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BASE Jumping: Articles: Philosophy: Base Romance

Base Romance

by Tom Aiello

This is an original article belonging to the author. It has not been edited by Basejumper in any way.

by Tom Aiello

I originally wrote this in response to a posting on the “BASE Zone” forum. In the interests of not offending people, I removed it. On further reflection, I have decided that I feel strongly enough about this issue to risk giving offense. It may not be tactful, but I think this needs to be said. If I offend people with it, so be it. I would rather offend a hundred people, and save one life, than have 99 live friends, and one dead one.

There is a saying among BASE jumpers: “Girlfriends Die.” This is not a joke. Why?

Women have a disproportionately high rate of injury and death as student (sub-50 jumps) BASE jumpers. Although there are no definite statistics, I would estimate that while 10–15% of BASE students are women, something like 35% of student accidents happen to women. This is a terrible trend, and the key to changing it lies with the women who are prospective BASE jumpers.

Careful examination of motives (of both the instructor and student) is important for anyone getting into BASE. For a woman being taught by a man, it is absolutely essential.

Because of the issues surrounding women in a heavily male pastime, you need to be extra-careful in screening potential BASE mentors. Be certain that you want to BASE jump for you, not him, and that his foremost concern is your safety, not getting into your pants. From the beginning, you must be strong enough, and smart enough to back out of a potentially dangerous situation. Don’t count on the guys at the DZ to be looking out for you—they may be too busy checking you out.

Things for a woman to look for in a BASE mentor:
  1. a qualified woman (since the number of these in the world can be counted on my fingers, you may have difficulty finding one)
  2. s
  3. omeone who has no romantic interest in you, and in whom you have no romantic interest
  4. someone who treats you exactly as they treat any other prospective student
Things to immediately disqualify a prospective mentor:
  1. any degree of sexual tension between you
  2. any romantic relationship between you
  3. a mentor who is not qualified to teach
  4. someone who helps or wants you to shortcut the normal learning progression

I can think of only one case in which a romantic relationship actually helped a woman advance her BASE skills and career, and that was a truly exceptional situation which involved a woman who had already begun jumping, was a very qualified skydiver (more than two thousand jumps), and had rock solid judgment, and a man who was an experienced BASE instructor, as well as one of the worlds most accomplished BASE jumpers. In every other instance that I know of, attempts to combine a romantic relationship with BASE mentoring or instruction have been unqualified failures, usually for the jumping, sometimes for the romance, and often for both.

Some men try to use the mystique of BASE jumping to attract women. There are few seduction tactics as tried and true as “being the teacher” (just ask a Tandem Master). Many women are attracted to the knowledge, confidence, and (supposed) power of a guy who can “teach” them to BASE jump. This is not a secret to the boys. Worse, men are tempted to overstate their qualifications as a teacher when they are interested in a woman.

What guy will admit to an attractive BASE-curious skydiver that he isn’t qualified to teach? He will try to impress her with his “expert” credentials, saying “of course I can take you BASE jumping—just stick with me and you’ll go a long way, baby.” If his goal is to get laid, he isn’t an appropriate teacher. Hang out with him, date him, have fun with him, skydive with him, sleep with him—but learn BASE from someone else.

Some women skydivers are drawn into BASE by boyfriends. This may be a result of the boyfriend’s desire to have a “BASE girl,” or it may simply be because, being exposed to BASE, the woman begins to develop an interest in it. BASE jumping is deeply personal, and there are many reasons to do it. But impressing your boyfriend is not a good one. If he really cares for you, he will let you approach BASE at your own pace, if at all.

He may even try to discourage you from BASE jumping (since, as he truly cares for you, he won’t want you to get hurt). In any case, BASE jumping for anyone else (boyfriend or otherwise) is a major mistake, and one an intelligent, independent, strong woman need not make.

Some women use their feminine charms to get BASE “instruction.” This tactic, which is widely accepted in skydiving, presents a serious danger when transplanted to BASE. In skydiving, if you pick a mentor more for his charms than his skydiving skills, you still have fun, and it’s no big deal. In BASE, this can easily hurt or kill you. Further, this technique rarely works on really qualified BASE instructors, because they are well aware of the “girlfriend problem.” As a rule, if a guy takes you for a BASE jump because he is interested in you, he is probably not giving good instruction to you, and may not be qualified to give it to anyone.

Boyfriends (or guys who are hoping to work up into that position) have a lot of trouble saying “no” to the woman they are involved with (or want to be involved with). When she asks if she can jump a site with him, he is virtually powerless to deny her. He likes to spend time with her, he is flattered that she is interested in his hobby, he wants to please her—of course he will take her. She has to be the one to know this is a bad idea. And as a beginner, she has no way of knowing that. There have been several cases of unqualified women receiving BASE instruction.

They didn’t know better, and the guys who did know better were more concerned with finding a way to spend time with them than helping them learn safely. If you want to BASE jump, remember that your safety should be the primary concern of both yourself and your mentor. Mixing BASE and romance, flirtation, or sexual tension will only impair judgment, and often leads to disaster.

Submitted by Tom Aiello on 2007-06-13 | Last Modified on 2007-07-02

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