Catching up with… Sean Chuma

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Sean has more BASE jumps than anyone on the planet, is the undisputed aerial goat and founder of Interdimensional BASE school….

Sean in the Dolomites in Italy before a wingsuit jump
Photo by Brenton Black

Was BASE always your goal when you started to skydive? 

Base was a goal when I was a kid but I got into skydiving just because I wanted to skydive, and because I wanted to be a stuntman. I consider myself an aerial stuntman now, though I still don’t have a SAG card. I am a stuntman of anything concerning parachutes. I started skydiving in 1996 when I was 16. I didn’t really think too much about BASE till about 2004 when my friend Adam Clark started jumping and took me to ground crew on an antenna jump. Once I started BASE I knew I wanted to do it forever.

How did you do your first BASE jump? 

I did a course in 2006, with Baxter Gillespie, he was an awesome coach who had just summited Everest. It was hard to keep up with him on the hike. I still have very high respect for him because I remember the course well and feel like it was very beneficial. I’m very glad I didn’t just have a friend do a budget course with me because I had seen many people do it this way and I learned volumes more. It was at Twin Falls, I remember Mike Steen was there hanging out and showing us videos from the KL tower event. When I saw those videos, I knew I wanted to go there.

How many BASE jumps, how many skydives? 

I have 6,935 BASE jumps at the moment and over 3,500 skydives. I still skydive and love it. I mostly wingsuit when I do, because I love shredding with my friends. I have many friends that are ridiculously spectacular at flying wingsuits. 

Sean flies through Hondoo Arch during a wingsuit skydive

Is it true you have more BASE jumps than anyone on the planet? Why?

As far as I know…. I love it and just do it because I love to fly. It also is a very good way to stay fit, hiking all the time. I do about 600-800 per year I suppose. I love jumping but I also love snowmobiling, skiing, snowboarding, para motors, skydiving, reading, spiritual studies, music, and chillin’. These things take a lot of time and it feels like there is not enough time. If you play hard you have to chill just as hard, otherwise balance becomes an issue. When I am relaxing I love my time with my girlfriend, Brenton, and my cat, Acacia.

If you play hard you have to chill just as hard, otherwise balance becomes an issue”

Spectacular aerial exit from the KL Tower in Malaysia, during one of Sean’s favorite events, he attended 11 times already
Photo by Ian Flanders

You talk about ‘Balance’ – how do you balance your radical BASE activity? 

I know when to stand down. I know when to go for it and when to chill. My motivation is based on my passion for the sport, not on social media or the need for attention. People get out of balance because they want to be famous or known for the first to do something or the person to do this or that. I just do an activity that I truly love and I do it with my heart. I’m happy with that and that makes my passion pure. I have a good balance between pushing myself and holding back. I don’t want the sport to be stressful. I’m ok with doing ordinary jumps, purely because I like the feeling of a BASE jump. I try my best to not be pressured by outside influences. This can be difficult though because the outside influences are often hidden. A person is basically learning who they are, when they do a sport like this. You are forced to gain so many new senses, not just physical ones, otherwise your time is up from one bad decision. I love to play, but I love to relax, chill and just listen to the universe just as much. There is just as much entertainment and awe in a drop of water as there is in a BASE jump. I try to see the infinite in everything, though I am not perfect. 

There is just as much entertainment and awe in a drop of water as there is in a base jump”

Which BASE letter is your favorite and why? 

I love Buildings because I sometimes love the Urban environment and the ‘Mission Impossible’ feel you get. The bust factor is definitely heavy with the Bs so it can be very stressful. There is something about climbing around in places you are not supposed to be on. I love sitting on the edge of buildings and just taking in the scenery and feel. The jump is one thing but enjoying everything along the way is the most important. 

