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Behind the Scenes of Base Jumping

Updated on June 10, 2013

A short glimpse of BASE Jumping

BASE Jumping ...

... is an extreme sport where the pilot jumps off a solid object. The thrill behind it is the close distance to the earth and the perfection each and every task has to be done. Despite the major belief BASE Jumpers aren't weary of life (okay I wouldn't trust everyone that much).

BASE Jumpers have a very life-affirming mindset which allows them to go further and beyond their mental limitations. Every step and task is properly planned and performed. After a successful BASE Jump the feeling of "being alive" is as great as it can be, as you would likely understand.


The Meaning of BASE

The word BASE in Base Jumping is an acronym for:

  • Building
  • Antenna
  • Span
  • Earth

These objects have to be successfully basejumped in order to get the desired unique BASE number.

How BASE Jumping is done (theoretically)

Note: This is an informational piece of content only. Don't try this at home. Or at mountains, bridges, rocks, houses, etc.

The main necessity of every BASE Jumper is an object where he jumps off. Preferably high objects are chosen, such as cliffs and antennas. The most important key factors in BASE Jumping are:

  • BASE Parachute System
  • Wind Direction and Speed
  • Object itself

BASE Parachute System

The parachute which is used for BASE Jumping is very different compared to a skydiving model. As the pilot has simply one chance to successfully open his parachute the main priority is that this actually happens very certainly. Therefore some modifications are applied to how the parachute is folded, packed and prepared to open.

To safe some place in the gear a BASE Jumping gear doesn't have any rescue parachute. This is only available for skydivers who would have the time to drop the main parachute and pull the rescue one.

For a further read I recommend

Wind Direction and Speed

BASE Jumpers more or less jump into a non-resistent airspace. If you think of an flying airplane where skydivers jump out from, the pilots will all have the same speed. So when jumping out of that airplane they are immediately supported by the air resistance which will help them to maneuver.

BASE Jumpers don't have that benefit so they have to perform a much more stable drop off. Furthermore they have to make sure that the wind is blowing off the obstacle they are jumping from.

Object itself

It does make the difference of life and death if the object the pilot is choosing isn't suitable for base jumping. Very common obstacles are:

  • Rocks (like in Norway)
  • Bridges (Golden Gate Bridge)
  • Antennas
  • Cliffs
  • Jesus Statue in Rio de Janeiro
  • Skyscrapers


Carl Boenish was the driver behind contemporary BASE leaping, and in 1978, he shot the first BASE leaps to be made making use of ram-air parachutes and the freefall monitoring strategy (from El Capitan, in Yosemite National Park). While BASE jumps had actually been made prior to that time, the El Capitan task was the efficient birth of exactly what is now called BASE leaping. BASE leaping is substantially more harmful than comparable sports such as skydiving from plane, and is presently related to by numerous as a fringe severe sport or stunt.

BASE numbers are granted to those who have actually made a minimum of one jump from each of the 4 classifications (structures, antennas, periods and earth). When Phil Smith and Phil Mayfield leapt together from a Houston high-rise building on 18 January 1981, they became the first to obtain the unique BASE numbers (BASE # 1 and # 2, respectively), having currently leapt from an antenna, periods, and earthen items.

Jean and Carl Boenish got BASE numbers 3 and 4 right after. A different "award" was quickly enacted for Night BASE leaping when Mayfield finished each classification in the evening, becoming Night BASE # 1, with Smith certifying a couple of weeks later on.

Throughout the very early eighties, almost all BASE jumps were used basic skydiving devices, consisting of 2 parachutes (primary and reserve), and deployment parts. In the future, specialized devices and strategies were established particularly for the special demands of BASE leaping.


No matter how careful Base Jumpers treat their hobby, there's always a risk of fatal injuries. BASE Jumping is an extreme sport and every one of them has made their decision to do it.

Needless to say it is not recommended to newbies who have no experience in proper skydiving or wingsuit flying at all.

Is BASE Jumping just for fun?

Yes, mainly it is. But not just for that. Recently Red Bull and the Austrian BASE Jumper Felix Baumgartner took an important step towards testing skydiving behaviour from the stratosphere into the atmosphere. These experiment was also very important for airspace safety systems to evolve towards more save equipment.

Red Bull Stratos


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