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Ever wondered what the weakest link in BASEjumping is? Thought about your state of mind when you jump - even if the weather is perfect?
Take a look at the mental side of BASE with Dan Vicary...
What follows is a version of an article by Dan Vicary, first published in Issue 1 of Edge Magazine, March 2014. As always, views are our own and should be taken with a huge pinch of salt. Got a comment? SHARE IT!
The latest BASE jumping gear is amazing and truly more advanced than we ever imagined… BUT don’t let that fool you, with your perfect colour scheme and personalised rig… sadly, there is still a massive weak link.
Your state of mind is often overlooked when going for a jump. How many times have you woken up for a day of jumping and knocked your coffee over, stubbed your toe and generally been a grumpy asshole?
A suggestion: maybe take a break from BASE today.
Let me paint a picture. A beautiful day in the Italian Alps; perfect weather, great friends, chucking rigs in the car for an awesome jump. Bliss.
Jumper 1 was on form, good exit, perfect opening. Job done.
Jumper 2 didn’t really feel like it, was feeling a little jaded and couldn’t string a sentence together – nothing major, just not on top form. Oh, and he didn’t have his tracking suit – still, it’s just a 1000ft-er - and he couldn’t really visualize the whole jump but still… no reason not to jump, right?
Why miss out?
So, good exit, uneventful freefall… and a snivelly 180 on opening that lands Jumper 2 smack-bang on the wall. That’s right, ON it, with the canopy hanging below him.
Relatively uninjured, I chose to take this one as a wake-up call. Yep, that jumper was me.
We’ve all done it and we’ve all seen it. We know when we’re having one of those days - and we can definitely see it in our friends when they’re not on form.
Whether it’s unzipped armwings, open chest strap, poor exits or bad decisions after it’s all going to sh*t (yanking uselessly at toggles in linetwists, anyone..?!) a slightly wobbly mental state can mean the difference between the trees and the landing area. Or, in my case, between landing on the ground and the cliff face.
So, the question is… Is this acceptable risk? To rock up to the edge of a basejump - any basejump, hardcore or ‘easy’ - and ‘kinda not feel like it’, but do it anyway?
In my painful experience – Nope!
Of course, we all have egos (dammit); we need them to charge forth and be awesome on a regular basis. Hey, someone has to do it!
But wisdom is hearing your ego, but listening to that other voice in your head that says, ‘Err, maybe not today, yeah? You just put the newspaper in the fridge and the toast in the microwave. Have a little sit-down’.
It’s no coincidence that many reported incidents are similar – we all like to improve and push ourselves to the limit, and we are all motivated people. But the key, I think, is to CHOOSE – choose the days to push hard and kick ass, and choose the days to sit back and enjoy.
After all, there is more to life than basejumping; and the good news is when you don’t feel like jumping you’re often in the most beautiful places in the world with your best friends! Pick up a camera, shoot some pics of your friends, you’ll be surprised how much you enjoy your next jump if you sit some out.
And, of course, operate under the classic 20% rule. I only ever do 20% of what I think I can do – so that when I make a stupid decision (and I do sometimes – everyone does), at least I have a fair margin to get myself out of it.
Most importantly – look after each other. Check your friends, have your friends check you… and never feel stupid about saying something if someone seems a bit ‘off’. Simply by speaking up you could refocus him or her and change a potentially bad jump into a great one. We have these bonds between us as jumpers – let’s make sure we use them for the good of everyone.
Dan Vicary is a BASEjumper/wingsuit pilot/skydiver with 9 years jumping out of and off stuff all over the world. He coaches and instructs, and is a partner in Valley BASE Gear, Lauterbrunnen’s BASE Shop
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