What is BASE Jumping and Why is It So Dangerous?

BASE or B.A.S.E. jumping is basically parachuting from a fixed object – Building, Antennae, Span or Earth (the name is actually an acronym of these four categories). The term was coined by Carl Boenish, usually referred to as the father of BASE jumping, and is based on the type of object the jumper is leaping from. Span objects generally refer to bridges while Earth leaping points refer to mountains, high cliffs, canyons and other natural locations.

Skydiving vs. BASE jumping

Opposed to skydivers, BASE jumpers have to overcome two big obstacles – low altitude and proximity to the object they are leaping from. Most BASE jumps are made from objects under 2,000 feet tall (skyscrapers and antenna towers are usually 1,000 to 1,500 feet tall) while skydivers deploy their parachutes gradually (with the help of a slider) at about 2,000 feet. BASE jumpers have to open their parachutes almost immediately after they jump, and don’t have much time to deal with any potential problems. 

Introduction of wingsuits

Whilst BASE jumping practitioners leap from tall objects and swiftly deploy their parachutes before reaching the ground, there is also a subsection of BASE jumpers that use a wingsuit which allows them to control their movement and slow down their fall. After leaping off a BASE object, the wingsuit, which adds surface area to the human body, allows the jumper to glide through air before opening his parachute.

The use of wingsuits increased both the popularity and danger of the sport. Out of more than 300 people who have died while BASE jumping, more than 260 happened after 2003 – after the introduction of wingsuits to BASE jumping. 

How to become an expert BASE jumper?

BASE jumpers should start as experienced skydivers that moved on to BASE jumping. Once they become expert BASE jumpers, they should go back to skydiving to master gliding in a wingsuit. Only after mastering the wingsuit gliding through skydiving should they attempt proximity flying during a BASE jump. Taking shortcuts and trying to tackle proximity flying without putting in hundreds of hours to become an expert almost always leads to disaster. 

[1] Wonderopolis.org. (2019). What Is BASE Jumping?. [online] Available at: https://www.wonderopolis.org/wonder/what-is-base-jumping [Accessed 15 Nov. 2019]