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The Tool

by Nick Di Giovanni

By Nick Di Giovanni

The road to Todd Shoebotham’s house and the birth place of TNT Rigging is a windy two laner and Southern California this night is warm, smells of oranges and violet, and is perfect for BASE jumping. I see it for the first time across his living floor. Leaning against a chair. It’s the third one. “You can keep it, but never sell it.” Todd says.

It sat there, packed, black, and all wicked looking.

The Tool…

Velcro closed containers are first used in skydiving in the form of front mounted Jerry Bird Rip-Off Reserve Containers (aptly named for this thread) in about 1977.

In 1982 Carl Boenish is thinking of launching a tethered hot air balloon to 300 feet over Lake Elsinore and jumping small rounds into the water. He looks down at his Handbury skydiving rig and thinks, gee, metal ripcords, springs, hard housings, and a last hope rope, this isn’t the right tool for the job at hand. He approaches Master Rigger Jim Handbury and before he could finish explaining, Jim holds up his hand and says, “I know exactly what you need.”

The next morning Jim Handbury hands Carl Boenish two brand new rigs. They are novel as both are single container systems. They are held closed by their own bridles which are covered with a very narrow strip of Velcro. “Don’t jostle the rigs around too much,” Jim said, “once you have them on,” and almost as an afterthought he added, “hold the pilot chutes in your hand and jump.”

On June 7, 1984, in a small trailer in a dusty Arizona desert the phone rang. Rich Stein, BASE 74, picked it up and heard the awful truth of it. Phones began lighting up all over the smallish BASE community. It spread from jumper to jumper, and one by one, they all heard the news that Carl Boenish was dead.

Prior to Carl’s death a cottage industry of BASE gear manufactures began to spring up from nowhere out of garage lofts across the country. The best of them survived and are the BASE gear manufacturers of today.

In those days you could send a skydiving harness to one the earliest outfits (none of them capable of building a harness at the time) so you’d spend a weekend picking the stitches out of an old skydiving rig and a few weeks later they would send it back, shrivel flap equipped, with a new container, and it was, for the times, a for-real BASE rig. The ultimate airworthiness of the harness was your own look out. They sold for as low as 70 bucks and became the model-T of BASE rigs. They came in any color, as long as you wanted black.

Like the idea for the first airplane, how BASE equipment should be manufactured came to a lot of good people at about the same time, but only fully to those who could recognize the new technology, and more importantly, knew how to implement it. They were free to dream something up in the loft one afternoon, and had the courage to try it, off a building downtown, that night. We are fortunate to have these wizard class riggers among us.

When I came to BASE most people are still jumping skydiving gear. The only consolation to BASE is a larger pilot chute and longer bridle nonetheless plugged into a bag deployed Wonderhog or Racer, or something like that, topped off with a 7-cell like a Cruislite, Fury, Pegasus, or Unit. The hot setup.

None of us, I think, can fully take credit for too much, except for this:

We truly are the very first generation of human beings who can fly…

Submitted by Nick Di Giovanni on 2007-06-19

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5 out of 5 stars history babe. keep it up. the book will be a reality one day and your gonna sign my copy...

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