I get asked a lot of questions about the activities (Skydiving, BASE jumping, Speedflying, Wingsuiting, Paragliding, etc.) I participate in. How I got into them, where did I go to learn how to do them, how much do they cost, etc., etc. My response is usually pretty simple at first.
“I got into skydiving about 13 years ago with the help of a friend who was already a skydiver.” “I started BASE jumping a couple years (and a couple hundred skydives) later.” And so on.
From there, depending on where the questioning goes from my eager interviewer, my answers become pretty long-winded and I become somewhat of an (seaming) antagonist of these activities. However, as much as I try to talk people out of getting into these activities, I’ll share with you a few reasons why you should give adventure sports a try.
1. Oh the places they will take you! - This is not intended to be braggadocios, but there may be at least a small amount of pride on my part in this section. I’ve jumped, flown, fallen and slid my way into, over, and down three continents, 10 countries and over a dozen states (and counting). From China to Australia, from the Alps to the unforgiving Alaskan interior, I have enjoyed seeing the world from a different perspective. As if it were some innate metaphor for how I have lived my entire life, I have strayed from the beaten path. While many travelers may stick to the road more traveled, I have ventured into the mountains, valleys and canyons of some of the most amazing places on Earth to share incredible moments with incredible people.
2. Fill your soul with awe and appreciation. - It’s very difficult to describe what it’s like to stand inside (or on top of) a glacier in Alaska. Or to stand in the shadow of the highest point in Europe after flying down more than half of the mountain’s prominence. There’s typically the initial feeling of elation and stoke. But once the stoke wears off, I fully realize how incredibly fortunate I am and how appreciative I am for the opportunities that I have worked towards and been afforded to me. I am indeed fortunate. Again, seeing or experiencing these places from the predetermined tourist perspective is one thing, when you are up close and personal with them, you feel likea grain of sand in a desert. Very small.
3. Meeting new people and experiencing new cultures. - I think I can honestly say that I may not have ever traveled to New Zealand, China, Vietnam and Central Mexico if it were not for adventure sports. For one, the purpose for travel to these places was to accompany people I met through these activities or to do these activities. Once I got to these places, it wasn’t just the flying and jumping that made the travel special. It was the immersion and interaction with the local people and their amazing lands that made it so memorable and special. As I have learned more about different countries and their people, my perspective and views of them have changed. I was able to see everyday occurrences through different lenses of understanding and empathy. We are SO much more alike than we are different. I feel it’s made me a better, more productive and more respectful person.
While the list actually goes on a bit further, I feel it’s important to understand why (not all of these) activities are for everyone.
1. You or someone close to you will die (and quite possibly in front of you).
Depending on your life experience, this may not be a foreign concept. Whether it is or is not, the effects that these types of events will have on you is life altering. Your friends may quite literally be there one second, and gone the next. You may also be in the position to help rescue or recover your friend(s). I cannot stress to you enough how real this scenario is.
2. All of these sports take a GREAT deal of time AND dedication to do safely and sustainably.
None of these activities are something you can do safely and with a reasonable level of
sustainability if you don’t remain current and relevant. With a slight exception of skydiving and snow skiing, ALL of these activities require a great deal of time and
personal dedication to stay upright and above ground. The incredible amount of
meteorological, fluid dynamic, physics and geographical knowledge that goes into these activities is tremendous. Just look at the research and practical knowledge
that went into such recent publications as The Great Book of BASE by, Matt Gerdes and Top Gun BASE by Richard Webb. It is incredibly hard to convey how many years (and lives) of experience is involved in just these two publications. Care and knowledge of equipment is just as important as being proficient in the activity. A failure to recognize a deficiency in your gear can have catastrophic consequences. Much like in special operations, when you participate in these activities, you are operating in a zero defect environment.
3. These sports are not meant for everyone.Let’s face it, driving a car isn’t for everyone. Using social media responsibly isn’t for everyone. I’m sure we all know or come across people where we think, “and they are allowed to do this?!?!” “Jerry” is everywhere. Well, things aren’t much different in the adventure sports world. There isn’t necessarily a checklist of attributes you can look up on the interweb for the type of person that is a “good candidate” for these activities. This and the fact that while some of these activities are regulated per se, many of them are not. There are certainly courses and clinics that you can take to get an understanding or certification to participate, but there is very little standing in the way of someone, anyone acquiring gear and heading to the mountains to give’r. With all of this being said, even if you are willing to put in the time and are “ok” with the fact that we all die someday, Mother Nature is an extremely unforgiving and relentless bitch. You will need to possess the intestinal fortitude required to get you (and possibly your friends as well) through or out of some pretty hairy situations in very austere environments. You can’t Über your way out of a crevasse (that is if you survive the fall) and time outs and mulligans don’t exist when you’ve misjudged your flight path, landing approach or meteo conditions once your feet have left the ground or you have dropped in. Blink of an eye decisions are conducive to longevity and survival for that matter. You either have it, or you don’t. Here one second, gone the next.
If you’re interested in dipping your toe in the water to see how cold it is, here are a few resources for you to look through to get an idea of who, where, how, when and of course, how much some of these activities are.
Stay safe out there.
Paragliding and Speedflying:
B.A.S.E. Jumping: http://www.seanchuma.com/base-instruction/