Perrine Bridge BASE Etiquette For Newbies (and Those Who Should Definitely Know Better) newby Annette O'Neil
For a great many BASE jumpers, the phrase “going to the Bridge” can only mean one thing: making a pilgrimage to the geographic middle of nowhere in Twin Falls, Idaho.
The Perrine Bridge, Twin Falls’ most majestic landmark (aside from the “Evel Knievel Dirt Lump”) stands 486 feet tall and 1,500 end to end. It carries Route 93 on its mighty back, and serves as the main conduit between Twin Falls and Jerome counties. The Perrine has been jumped pretty much since the birth of BASE, with more and more freefall traffic marching onto it every year. Its year-round legality, relative (RELATIVE!) safety and easy access make it the world’s top object to enter the sport.
By the time of this article’s publication, the Perrine Bridge has essentially become a meat waterfall.
If we want to keep that waterfall flowing--which is not a forever-and-ever promise, you know--we have to work together. When we jump the “Potato Bridge,” we have four key groups to respect:
1. The IDOT
The Idaho Department of Transportation (IDOT) is primarily concerned with making sure the Perrine Bridge remains free of obstructions and that traffic (both vehicular and pedestrian) flow smoothly along it. The Twin Falls first responders take us to the meat mechanic when we are broken. Both are vital members of our larger BASE “support team.”
Funny thing: the Perrine Bridge wasn’t built as a BASE object. It was constructed way back in 1927 so that people and goods could travel across it, and expanded to accommodate more traffic in 1975. Fun fact, huh?!
3. Fellow Jumpers
We’re getting bigger by the season, but always remember that we are a family.
Every jumper is an ambassador of the sport, and there are loads of onlookers to gracefully am-badass at the Bridge. Treat it like it’s part of your job.
Got it? Okay. Here’s how to cover your bases with all four:
Clean up your toys.
The IDOT asks that planks, static lines, trapdoor rigs, catapults, sidecar motorcycles, inflatables, Tinder dates and/or any other jump aids be removed from the bridge when not in use. This helps to ensure that pedestrians and bicyclists can move freely and safely along the walkways.
If you’re into accessorizing your jumps (you wacky lil’ thing, you), take the necessary precautions.Check for river traffic or innocent hikers below before you huck with a skyboard or skis or scuba gear or a blow-up sex toy or whatever else you’ve rustled up. If you drop something, retrieve it.
Don’t Man On Wire the railing.
It used to be that IDOT--and, thus, the cops--forbid jumpers to stand on the railing. The (infallible) logic was that a human perching him/herself in such a lofty position and then tossing him/herself into the void was distracting to motorists. In recent years, they’ve relaxed the rule. Still, it’s vital that railing jumps be executed with efficiency. Don’t parade around up there; get up and get off. “Our worst fear, as locals,” says APEX Base instructor Jimmy Pouchert, “Is that an automobile accident occurs from someone getting distracted while driving.”
Yeah, yeah, it’s tempting and you’ve totally seen footage of somebody doing it, but climbing on the understructure of the bridge--the steel girders--is verboten. (Interestingly, IDOT employees actually follow the same no-touchies protocol, performing their annual inspection of the bridge from a large boom when they need to reach up underneath the structure.)
Do the groundwork before you cue the waterworks.
If your plans include making water jumps--or any other jump that will result in a low opening--set up a spotter with a walkie (or a clear gestural signal) down at the river level. Their job will be to give you the all-clear, because you can't see boat traffic moving towards you from the west when standing on the bridge. Trust me, the last thing you want to see in freefall is a big boat toodling along into your space when you're dirty-low and haven’t pulled yet.
Along those lines: if you’re planning to try something new, it's always a good idea to have Kathy Peterson (The “River Angel”) standing by in the water as an added safety precaution.
Pack nice, kids.
There are plenty of nice, grassy places to pack (or flake, if you’re hustling through the unpacked jumps). The main packing area, at the top of the bridge by the visitor’s center, can get cheek-by-jowl crowded on nice days. For a little more space, try Centennial Park, which sits down by the water, at the end of Canyon Springs Road where the shuttles pick up. If you choose the latter,make sure you’re not crowding a group that has paid hard-earned money to rent the pavilion. (The last thing that third marriage needs is a wedding infested by BASE jumpers.)
Keep it clean. (Okay: Keep it quiet.)
There are a lot of wholesome, clean-living folks milling around Twin Falls. They’re out there power-walking, dog-exercising, commemorative-marker-reading and--I dunno--gazing at the scenery and contemplating religious stuff.
Your conversation about the last Vegas get-together or what happened at Burning Man or that one night at the Horner is probably going to scar them for life if they hear it, so keep it down.
This recommendation goes for any place you find yourself in Twin, because your identity as a BASE jumper is, like, a secret to no one. (By that same token, music is best enjoyed via headphones. We know you’re not listening to show tunes.)
Take your blinders off.
The bridge is mighty crowded these days--and with the increased population comes an increased responsibility to communicate. It’s everyone’s job to form an orderly queue, to find out what types of jumps the people around you are making and to decide who is jumping in what order. Do not try to cut in line by just hopping over the railing wherever you are and hucking something. (It’s seriously bad form.)
Be nice to the passers-by.
Tourists (and locals, sometimes, too) are going to ask you questions while you’re packing. It’s part of the experience, really. Take a minute with them and chat--’cause, to that person, you are BASE jumping. Even if you’re on your FJC, you’re an expert to them. If you take their interest as an honest compliment and a genuine way to share the love of the sport, they’ll take your kindness forward and add to the pro-BASE-jumping population.
And that’s good for all of us.