Getting into BASE
by Dwain Weston
With input from Pete Fielding, Mark Dunbar, Tom Begic, and Nick Gatti
Some skydivers think that the first step to getting into BASE is purchasing a BASE rig. However, there is no point in buying a rig unless you have an experienced (at least 150+ fixed object jumps) and knowledgeable BASE jumper seriously committed to teaching you. If you attempt to venture out on your own with little or no teaching there is a good chance you will be seriously injured or die (as we have seen time and time again in Australia). Remember, in BASE, knowledge is the key to survival.
Finding an experienced BASE jumper who is willing to teach you is not an easy task. BASE jumpers are protective about their sport and they need to be in order to ensure it’s survival. Infiltration by the wrong sort of people with one track minds of fame, glory and instant gratification will only lead to the sports downfall. There is only so much the authorities will put up with before the screws are tightened.
When you ask someone to teach you to BASE jump you need to understand the magnitude of your request.
You are asking them to:
- Spend countless hours of their free time teaching you technique, theory and packing, often for no financial gain. Also hours are spent driving to jump sites suitable for beginners that an experienced jumper would not usually bother jumping,
- Assume responsibility of you to other jumpers, that you will not stuff up and injure yourself or die. If this happens your jumpmaster could be charged by the police and he will loose faith within the BASE community. The resulting negative media coverage will also damage the sports fragile credibility,
- Give you the location of jump sites, many of which the experienced jumpers have invested months or years of exploration to find. If you injure yourself or die at these sites they could be shut down by the authorities, or at the very least the bust factor will increase making it harder for everyone,
- Trust that you will not teach your friends how to jump, drag the media out to jump sites, or sell footage for your own glory.
- And finally, you are asking to become involved in a small and tight social group. To become their friends and spend most weekends with them.
There are many unwritten rules in the BASE network which help preserve the sport. If you break these rules you may find yourself outcast from the BASE community (perhaps on an international level). You may continue to jump alone or form your own inexperienced group, but without the benefit of experience and shared knowledge, injury is almost guaranteed.
If you seriously want to get into BASE then you should try to give to the sport before you take from it. This is a sure-fire way to be noticed by the experienced jumpers. Some suggested ways to give to the sport are:
- Offer to be ground crew for a few months and place this task above all your other priorities. This will allow you to witness many BASE jumps and gain an understanding of what the sport involves before venturing into it. It also allows you to form friendships with the BASE jumpers and prove that you have what it takes. Endless mornings of getting up at 3am to drive hours to be at a cliff edge at dawn, only to find it winded out, will weed out those who are not totally committed.
- Discover a new site. Discovering a jumpable cliff is one of the greatest gifts you can give to the BASE community. If you bounce and ruin a site, at least you had found a new one. There are countless acres of wilderness that has not been inspected by BASE jumpers. Talk to rock climbers, study topographical maps and spend many weekends hiking and exploring. There are hundreds of cliffs out there just begging to be discovered and jumped. Just one of them is your ticket in.
Hang in there and don’t be discouraged by the knockbacks. All things of great value are difficult to obtain. It took me two years of trying before I broke into the sport which has given me some of my life’s greatest experiences (thanks again Pete).