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BASE Jumping: Articles: Stories: On Base and Mainstream

On Base and Mainstream

by Nick Di Giovanni

By Nick Di Giovanni

In the very early eighties BASE jumping is mostly called fixed object jumping. The word BASE didn’t really catch on until about 1982 - ‘83. But before that in the late seventies it is indeed widely called extreme skydiving.

In fact I saw the sport of BASE jumping start that whole custom of calling certain things extreme. (By the way, I was sick of the “E” word about a year later). And for the record the second sport I ever heard called extreme is land luge in about 1986. The usage of the adjective eXtreme exploded after that.

However, in the 1980s skydivers and BASE jumpers are like Clark Kent and Superman, they are one in the same person. We used to argue to USPA to run our BASE ads in PARACHUTIST Magazine because ignorance is death and their members are the ones who needed the information for general purposes and for Bridge Day. I’m glad to see they have finally come around almost twenty years later.

There are few, if any, true BASE jumpers. To me that means someone who never skydives. Not even in the beginning. Ritchie’s one that made over a hundred BASE jumps before he made a first skydive. Some of his comments after the jump are, “Man, we opened so high,” and, “that was my first stowed jump.” There are a few more people like that, but not many. I began calling skydiving and BASE jumping nothing more than sister sports, at that time, as we learned through death and injury just how different the truly are.

There are certainly more parachutist nowadays who have forgone skydiving for BASE jumping. And the divergence in gear and technique between the two is as large as it’s ever been, but we are still mostly the same people . . .

There’s a lovely thought all BASE jumpers have at least once in their careers. It’s when they want the sport to freeze at whatever level it’s at. This usually occurs as they achieve the peak of their skills. But it’s never going to happen. We tried hiding, we tried keeping the jumps quite, we tried tar and feathering those who broke the code, but slowly but surely the Jolly Roger came fluttering down the flag pole and BASE jumping became (if you are old) unbelievably mainstream.

In speaking to Bill Ottley I laughed after he saw Carl Boenish’s first films of El Cap and he said, “We’re never going to be able to put that Genie back in the lamp.” And for years the largest picture in his office at USPA is the jump he made off El Cap (legal) in the early eighties.

Most (if not all) BASE jumpers come from the ranks of skydivers, that’s the way it’s always been, and probably the way it always will be. And here is a place they can come and ask questions. Carl Boenish believed BASE jumping is a birthright. It’s a spectacular achievement in the annals of human flight. If there is a God he must look down and say, “Look, the thing I made them the most afraid of, they went and turned into a friggen sport. “

Not even Carl knew how wildly accepted BASE jumping would become. When he started the first BASE magazine (called BASE Magazine) he says it’s somewhat because he feels a certain responsibility for popularizing the sport. (He would modestly never claim to have invented BASE jumping).

Later, I also did a BASE magazine for awhile and still don’t mind e-mailing people who need a steer in the right direction. Brother and sister skydivers are always going to become BASE jumpers, and they need a place to come and ask questions. We are, after all, all still the same people.

I can put up with the rest…


Submitted by Nick Di Giovanni on 2007-06-19 | Last Modified on 2007-06-28

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