A user-friendly but comprehensive malfunctions summary, on one page...
I'm driving towards the mountains and mentally preparing myself to enter my 16th year of wingsuit BASE jumping. I don't take this lightly. I realize my risk factor is actually one of the highest, and it’s because of my experience. As I once again don my cape and make my return to the world where life is lived well beyond the edge, I find myself motivated to share my thoughts on how I plan to survive this season and beyond, with the hopes that they may help swing the tides, not just in my own favor but in that of our community as a whole.
I remind myself that the most likely times for things to go wrong are at the exit, pull and in a pinch. With that, I remind myself how to decrease the likelihood of incidents in these areas.
the most likely times for things to go wrong are at the exit, pull and in a pinch
No matter what, we start every flight with the first “pinch.” To me, a pinch is a point in a jump where the pressure or risks spike up and incidents are more likely to occur. I prefer and choose to only jump from exits that allow me to feel very comfortable with all of the elements involved and include a margin of error in alignment with my experience, skill, and level of currency – both general currency and currency with the suit and equipment I'm jumping. I prefer a clean, dry, flat exit point with a nice edge clean to push off, etc… In reality and most often times this is not always the case. With the increased variables come increased risk. I take the time to thoroughly train and develop my exits and recovery skills at a site that allows for an unstable exit.
a pinch is a point in a jump where the pressure or risks spike up and incidents are more likely to occur
I over do it, under do it, learn to do it well and most importantly learn how to recover from mistakes, at a nice big cliff. 😁
I take the time to thoroughly train and develop my exits and recovery skills at a site that allows for an unstable exit
As alluring and tempting as they might be… I just say no to “short starts.” They simply don't factor in enough wiggle room for me to pretend like I can make it to 20 or 25 years of WS BASE. The writing – or, more accurately – the blood of our friends and family is already on the walls in this regard. We end every flight with another “pinch”: deployment! Anyone who's been around wingsuit flying for any time knows that whenever extra stress is added at pull time it undoubtedly leads to some kind of issue. The primary causes of stress or tension at pull time in WS BASE are; altitude, stability, high speeds or stalling, no pull find, obstacles and altitude. Did I say altitude twice? Dang, I just said it again!
Everything comes back to your altitude at pull time. The more you have, the less stressful it is likely to be and the more likely things will go well. When you start the pull sequence low you are simply asking for trouble! Stress makes you tense up and when we tense up things go to hell in a hurry!
When you start the pull sequence low you are simply asking for trouble!
Flare out, slow down, and pull high. Then enjoy the ride. Take a second or two or ten for that matter to just enjoy being under an open canopy with plenty of altitude to spare. It's a happy time. Be there, enjoy it and savor it before its gone and you're forced to land once again. I know I’m pulling at a comet altitude when I can chill for a second or two with no time pressure before I need to unstop toggles and start flying the canopy.
Ask yourself if it's really necessary or fun to add these additional pressures to your flight
Mid-flight pinches can occur due to turbulence, burbles, stalling, stability issues, over-flying or out-flying terrain, long flat glides to cover a distance, any time where the pressure or stress spikes up on a jump due to the need to deal with some in-flight “issue.”
Seriously, we all know the feeling. It’s the difference between a jump where you fly straight out into open space with little to no mid-flight pressures added beyond your own ability to actually fly a wingsuit – and one where we either choose to add or have some unexpected additional stresses added to the flight. Flying next to or over terrain, multi-ways, burbles, high wind, flights that require multiple turns or covering large distances to achieve the LZ. Ask yourself if it's really necessary or fun to add these additional pressures to your flight.
What a huge topic, and what a massive variable factor on every jump. Winds, temperatures, exit point, light levels and fatigue all factor into an increasing potential for incidents to occur. This is an easy one to talk about from the ground without a rig on, but when we’ve put in large amounts of money, time, energy, practice and climbed our asses all the way up a mountain it's easy to negotiate with ourselves and dismiss the conditions to be able to make them appear “acceptable”for the jump. Don’t make bargains with your life when Mother Nature is the dealer. The house always wins!
Don’t make bargains with your life when Mother Nature is the dealer. The house always wins!
Have you sufficiently trained your flying skills to the point where you can accurately measure your likelihood of performing the plan for the jump/flight? AND WITH PLENTY OF ADDITIONAL MARGINS ADDED FOR ERROR AND ACCOUNTING FOR LESS THAN PERFECT FLYING? Don't forget to leave room to fuck up!! We all do it eventually…
Don't forget to leave room to fuck up!! We all do it eventually
Do not let your “friends” tell you you're ready for a jump somewhere or something you're not 100% sure about yourself! Only you can decide when you’re ready for something, but then check yourself with someone whose opinion you respect. Be cautious when encouraging someone or bolstering their ego. It’s not always helpful and caution is often the better road. There's a tricky balance in BASE when it comes to skill. We need to trust ourselves explicitly and be able to perform on every jump, but we also need to be cautious of developing a false sense of security or trust in our skills to save us. Fly the middle line and don’t be in a hurry to collect exit points or objects.
Being uncurrent is at times almost better than being current. At least when you're uncurrent you know you're not current and you're much less likely to try something you might try when you are current. Be cautious of both sides of currency, overly current often leads to being overly confident and that quickly leads to being dead.
overly current often leads to being overly confident and that quickly leads to being dead.
Rushing, being overly casual or inattentive in areas that require more attention, like packing or gear maintenance. Skipping or overlooking proper gear checks at the exit, on yourself and your friends! Not getting all the beta on a jump site, relying on others to do your homework for you. Not checking the winds or knowing the landing area thoroughly. Not knowing the major or minor risks associated with any particular site. Etc, etc, etc… Complacency sneaks up on us with experience – currency and confidence being her partners in crime and members of the grim reaper’s favorite gang of accomplices.
However we wish to view it, we are a culture, a community, a sport, and a family. As a culture, we create and decide what we deem to be “Cool” rad, epic, awesome, sick or gnarly and it is totally up to us to decide that. It is just as much our choice as a group and as individuals to speak up and say when we think the way we are acting is actually not cool as it is when something it is actually cool. The barometer for that should be the ability to live and enjoy our sport successfully and repeatedly. If that's not the case and our actions are leading to massive amounts of death and losses in our community, then it is definitely not “cool” and it should not be a culture we reinforce as a community.
call each other out and be there, be real, be the voice of reason in each other's heads
We have the power as peers, friends, mentors, fellow flyers and fun-loving, life-living risk-takers to call each other out and be there, be real, be the voice of reason in each other's heads, and help each other make “reasonably” good decisions, even when it means speaking up or speaking out, when it might not feel so “cool” rather than standing back and holding our tongues as we may have done in the past.
It may save someone, or two someones, we love.
Have fun ripping it up out there peeps and fly kinda Safeishly, please. We all have a big party to go to in Vegas in 2018… ;) Love you
Athlete, WS BASE jumper, Canopy Piloting Champion