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Fitness & Sports

The Extreme Sport of Base Jumping

Never heard of base jumping before? It’s basically skydiving’s crazy little brother. Instead of jumping out of a plane, base jumpers jump from freestanding buildings, mountains or just about anything that is high enough for them to jump off and have enough time to pull their parachute without crashing into the ground. The word base is actually an acronym meaning: Building, Antenna, Span and Earth.

Base jumping has always been a fringe sport to some extent. This due to the danger, the fact that many “traditional” skydivers feel it gives their sport a bad image, and because jumping off of buildings, towers and bridges is against the law in most places. Even if the jump itself weren’t illegal, gaining access to prime jumping spots often involves trespassing on private property, picking locks, climbing fences or deceiving security guards.

There are two ways to base jump. One is the “traditional” way, which is using a parachute. The second is a bit more extreme which is using a wing suit.

Wingsuit flying, on the other hand, is the art of flying the human body through the air using a special jumpsuit, called a wingsuit (or squirrel suit) that shapes the human body into an airfoil, which can create lift. The wingsuit creates the airfoil shape with fabric sewn between the legs and under the arms. A wingsuit can be flown from any point that provides sufficient altitude to glide through the air, such as a skydiving aircraft or base jumping exit point. The flier will deploy a parachute at a planned altitude and unzip the arm wings so they can reach up to the parachute control toggles and fly to a normal skydiving or base jumping landing.

A wingsuit allows for incredible freefall delays and horizontal distances to be achieved, almost eliminating the chance of striking the object you jumped off, the number one cause of base jumping fatalities.

Although base jumping is an amazing experience, it is an extremely dangerous sport. Since 1981, there have been at least 123 base jump and wingsuit fatalities around the world, according to the World BASE Fatality List, a Web site maintained by a base jumper. Those risks haven’t kept about 1,500 BASE jumpers and wingsuit flyers around the world from making an estimated 40,000 jumps annually, said Martin Tilley, owner of Asylum Designs, an Auburn, Calif. company that makes equipment for base jumping. “BASE jumping (and wingsuit flying) is never going to go away,” he said. “You’re never going to eliminate the desire for people to thrust themselves off fixed objects and float safely to earth with the aid of a parachute.”

If you are an advanced sky diver and are looking for a new thrill, base jumping provides amazing views, and can take you to some of the most incredible buildings in the world. The fact that it is not only extremely dangerous and also illegal in many cases makes base jumping the perfect sport for thrill seekers, extreme sport fanatics and adrenaline junkies.