10 Ways to Get the Most Out of BASE
Tips from Matt Laj on enjoying your BASE journey...
Freefly coach Reed Ramage burst on the European scene this summer like a firework, captivating everyone with his energy, positivity and incredible skills. He's upbeat, positive, adorable and flies amazingly. He's just like a labrador… if labradors could skydive.
We wanted to find out where and why this lovable Australian puppy has been hiding his talent…
So Reed, where the hell did you come from? Before this year I’d never heard of you!
I started jumping in 2012 in one of the dzs near Nagambie near Melbourne. I jumped really regularly – actually I started jumping during last year of high school, whenever I was not working I was out at the DZ. I just gave myself to it early on. It was my only focus.
How many jumps and tunnel hours do you have?
Tunnel-wise, about 300 hours personal flying plus freefly coaching and taking first timers. Sky-wise, I have 900 jumps. Not many is it? I was really lucky to get in with a good crowd and start coaching early. Because of the background in the tunnel I had a good level of flying so I’ve jumped with some great people.
So, did you work in the tunnel then?
I was jumping all through the final year at school. When I left I took a gap year, working for one of my friends, also a skydiver, so we used to take a lot of 3-day weekends and jump as much as possible … all through that year I was trying to figure out what to do with this thing called ‘Life’. I saw that iFly Downnunder, the first tunnel in Australia was set to open in 2014. I wanted to apply but I put it off as I thought they wouldn’t want this kid, like fresh out of school. So on the last day for applications I thought, ‘’Right, f*ck it!!. I smashed together an application letter at 11 o clock at night and added the resume I’d already done but tossed aside, thinking they wouldn’t be interested… I was lucky enough to keep getting through the stages. I hadn’t told anyone I’d applied, it was only when I got through a couple of the rounds that I started to tell people.
How many people applied?
They had something like 120 applications for 8 instructor jobs. So I was stoked to get one of them! I’m a terrible runner so I was training frantically for the fitness tests. I put everything into getting that dream job!
What do you do for a living now, are you still there?
Right now, I’m focusing on coaching in the sky and the tunnel, working for myself. I worked in the tunnel for about 3 years – all I was doing was flying. I barely left the town, I was on a mission!
What was the mission?
To discover what my body could do when I got in the tunnel and where I could take it. I’d never been in the tunnel before, so the first time I stepped into a tunnel was at the instructor training, in America!! I only had 250 jumps! The night before I thought, ‘F*ck, how is this gonna go?!!’ But I just jumped straight into the tunnel and thought, ‘YEAH! I like this!’
What’s one piece of advice you repeat time after time when coaching?
In general, always take it slower in the sky. Take a minute to breathe. You’re going to think you’re moving slow but people can get overwhelmed when working on something new. Taking a breath and chilling out can always help people.
Describe yourself in 5 words or less
Confident but unsure.
What do you prefer, tunnel or sky?
It’s been fluctuating. As soon as I hopped into the tunnel I was 100% into tunnel. Progressing with flying fast, technical lines. There weren’t many flying like it in Australia, so a bunch of us would watch videos of how they were flying in Europe, and try to copy that shit.
Just after I finished my instructor training in America, I broke my leg real bad. It was in the gap where we just got back from training but the tunnel wasn’t finished on time – because they never are! Then I completely smashed my leg on a trampoline and, right as I was being driven home, the tunnel opened! I was so pissed! It was 4 and a half months of recovery before I got back in the tunnel and I had a bunch of metalwork in my leg, a rod through the tibia. I was waiting till it was back to super-strong to jump. I ended up waiting 22 months, so basically 2 years to get back into the sky. Part of that was because I was loving tunnel flying so much that there was no rush. I was loving flying and thought it would translate to the sky later on.
How was it getting back in the sky?
It was INSANE! There was this massive contrast between 250 jumps and no tunnel… and then 70 hours in the tunnel, with no skydiving. Getting back into the sky was crazy. Everything I had looked at when I first started jumping, like freeflying, everything I wanted to do in the sky was so available now. It was all so easy! The first jump back was a no-plan 2-way with a friend. I just remember getting down from it and thinking “OH MY GOD!!’ I felt like a cheater. I almost felt like I’d cheated myself. I just skipped all the progression in the sky to be stoked about. But I can’t complain!
Where for you are the most special places to jump?
Last winter I quit my tunnel job and went straight to Deland for the Fly4Life camps. I did a lot of jumping at Deland, I guess that was where I started to get back into jumping… two Fly4Life camps, and the FreakFly festival. That was when I got super current and started making a lot of jumps. So Deland has been a really cool place. Just to be surrounded by so many good jumpers and hanging out with them was insanely good.