I think my next favorite is cliffs [Earth]. I love big terminal walls, especially in a wingsuit. I have been WS BASE jumping for around 9 years. I have about 800 and I took it very slow because I have seen the good and the bad. It is easy to just focus on the positive side of things and act like everything is going to be ok. This isn’t good in BASE. It is very important to have a respect for the darker side of the spectrum. If you are not respectful or aware of the dark side, it will present itself in ways you would never imagine. If you respect it and see it, you can use it to help make wise decisions. You have to constantly step outside of yourself and try to observe the patterns that you are making. If you go too hard you will eventually run into some roadblocks and be forced to have respect. It’s all about balance, just like life. 

Chilling proximity flying in the Alps

Have you ever had a close call? 

Yes I have. The first was right in front of my Dad about 8 years ago. I was doing a front flip 540 twist to a back flip. I over-rotated the pitch, which closed most of the pitch window and I ended up with a bridle wrap around my leg. I towed the PC down for a while until I could get it off. The bad thing about wrapping your legs in a backward rotation is that you have to get your feet back up in the air, but you can’t get them back up until the PC slows your rotation, then reverses it until your feet are up toward the sky again. It takes up much more time and altitude than an arm wrap. Anyways, I got it off my leg and ended up opening very low, probably 50 feet off the ground. I was very embarrassed because I shouldn’t have been making mistakes like that. It crushed my self-confidence and I couldn’t trust myself to do complex aerials for at least a year. I went back to basics and learned all over again, but with more precision and newly developed senses. I have had 4 bridle wraps, they were all close calls and they all made me more cautious and humble. 

Sum up what BASE means to you in 5 words 

Spiritual sport ninja skills necessary  

Why did you choose to teach BASE for a living? 

I felt like I had a much better ability to connect with students than most. I felt like I could get in and share the mental space with them. I run my courses like a mental/ spiritual retreat where we not only learn skills of bad-assery, but we also learn how to use our minds and develop new senses. It is often seen as a sport for “adrenaline junkies” but that is an old way of thinking. Most of us don’t really do it for a rush. We do it because we are evolving as a race of beings with super abilities and we love the feeling of precision and otherworldliness that comes with it. I also teach because I want to help the sport grow in a positive direction.

What values do you try to instil into your students? 

The biggest thing is the ability to make good decisions in order to prolong one’s ability to base jump and live for a long time. Every moment is an opportunity to figure out the best path. It isn’t so much thinking, but more feeling your way through. The sport is perfected by taking small steps and progressing toward precision. 

As the undisputed BASE aerial goat, why did you get into this area? 

I’m flattered by the question, thanks! I just love flips. I respect the ability to know where I am in space, even when I’m rotating in all different directions. I was a competitive gymnast as a kid for about 10 years. Before that I taught myself lots of flips on trampolines. I was born with a keen spatial awareness but I developed it more with my practice in gymnastics. It is easier to learn spatial awareness as a child because your mind is open, waiting to get filled up by everything around you. All of the sports I did had something to do with being in the air. I knew I would get into aerials from the beginning of my BASE career. I wanted to jump off of big things and do flips. It’s just what interested me. 

How similar/different are gymnastics and BASE aerials? 

Gymnastics helped but the timing is still way different in BASE than gymnastics or diving. One of the most appealing things about aerials is that you can be rotating on one axis and then freely rotate on the opposite axis with very little physical movement. It is almost like you can think of the twist and it happens. You can’t just jump up in the air and do a back flip without some kind of force against something. You need airspeed or rotational momentum from the object. I’m amazed that you can put a twisting rotation into the mix while flipping. It seems to go against physics but it happens. This is why I call my school Interdimensional BASE. We are not stuck on one plane of existence.

The Crazy Maker

This trick is called “the crazy maker”. The first time Sean did it he was trying to become disorientated and then find his way out.  He did it a few times and it became a trick 🙂

How do you prepare for your radical aerials? 

