‘Safety Third’ | Inside The Mind Of A BASE Jumper

In recent correspondence, I asked the “FreeFallFiend”, one of our many Model Citizen BASE Jumpers, just what it’s like to hurl oneself off a building alongside a group of Disconium-clad aerialists. Here is his first-person account of what it’s like to be a BASE Jumper:

Betabrand BASE Jumpers Blog 1

Photo Credit: Pepe Cam

 

“Safety Third. One of the many mottos or slogans of BASE jumping that’s commonly muttered, declared, or even shouted on or near various exit points around the world. Said in jest among friends, it helps ease the tension while preparing to do something only a handful of people in the entire world are willing to do – hurl themselves at the ground from great heights with the intention of waiting until the very last second to stop that fall via parachute.  It’s playing chicken with the Earth and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Welcome to the world of BASE jumping.

Safety Third isn’t just a motto though…it’s a rule. The third rule of BASE jumping in fact. So what’s the first rule you’re asking? Always look good. As Andy Hays once said “If you’re getting rad and no one is around to see it…are you really getting rad?” If people are watching you get rad then you better damned well look the part. So when a notorious group of day blazing BASE jumpers got together to head south and jump off some buildings for Spring Break there was only one choice of attire – Enter Disconium. (Author’s Note: Dayblazer is a term used to describe a BASE jumper that jumps high profile buildings in the middle of the day for the thrill of being seen and the resulting getaway. Usually a derogatory term though some embrace it.)

Bright sun, hot sand, cool water, drunk college kids, and tall buildings – a BASE jumpers paradise. This is actually the third year we’ve made this trip to jump this building. As always there’s a lot of excitement and anticipation, but especially this year as we have 12 jumpers. Most BASE jumpers will tell you building jumps should have 1-3 jumpers tops…but what the hell it’s Spring Break. We rented a room from the top floor so we were jumping from our own balcony. No trespassing charges if you’re paying to be there – right? We had a solid plan: everyone jump 2-3 seconds apart from the person in the front of them, land on the beach in different areas, stash up the gear, run to the strip, then just start walking and blend into the crowd like nothing happened.

Betabrand BASE Jumpers Blog 2

Photo Credit: Pepe Cam

 

2AM. Go time. 12 jumpers are standing the living room all geared up. Disconium clothes, helmets, body armor, go pros, and our pilot chutes in hand. We move outside to the rail and take a look down. It’s Saturday night during Spring Break so there are a LOT of people on the beach. We do our last gear check, bump fists one last time, and get ready to go. We’ve drawn numbers for the jump order but I volunteered to go last – I want to be able to witness every second of the chaos that’s about to ensue.

One the count of “3…2…1….seeya” the first jumper is off. Silence for 2-3 seconds then BANG! It sounds like someone fired a shotgun directly below us as the parachute instantly opens. At the signal the second jumper goes…then the third…then the fourth. The noise from the beach is increasing. What was previously sounded like a murmur from over 300ft above the beach now sounds like yelling and screaming. BANG the 7th jumper opens. “This shit is getting real yo people are seeing us” says the 8th jumper right before leaping into the darkness. A few more seconds and two more jumpers go. “You’re next” I say to the only other jumper up there besides me. “Seeya” he shouts back as he takes a leap and a nice deep delay. I’m the only one left. I take a deep breath as I climb onto the rail and cast my eyes on the horizon. “3…2….1…..” I jump.

This has always been my favorite moment in BASE jumping. That first (or last) step off the edge. The point of no return…you’re committed to finishing this. As I am accelerating at the ground several things are happening. I’m watching lights and people on their balconies flash by as I fall past, looking at the moving lights on the beach, feeling the wind on my face, hearing the sound of the air pick up speed in my ears…and I’m counting. “One one thousand, two one thousand.” About a half second after two one thousand, I toss my pilot chute. BANG! My descent is immediately stopped with a gut wrenching jerk and my feet fly up in front of me.

Now the crowd is absolutely ROARING in my ears. I make a quick left turn and land softly on the beach between some beach chairs and a volleyball net. It’s pure pandemonium. Drunk kids are everywhere, yelling, screaming, taking picutres, calling their friends to come out and see. I glance around and see most of the jumpers have already ran away, or were in the process. I grab my gear and spring up the beach to an alley by a condo. As I run in, I see two other jumpers already there stashing their gear. As I drop my gear to do the same I hear yelling from above. “Hey! Hey!” I look up to see three lovely ladies on the balcony three stories up. “Are you guys Navy SEAL training or something?” We chuckled for a second then I reply “Something.” Less than a minute later our gear is stashed and we’re walking nonchalantly down the street. A couple cop cars go by but they’re not in a hurry so we weren’t worried.

Betabrand

Photo Credit: Pepe Cam

 

After meeting up far from the building and stashing our gear we return to our hotel in pairs so we wouldn’t attract attention. I noticed now there were two cop cars parked in front of the lobby. As two of us stepped on the elevator there was a group of college kids already on there speaking very quickly. “Dude really! There were 11 of them it was so cool! They jumped right off the building and landed right in front of us!” The kid turned to look at us. “Did you guys see them!?” After glancing at each other i replied “Yeah we did…are you sure it wasn’t 12?” We get off on our floor and go back to our room. Apparently we’re the last ones to arrive. The bottles were already opened and shots were poured. Mission accomplished, yet again…now we just had to wait for next year to do it all over, but next time…even bigger.

PS: The second rule of BASE jumping…always have a camera.”

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Photo Credit: Pepe Cam

Betabrand does not endorse jumping off tall buildings without permission.

Have a Model Citizen story you want to share? Write me: Robbie@Betabrand.com

Robbie Wiedie

Robbie Wiedie

SEO Analyst / Videographer at Betabrand
Robbie joined Betabrand in 2011, where he ran the Model Citizen program & told customer stories through video. Pre-Betabrand he studied Economics & International Affairs at Marquette University and worked as a wildland firefighter & bike taxi in San Francisco.
Robbie Wiedie

Robbie joined Betabrand in 2011, where he ran the Model Citizen program & told customer stories through video. Pre-Betabrand he studied Economics & International Affairs at Marquette University and worked as a wildland firefighter & bike taxi in San Francisco.

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