Fred Fugen tells the story of Laurence learning Wingsuit BASE…
All about Laurence…
First, we need to remember that she did ten years of competition in the skydiving French 4–way team, first with the girls and then in the open category. She is the only girl in the French National RW 4-way team’s history to enter the open category. Laurence has more than 8,500 jumps and she is a tunnel instructor. She also did accuracy competition and still does paragliding, which helps a lot for precise landings under a BASE canopy.
She did a lot of Mutation skydiving training because it was her first suit. She went from Slick to Mutation (and then M2). The reason for that ‘big step’ is that I already flew the Mutation, I knew that suit and I loved it. For me, it’s such a great suit also because it flies super good on the back, so it makes it a super fun tool to train in skydiving. And I think it’s probably easier to fly than a 2-piece tracking suit, if you dedicate enough training for it of course. Actually, we did a lot of freefly mixed with tracking for Laurence to be comfortable in the suit. I wanted her to know the suit really well before going BASE jumping. I think we did around 120 jumps with the Mutation. And BASE jumped it in 2021, all season.
Summer 2022 was with the ETMD, also a super-good suit. For us, the transition between M2 and ETMD wasn’t difficult, but for sure with more power and more glide. We had fun in Norway with it, last year.
WS Tunnel training
Going back to wingsuits, she did about 150 jumps (all 2-ways coached by myself using radio coms) and 15 hours of wingsuit tunnel, most of them coached by Patrick Kramair, the chief instructor there. All of that since May 2022.
To be very precise, last winter we did one tunnel session a month (Jan, Feb, March, April), 3 hours flying per session. Then in May we did a good skydiving session in Spain, about 50 jumps. During these jumps she also flew with the CREATURE.
I have BASE jumped since 2000. I did my first wingsuit jump in 2000, and my first wingsuit BASE jump in 2006. I have lost many friends. So, I wanted Laurence to be ready for her first wingsuit BASE jump. I see way too many BASE jumpers doing wingsuit BASE with a very poor technical level. For me, you don’t learn to fly your suit while BASE jumping. You need to know the suit super well before doing it. Back in the days we only had skydiving to train. Now there is THE one and only wingsuit wind tunnel in the world, in Stockholm, and it’s such an amazing tool. It’s a game-changer for our sport. That’s why Laurence and I went to train a lot there. She improved so much! And me too, even after over 20 years of wingsuit flying. Incredible. We both flew the Freak4 during all of our training, and it’s the suit she was gonna take for her first wingsuit BASE jump.
One more step we took was to do some heli jumps before going BASE jumping. There is a DZ in Switzerland, AlpSkydive where we can train with BASE rigs. It’s the final step before a BASE jump. We did about 10 heli jumps and it was great to fly freestyle, flares, train the opening sequence with the BASE gear, like a final rehearsal before the cliff.
First Wingsuit BASE – Backflying!
So, after a few BASE jumps with the ETMD to warm up, we went to Brento for her first Wingsuit BASE. The first jump was memorable. After waiting for one and half hours in the clouds (nerve-wracking for her), we jumped. She was pretty anxious about the start, having the arms locked up in the suit. But, like I told her, it was gonna be just the first three seconds of unknown, and as soon as the suit would inflate she would feel right at home. That’s what happened. After 10 seconds of flight she went on her back! We talked about back flying on the first jump. Without creating more pressure, it shouldn’t be a goal. Just something she could do only if she felt comfortable doing it. But after all the training we did in the tunnel, it felt for her just super natural. And for me, so insane to see that. Doing such clean transitions and back flying on a first wingsuit BASE was just mindblowing. She did a great jump, opened and landed safely.
We did a few sessions in Brento and some training jumps in Lauterbrunnen to practice the exits.
The rest of the summer has been amazing. We were able to repeat some sequences that we trained in the tunnel and in the sky, but from cliffs. We went to the Dolomites in August, where she already did some jumps with the M2. Our goal wasn’t to go for proximity flying, but for easy big exits, giving us time and altitude for freestyle routines. We had so much fun! We were jumping F5 and Creature, depending on the spots, she did a bit of very gentle proxy, but mostly our plans was freestyle. That’s why the F5 and Creatures were our choice of suits for this year. And it was perfect; such great suits.
Also, Laurence has a ‘normal job’, going to work five days a week. So, fitting this training schedule and handling the pressure and the work wasn’t always easy. But she managed to do it great. I helped her as much as I could and I’m super proud of her. It’s so amazing to share these jumps now! But it’s been fun from the beginning. Wingsuit BASE wasn’t the ultimate goal, even if we trained hard for it. The whole journey has been so fun. She has done this year 59 wingsuit BASE jumps so far, and has 220 BASE jumps total.
We want to thank so much SQRL, who’s been super supportive from the beginning. Doing all this flying with such good gear is just perfect.
Understand more of Laurence’s BASE journey watching these jumps with husband and author Fred guiding by radio comms
Article by Fred Fugen
Team Soul Flyers