I breathe and try to enter into a calm space. I focus on slowing down and getting into a more feeling state of mind rather than broadcast mode. I pay attention to my field of awareness and listen to the signs in order to make my decision on what I am about to do. If all the variables seem aligned, I go for it. The most important part is the decision to move forward. It must be very committed but also there is no shame in backing down. If there is, then it is pressure which is influencing the decision to move forward rather than passion and guidance from that deeper level of existence. I know that I have to be completely aware of my position in space and I have to keep track in order to constantly manipulate my place in space for everything to be executed smoothly. Precision is key.

You go close to the ground in some aerials… how do you calculate that? 

I do get close to the ground. I have an internal clock that seems to be very accurate. It has developed precision over my time in the sport.

Sean’s 4,000th BASE jump – that’s close!

Video by Colton Kilgore

What advice would you give to someone wanting to take up aerials?

To train for aerials a person needs to develop spatial awareness. The best way, in my opinion, is to join a gymnastics or trampoline center. Trampoline is highly beneficial because you can get a lot of repetition. You want to learn a lot of tricks, not just train the ones that you plan to do. Learning many different ones is what will help you gain that special awareness so that you understand your position and orientation in the air. I think one would want to spend a couple years learning trampoline before getting too deep into the aerials. Diving can help also but nothing can really match the repetition of a trampoline. Basically any type of acrobatic training is going to be better than nothing, but the timing is still going to be different on a BASE Jump. Even the visual cues are much different.

On a trampoline you often use the ground as your spatial reference point. This helps you know where you are by using this one focal point to align with. In BASE, the reference is farther away, which can be confusing. If you get lost and don’t know which way is up, you pitch the PC at the wrong time and get wound up in the bridle. This has killed people. It’s not like you can just go flip and twist and blindly pitch the PC at any moment. You have to be in the right position so that your PC, bridle, and canopy has a clear path that aligns with the whole deployment sequence. There are lines and things that can wrap around you. It really is no joke and has to be respected. A person should be well prepared with acrobatic training before going for it in BASE, especially on low jumps.

The Perrine isn’t even the best place to learn aerials. It just happens to be very accessible to jumpers, that is why you see so much of it there. It’s better to have a much taller object so that you can do your trick and have a few seconds of buffer time to reorient and fix what you just screwed up. It is a dark road, aerials, and not something to just dabble with. The risk of consequence is so much higher. Hopefully you wouldn’t be doing it to impress others or get attention. If that were the case you would feel serious regret if something happened. It needs to be a deep passion and sort of a weird personality that has a genius for spatial awareness to travel that road.

What BASE gear do you use and why?

I use Squirrel stuff because I love it. I feel very in tune with my gear. Good gear is an obvious way to manage safety in this sport. Heading performance, glide, sinking ability, flare, maneuverability, etc, are all highly important characteristics of a base canopy. Their canopies have all that and more.  The containers, wingsuits, and pilot chutes are very high quality as well.  I am part of the Squirrel team and have constant contact with them about gear.  If I have any suggestions to make an item better, they listen.  For this reason they continue to make improvements all the time.

Sean jumps with a student, from Perrine Bridge
Photo by Luanne Horting

How does risking your life on a daily basis affect how you live the rest of your life? 

It helps me be driven to live every moment with more fullness. It helps me go with the flow and listen carefully to my environment and my awareness. It helps me grow and become closer to my higher self and my nature.

Anything you would like to add?

It is an amazing sport that has pushed humans further into our evolution into flight. There is no telling what is around the corner but the passion for what we do right now is what matters the most. That passion coupled with positivity and love for the world and everyone around us is enough to make big things happen. This is a truly amazing time to be alive.

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Meet: Lesley Gale

Lesley has been in love with skydiving for 35 years. She is a multiple world and national record holder and a coach on 20 successful record events worldwide. She has over 100 competition medals spanning more than 25 years and has been on the British 8-way National team at World events. She started Skydive Mag to spread knowledge, information and passion about our amazing sport.
Lesley is delighted to be sponsored by Performance Designs, Sun Path, Cypres, Cookie, Symbiosis suits and Larsen & Brusgaard

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