Skydiving is a recreational hobby for many people, particularly thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies. For the majority, the activity provides more than enough danger, but as with any hobby, there are those who take it to the extreme. In this case, it’s partaking in BASE jumping, which is equal parts exhilarating and treacherous.
Origins of BASE jumping
The first person to ever try a parachute was Fausto Veranzio, who did so in 1617 after jumping from the roof of a cathedral. As the device became more refined, it was primarily used by those jumping from airplanes. In 1966 and ’78, two men, Michael Pelkey and Brian Schubert, jumped from Yosemite National Park‘s famous El Capitan rock formation, for fun.
The term “BASE jumping” was coined by Carl Boenish and his wife, Jean. It’s an acronym for the places from which enthusiasts can jump from: buildings, antennas, spans and the Earth. The latter can be any natural structure, such as a mountain or cliff. Boenish is considered the father of the sport, and passed away in Norway, following a failed jump.
BASE jumping has rapidly grown in popularity
More people began to participate in BASE jumping in the 1980s and ’90s. As a result, a numbering program was created. Each person who completes as least one of the four types of jumps receives a number. The first two to complete the quad were Phil Smith and Phil Mayfield, and as of 2017, over 2,000 individuals have been awarded a number.
There have been a lot of famous BASE jumps over the years. In 1986, Eric Jones became the first person to jump from the Eiger, in the Bernese Alps. Livia Dickie, Ana Isabel Dao and Anniken Binz became the first people to jump from Angel Falls, the world’s tallest uninterrupted waterfall.
BASE jumping has become popular in film
BASE jumping looks both dangerous and cool. As such, the activity has appeared in plenty of Hollywood movies. It’s commonly seen in James Bond films, such as The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), A View to a Kill (1985), The Living Daylights (1987) and Die Another Day (2002).
In the 2002 film, XXX, Vin Diesel BASE jumps out of a falling car, and 2005’s Batman Begins features a scene, in which Bruce Wayne tests out equipment by BASE jumping.
To reiterate: BASE jumping is ridiculously dangerous
While BASE jumping is popular and visually stunning, it is important to note that the activity is incredibly dangerous. In 2016 alone, 31 participants died in accidents related to the sport.
A 2002 study found that one in every 60 BASE jumpers died while partaking in the sport, and one conducted by The Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery found that participants are more likely to die or suffer injury while jumping than skydivers.
BASE jumping remains very popular
BASE jumping has only grown in popularity, thank of advances in technology. While parachutes were initially the only way to participate, wingsuits are now commonly seen, as well.
The sport is illegal in many places. Three men who jumped from New York City’s One World Trade Center and their accomplice were arrested, while in Virginia, a 70-year-old man was taken into custody after being accused of jumping off buildings in Fairfax County. There are places, however, that embrace the sport, with championship tournaments held regularly.