"The next best thing to suicide."
This is how well-known instructor, Tom Aiello, describes BASE jumping. And he's right. Not just because the sport involves jumping from fixed objects and plunging to the ground at over 90 miles per hour, but also because the sport is estimated to produce an average of about one fatality per 60 participants.
BASE, which stands for the four main fixed objects you can jump from (buildings, antennas, spans and the earth), is similar to skydiving, but as Digg points out, "BASE jumping is to skydiving as what flying a fighter jet is to flying a kite." Both involve free-falling towards the ground and using a parachute to break your fall, but BASE jumps are made from much lower altitudes (which drastically decreases a jumper's aerodynamic control of their body) and the jumper falls very close to the fixed object they jumped off.
Study after study has attempted to publicize the risks of the sport.
Once someone starts BASE jumping, their lifespan is shortened by about five years.
BASE jumping holds a five- to eightfold increased risk of injury or death compared with skydiving.
Your chance of serious injury (think hospital time) is around 95 percent.
The ever-present danger is what makes BASE jumpers the most extreme athletes in the world. Many people call them daredevils; most people call them crazy. They know there's a good chance they'll die, but that's what makes them feel alive. It's that feeling that kept BASE jumper, Ted Davenport, jumping for years.
I was standing on the Prime Bridge in Twin Falls, Idaho... about to do my first BASE jump. The most amazing experience I thought I could ever experience was right then and there. About 580 jumps later, here I am, talking about that same feeling I get from every jump.
Even after losing his friend and mentor Shane McConkey to the sport, as well as running into a near death experience himself, Davenport continued jumping.
That is the unfortunate nature of the beast. It's the nature of BASE. It can kill you. That reality is just sitting in the back of your head. You know its there, you don't need to get out and play with it but you know it's there... Fear keeps you sharp, keeps you focused, and keeps you alive.
If all of this doesn't scare you, and you think you're a daredevil too, Tom Aiello's biggest advice is to take the sport incredibly seriously.
Make absolutely certain BASE is really what you want. This sport is dangerous, sometimes illegal and very addictive. It will take over your life... If you are not ready to die BASE jumping, you are not ready to BASE jump.
Learn more about BASE jumping and Ted Davenport in his new mini-documentary, The Reality of Falling with Ted Davenport, from The Ski Channel, below.