International, independent, e-magazine on skydiving, BASE & tunnel

Catching up with…Brandon Mikesell

Brandon Mikesell, World Wingsuit League 2017
Brandon Mikesell, World Wingsuit League 2017

Hey Brandon, what do you do for a living?

I have been a full time wingsuiter for the past couple of years. That definitely wasn’t always the case, I had a 9-5 typical job for most of my life.

How many jumps, what type, how long in skydiving and BASE?

I’ve been skydiving for about 7 years and BASE jumping for over 6. I have over 2,500 jumps total, 2,200 of those being wingsuit jumps. You’ll never catch me without that wingsuit on!

What equipment do you jump?

For skydiving I jump strictly Mirage containers, but any jumps related to wingsuiting and BASE I jump Squirrel.

Nationality, and where do you live?

I was born and raised in America. I currently live in Seattle, Washington and my home DZ is the one and only Skydive Kapowsin.

BASE, Skydiving achievements, claims to fame

I don’t know if I would call these my ‘claims to fame’ but personally my favorite achievements have been the flights through city skyscrapers, Sputnik lines over the barn, Le Brevent, and being a part of the WWL.

Urban Wingsuit Flight — by Brandon Mikesell
Urban Wingsuit Flight — by Brandon Mikesell

What’s been the most amazing thing you’ve ever done?

The most amazing experience so far has been the flights through the city. I felt like Batman, and who doesn’t grow up dreaming of being like their favorite superhero!? Wingsuiting through a city has always been number one on my bucket list and I’ve been fortunate enough to live that dream out on a few occasions. Flying through city skyscrapers, pitching while being surrounded by buildings, flying a parachute above moving cars, and landing in super tight spots; what’s not to like about that!?

who doesn’t grow up dreaming of being like their favorite superhero!?

I hear you got into a bit of trouble as a boy – what sort of trouble and how did wingsuiting help you out of it?

Like many kids do while growing up, I did get into some trouble. I was bullied and picked on growing up for I have a stuttering problem; it definitely took me down a darker path. I reached the lowest point I had ever been, but that allowed me to completely rebuild my life around chasing my dream of flight; which is when I found wingsuiting. I don’t think wingsuiting alone helped me out of what I considered rock bottom; to me inspiring others is what gives me the most satisfaction. I truly believe following your passion and living out your dreams is so important in life; if my story can motivate even a few people to chase their dreams then I’m thrilled to have purpose beyond just myself and this sport.

inspiring others is what gives me the most satisfaction
We'd say he nailed it! — by WWL
We'd say he nailed it! — by WWL

You tied 2nd in the WWL target-hitting contest and put out some a-mazing shots! What’s it like to hit a target? Does it affect your flight? How long did it take to nail it?

WWL was an amazing experience. I saw this event for the first time 6 years ago when it first started, and I was blown away by it. At the time I was still just a beginner in this sport, but I definitely made it one of my goals to be a part of that event one day. It felt awesome to accomplish that goal!

Hitting targets at 120mph is actually super fun! Most of us assume we can feel the target when we punch through it, but you really just hear a “Ping” sound. Hitting a bullseye the size of an apple is very challenging, but it offers that chance to really hone your skills in precision flying. The target doesn’t affect your flight at all; it’s made of very thin foam that easily breaks. Luckily for me I have a little bit of previous experience with targets so I was nailing the targets right off the bat.

How different is it, proximity flying with a cameraflyer and/or friend following you (rather than alone)?

I think proximity flying with a cameraman is way more complex. When I’m flying a line by myself it’s very simple; I study the line, fly it a bunch of times, and go wherever I like. I can choose the sickest line that I want to fly, and I have the opportunity to deviate from plans and make changes based on gut feelings/experience. However, with a cameraman it’s completely different. Everything about the flight/landing must be discussed, planned, and agreed upon down to the smallest details in order to not put him in a bad spot or situation.

Camera flying is a very hard job and it should never be taken lightly. A lot of people that lacked camera experience have gone in trying to film, so it’s extremely important to not just “wing it” (no pun intended).

I’m making decisions for both of us, that is something I take very seriously.