In Europe I've spent a lot of time in Voss. It’s such a great group of people and even if the weather is a little bit off there is still an amazing vibe. So that’s a super-special place for me.
Is that where you got into speedflying?
I’d done a couple of runs in Voss and ended up going on this trip in Norway, at end of August to Loen. I did some speedflying. They have a gondola there, It’s amazing, like 8 runs a day is pretty standard. It was insane. I don’t consider myself a great pilot but I that was an amazing way to enter into it
A lot of skydivers are getting into speedflying lately, what’s the big deal?
I’ve been getting into my canopy and it’s really interesting to feel the a differences in the wings and trying to get acquainted with another wing. Speedfly canopies are just so responsive and agile. Compared to the wing I’m on in skydiving it’s much bigger but the responsiveness and the inputs are so clean. It feels so agile and fast. It was interesting to get used to. The skydiving canopies just want to fly straight.. although I’m sure when you get to the Leias and the Valkyries there’s a lot more roll and sensitivity. But even just comparing it to the wing I’m on, it’s 30 square feet bigger but the speed and responsiveness of it is – just like, next level. The fact it’s attached to the hips is a completely different way of flying.
What skydiving canopy do you jump?
The main canopy I got recently is a Velo 90. It’s my first cross-braced canopy, so it’s been heaps of high pulls, heaps of hop ‘n’ pops and just feeling out the canopy. It feels like I’ve just started on a steep learning curve again, like when I first got in the tunnel. It’s just rekindled everything!
Do you think people miss out that stage, that they don’t take the time to get used to their new wing?
Once people get a bit of experience behind them – and I’m definitely in that bracket – you can be prone to be a bit overconfident, thinking you have the skills to deal with everything when maybe you don’t. It depends on the crowd you’re with too. People can downsize quite quickly, then they’ll find themselves at a new drop zone on their and on a technical angle jump when they’re also jumping a new canopy and container… without taking the time to isolate those skills and work at them one step at time. It’s something I was guilty of on the wing before this one, it’s my personality, wanting to push myself. I went through that stage in the tunnel early on. But with tunnel flying there is a lot less risk, and not so much information you need to know. With canopies, I always try to remind myself of the basics, of the extra information, different conditions and different patterns to other traffic and not to get complacent. Especially as I started as a tunnel rat, the last thing I want to do is give anyone a reason to pick on me, like the stereotype! If I do something stupid everyone’s going to rip into me for being the classic tunnel rat! It’s good though, the extra pressure keeps me in check.
Whom do you admire, who are your mentors?
In skydiving especially from when I started to jump a lot more, and push myself in the sky and wanting to take the path to become a good load organizer and coach, I looked towards the example of the Fly4Life guys, and the people hanging around in Deland at that time. There was an Angle Leading course that I did there with Sharon [Harnoy-Pilcher] and Luis Prinetto. That course it was a massive learning curve – so much information that was essential for coaching in the sky. All these possibilities of different jump runs at different dropzones that I would never have thought about. When you go to Deland and there can be four planes in the sky at once! So much to think about it would blow your mind without the course. So doing it was massively beneficial, so I’m looking up to Sharon and Luis for sure.
In Europe it’s been the Zion crew, so Anna Mox [nes], Petter Stensvold and Andreas Mosling. They’ve been jumping with me a lot, they have seen most my progression, since I got my first coaching gig in the sky – which was with them! The Zion crew for sure, I love those guys!
What gear do you jump?
I jump a Mirage container with a Velo 90 inside, a Tonfly open face helmet and for suits I run DEEM, a DNA and the DNA RSX. Grzegorz from DEEM is doing great things!
I'm in the group of ambassadors for Dekunu, the new smart alti. It's been rad to be a part of the testing phase of a sick product. And I need to give a massive shoutout to Kellie and Crazy from LVN for just being general legends and hooking us up with mad clothing.
Do you have a pet hate?
This goes for anything I’ve ever gotten into. I always find myself wondering why it is, anyone who’s passionate about their sport or hobby, they fail to see why everybody’s not doing it. If people like it and it brings them happiness they struggle to see how other people can possibly not be interested! But, we’re all different! This attitude is emphasised in skydiving, and that can build up the ego. Sometimes skydivers can think there is nothing engaging in the world, other than skydiving. I hate that. So, when I’m coaching, whenever I’m talking to people in the evenings, the thing I love to do is find out what people do… why they got into the sport, what else they like to do. People are so fascinating.
What’s next? Where can we come and ‘get some of Reed’ ?
For most of the Aussie summer, I’ll be here in Australia organizing, tunnel coaching, running skills camps, freefly weekends. Next year for sure I will be back in Europe. I spent a lot of time in the Scandinavian countries. As soon as I was traveling around the different events, I was sold! I want to go back to Europe every season!