing and front flipping over it so that it was already mostly deployed when he loaded it.

Some dude did his first BASE in the same way and landed HARD on the water 200' below. He was shaken, but good to go.

Later, Myles was flipping over the pallet fire in the power station lot.

Crazy stuff. I'm looking forward to checking the book out.
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 13, 2012 - 12:59pm PT
Another amazing video by Great Book of BASE author Matt Gerdes. Doesn't get any more cutting edge.

Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 5, 2012 - 12:36pm PT
Now most of us have seen a lot of wingsuit BASE footage. And even a lot of cutting edge wingsuit footage like this. But there are very few (if any) wingsuit movies that really get into the history of the sport and tell a real story. I am psyched to see this!

Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 23, 2012 - 11:29am PT
Inventory alert... there are only about 40 copies left of the 1st edition. The 2nd edition won't be available until mid 2013. So if you have been on the fence about getting this book.. get it now!

Social climber
chica de chico, I don't claim to be a daisy.
Oct 26, 2012 - 06:57pm PT

I heard a cool report on BASE today on NPR's Talk of the Nation Science Friday. Partly, they were explaining how time seems to stretch out longer when adrenaline kicks in. Here's a link to the show....
....and if that link doesn't work here's the same thing on you tube.....
...and just in case that link doesn't work, here's the url for it....

Social climber
somewhere that doesnt have anything over 90'
Oct 26, 2012 - 06:57pm PT
thanks Nita! veddy interestink
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