Flying with my cameraman, who is also my best friend, is definitely the part that weighs on me the most. I’m no longer making decisions for just myself; I’m making decisions that directly affect him and in turn his family as well. If I screw up by myself then that’s my mistake and I can deal with the consequences; however if I screw up with him flying camera then it’s no longer just solely my mistake. I’m leading and making decisions for both of us, that is something I take very seriously.

"Sometimes reaching the exits can be scarier than the actual jumps themselves" — by Brandon Mikesell
"Sometimes reaching the exits can be scarier than the actual jumps themselves" — by Brandon Mikesell

How hard is it to reach some of your exit points? Is it ever possibly safer to fly down than to hike down, and can this affect your decision to jump?

Sometimes reaching the exits can be scarier than the actual jumps themselves. There might be very difficult climbing routes, sketchy crumbling rock, or high altitude which requires long, exhausting hikes; no matter what the case might be, it’s very important to make rational decisions based off of safety.

I always expect and prepare for a hike down; hiking down because of bad weather conditions will happen to every one of us. I even consider some my hikes down more of a success than a few of my jumps, it means I’m living to see another day.

The possibility of hiking down should be the first thought in everyone’s head when planning a jump

The possibility of hiking down should be the first thought that goes into everyone’s head when planning for a jump; if that’s not going through your head before you start hiking then you need to reassess your jumping. Hiking down instead of risking everything for one jump is always important in our sport, I’ll do my best to continue to live up to this standard as I know others will as well.

What advice do you have for people who want to do what you do?

Find out what your passion is and dedicate your life to pursuing it; train as hard as you possibly can, but most importantly don’t let anyone who might not understand your dream stop you. It’s your dream, and your dream alone, so stay strong and don’t be influenced by others who don’t share that. Many people never thought I’d ever accomplish all that I have, but I’ve achieved every goal I set for myself. It’s now about coming up with new goals and achieving those ones. Simply do what makes YOU happy and you’ll never go wrong!

How can you fly such radical lines when you’re afraid of spiders & snakes?!!

Like everyone else I have many fears; heights, death, spiders, snakes, celery, failure, bills, jobs, relationships… Pretty much everything! I just choose to not let fear control my life. It takes time but I’ve found determination to push past those initial instincts to retreat. Overcoming certain fears has helped me not only with wingsuiting but with all aspects of my life; the fear of leaving a job, the fear of leaving a relationship, the fear of not being able to pay your bills… whatever it might be becomes very mundane and manageable once you develop the mindset to look past that. I’ve truly become free from the uneasiness that once held me back.

I just choose to not let fear control my life

What’s the biggest single thing we could do to improve safety in WS proximity?

Education! Hands down, education is the top method to help improve the safety of our sport. There are some talented athletes who have been spearheading education in this sport and it’s been excellent to observe. I’ve gained a lot of information, and I’ll always dedicate myself to learning as much as possible. I hope to continue to pass down the knowledge I’ve gained to others as well.

Describe yourself in 5 words or less

Just like everyone else!

Who’s been the biggest influence on your life?

My brother has been one of the biggest influences on my life. He has helped me through my darkest days, and been there to support me at my highest moments. When no one else understood why I was pursuing wingsuiting, he was there to offer me his full support and guide me in whatever way he could. I’m eternally grateful to have such an amazing role model that I could always look up to growing up.

I can’t go without mentioning my parents too! Both my mom and dad have been my greatest supporters in achieving all of my dreams. I continue to claim that I have the greatest parents in the world!

What do you think about when you go to sleep at night?

There are just a few things I continually think about before I go to bed every night.

  1. What can I do to achieve my next goal?
  2. How have I treated every person I came across today?
  3. What else can I do to help inspire others?

I honestly do ask myself these three questions every single night before I go to bed.

What’s next for you, what are you most excited about?

I am currently working on a couple of projects that should be very unique. I can’t give away too much but hopefully people will enjoy them as much as I am!

Below is my newest video with brand new lines. MORE zoolander face, MORE epic lines, MORE inspiration, MORE secrets, MORE selfies, and most importantly MORE fun! Thanks for all the love and support. Please let me know what you think of it.

Follow Brandon on his YouTube channel or Facebook page

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