BASE Jumping vs. Skydiving, What’s the Difference?
What’s the difference? Functionally, that’s easy: BASE jumpers jump off unmoving objects using a single parachute. Skydivers jump out of a flying aircraft with a parachute and a backup. It’s easy to confuse the sports because the open parachute looks similar. Make no mistake, they are very different animals.
Let’s start with the equipment. Skydiving and BASE jumping equipment are designed for totally different purposes. Main parachutes in skydiving are used for agility and fun. BASE jumping parachutes are designed to open as quickly and accurately as possible and allow for landings in extremely inhospitable terrain (like skydiving reserve parachutes). Skydivers don’t wear body armor; BASE jumpers do. Skydivers expect to survive every jump they’ll ever do. BASE jumpers would be fools to expect the same.
What Is BASE Jumping?
The word “BASE” is actually an acronym. It means building/antenna/span/earth, which represents the four objects BASE jumpers most often jump from. It is, however, vanishingly rare that a BASE jumper would not cut his/her teeth on the dropzone, because the journey of BASE jumping begins way before the first Bridge, Antenna, Span or Earth jump. Reputable First BASE Jump courses require each participant to have completed a minimum number of skydives in order to demonstrate the excellent parachuting skill that BASE requires not to, well, die.
Base Jumping Requirements?
The minimum requirement varies, teacher by teacher, but generally hovers around 300-500 skydives. That costs each BASE hopeful a minimum of a few thousand dollars, so the cost of entry is steep — and even steeper when you factor in the expected hospital bills most BASE jumpers will probably end up paying. It requires complete dedication: time, money, emotional investment. Skydiving is a remarkably accessible sport that a great many jumpers are able to participate in for many decades without so much as a scratch — but, even in the opening stages, you see that its sister BASE is much more than a sport. It’s a way of life. Once you’re in, death is truly the only way out.
Why Do People Jump?
So what draws people to what is statistically the riskiest sport of our time? Sure, the colorful community and extraordinary characters behind the sport of BASE jumping huck ridiculous flips from bridges, buildings, antennas, and cliffs and cruise enormous wingsuits well within striking distance of forested mountain passes, and that is probably the most reliable rush this planet’s particular physics has to offer. Some BASE jumpers continue to jump even when tragedy strikes. They deal with the inevitable, catastrophic loss of close friends–and, in some rare cases, family that took up the sport alongside them. They overcome adversity and still, for the most part, manage to remain positive. Like skydivers, BASE jumpers come from all walks of life: from “dirtbag” rock climbers to policemen to aeronautical engineers.
How Do Skydivers Get Into BASE Jumping?
Skydivers interested in getting into BASE jumping meet their eventual mentor at the dropzone. Some skydiving dropzones have a larger sub-community of BASE jumpers than others. If BASE jumping interests you, learn to skydive, work hard to get your skills dialed in, and start asking around. There’s a good chance you’ll find what you’re looking for.
Ready to start the adventure?