BASE-jumping is an exciting activity that involves jumping from fixed objects with a parachute. The term “BASE” is an abbreviation for the four categories of objects from which participants jump: buildings, aerials, spans (bridges) and the ground (cliffs). This sport is famous for its extreme nature and the incomparable drive it gives to those who dare to take part in it.

The abbreviation “BASE” was coined by movie director Carl Boenisch, along with his wife Jean Boenisch, Phil Smith and Phil Mayfield. Carl Boenisch is often credited with being the driving force behind modern base jumping. In 1978, he documented the first base jumps using ram-type parachutes and freefall tracking techniques from El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. This event is considered by many to be the birth of modern base jumping. Although jumps from fixed objects had been performed before, the El Capitan jump marked the formalization of the sport.

Unique Features of Base Jumping

Base jumping stands out from other extreme sports for several reasons:

  • Lower Altitudes: Base jumps are made from much lower altitudes compared to skydives from aircraft. This proximity to the ground enhances the intensity and danger of the sport.
  • Terminal Velocity: Due to the limited altitude, Base jumpers rarely reach terminal velocity, resulting in slower airspeeds and different aerodynamic challenges compared to skydiving.
  • Control and Precision: The lower speeds and shorter freefall times require jumpers to have precise control over their movements and quick reflexes to deploy their parachutes safely.

Legal and Safety Considerations

Base jumping involves navigating a complex web of legal and safety issues. Jumpers must secure permission to use the objects from which they jump and the areas where they land. However, many jumps are made covertly, especially from tall buildings and antenna towers, due to the reluctance of property owners to permit such activities.

Legal Challenges:

  • Trespassing: Unauthorized jumps often result in trespassing charges.
  • Additional Charges: Jumpers and their ground crews can also face charges of breaking and entering, reckless endangerment, and vandalism.
  • Permissible Locations: Some locations, like the Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls, Idaho, allow Base jumping year-round without a permit, making them popular spots for enthusiasts.

Recognition and Recordsjumping from fixed objects with a parachute

Base jumpers strive to achieve various milestones, including completing jumps from all four categories of objects. Upon doing so, they can apply for a “Base number,” a unique identifier awarded sequentially. The first base number (Base #1) was awarded to Phil Smith in 1981. As of October 2010, over 1,400 base numbers have been issued.

Notable Records:

  • Highest base Jump: The Guinness World Record for the highest base jump is held by Australians Glenn Singleman and Heather Swan, who jumped from Meru Peak in India at an elevation of 6,604 meters (21,667 feet).
  • Most Jumps in 24 Hours: Captain Daniel G. Schilling set the record for the most base jumps in a 24-hour period with 201 jumps off the Perrine Bridge in 2006.

Base Jumping in Popular Culture

Base jumping has been prominently featured in action movies and pop culture, often highlighting its daring and dramatic nature.

Famous Appearances:

  • xXx (2002): Vin Diesel’s character performs a base jump from the Foresthill Bridge.
  • Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003): Features a dramatic wingsuit base jump from the IFC Tower in Hong Kong.
  • James Bond Films: Several base jumps have been featured, including jumps from the Eiffel Tower in A View to a Kill (1985) and the Rock of Gibraltar in The Living Daylights (1987).

Competitive Base Jumping

Since the early 1980s, base jumping competitions have been held, judging participants on landing accuracy and freefall aerobatics. Notable competitions include events at the 452-meter-high Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where precision and skill are paramount.

Despite the inherent risks and legal issues, the sport’s growing popularity and frequent media appearances emphasize its enduring appeal. For those who crave the ultimate adrenaline rush, base jumping offers an unrivaled experience that continues to fascinate and inspire.