Just BASE? Or Skydive, too?

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“I really want to BASE jump but I don’t want to skydive…”

Laurent Frat cruising in his Mutation 2 wingsuit

For some people, skydiving is the greatest sport in the world, bottom line. For other people, skydiving is a total pain in the ass and not much fun at all.

People have learned to BASE jump without skydiving. It has been done. However, if you asked anyone who skipped the skydive steps, they will invariably tell you that it was stupid and if they could go back and do it again, they’d skydive a lot more. 

Sean Chuma poised for a BASE jump, photo by Mike Cook

Some BASE jumpers who got into the sport with little to no skydiving who are now decent BASE jumpers may tell you that skydiving is unnecessary. However, all of the best BASE jumpers I know will tell you that skydiving is crucial, and I agree.

If you asked any BASE jumper who skipped the skydive steps, they will invariably tell you that it was stupid”

Scotty Bob, by Luanne Horting

I was one of the dummies. I started BASE after only 11 skydives, and went to the Eiger in my first month of BASE jumping, I got away with it because I was lucky, and BASE jumping is actually really easy until things get weird.

Nowadays, I stand firmly in the belief that skydiving is absolutely and positively important not only in the beginning, but all throughout, your BASE career. Even if you don’t enjoy it, it’s something that I believe should be viewed as necessary in order to reach a competent level in BASE, especially if you ever plan to do slider-up BASE jumps. I feel lucky to have survived my idiocy and if I could go back in time, I would skydive a lot more. I would have had a lot more fun on my earliest cliff jumps and would be a better BASE jumper than I am today.

I feel lucky to have survived my idiocy…”

Skydiving builds up canopy skills and awareness
Image: Maxine Tate and Shane Wood by Chris Sears, flying over Skydive Algarve

If you never plan to jump anything over 400 feet, then maybe you could learn some canopy skills at the Perrine Bridge and in that case skydiving could be unnecessary. I would not argue with that logic, even if you could learn ten times as much flying your BASE canopy on a few skydive hop & pops, so even then it’s worth the tickets.

Slider-up and terminal BASE jumping is one of the most amazing parts of the sport. And I believe that the better you get the more fun you can have. Thus, training in the skydive environment is important. If you can’t fly your body well, then you can’t BASE jump well.

I believe that every part of skydiving, and every type of it, translates well. CRW, Tunnel, Freefly, Tracking / Angle, Belly… it’s all useful. The most competent and successful BASE jumpers I know have a wide background in skydiving disciplines.

The most competent and successful BASE jumpers I know have a wide background in skydiving disciplines”

Chuma getting squirrely at home in Idaho, photo by Luanne Horting

Skydiving is going to hurt a lot less if you learn to like it. Don’t take the grumpy dropzone nutsacks seriously – anyone who is rude to you simply because of your low jump numbers can safely be ignored. I know the red tape sucks, but you’ll need to buy the membership and get the insurance; it’s not that big of a deal and in the long run, compared to the BASE fun you’re going to have, it’s a small expense.

And here’s the best part; skydiving with a few good friends is, I promise, incredibly fun. It’s just as much fun as BASE jumping, after you’ve done both a thousand or so times. It’s worth it — lean into the process and enjoy improving yourself in both sports.

Here’s the best part – skydiving with friends is incredibly fun!
Image by Claudio Cagnasso
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Meet: Matt Gerdes

Matt logged over 1200 safe BASE jumps (mostly wingsuit flights in the Alps, where he opened a few new lines). He is the author of the BASE Book. Matt podiumed at Red Bull Aces 2015, finished top five in 2016, was 2016 WOWS Distance champion and 3rd in Speed. He is the co-founder of SQRL equipment (www.squirrel.ws), Next Level Flight (www.nextlevel.ws), and is a FAA rated pilot.

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