Wingsuit BASE Myths

There continues to be much talk about wingsuit deaths and the dangers of proximity flying. It’s been 15+ years since Loic Jean-Albert exploded the practice of terrain flying by buzzing a snow slope in Verbier, but progression and learning has progressed slowly. Some of this is due to bad forum advice, friends teaching friends (where friend 1 teaches friend 2 bad habits) which can result in statements like "It's safer to fly next to the cliff than over terrain". Since this article originally appeared in 2013, much has changed! This happened, this happened, and many people have started paying closer attention to how they should progress in the sport.

Let’s go over a few old WS BASE myths:

To Summarize:

In my opinion, the main issues in wingsuit BASE jumping are not a lack of margin, but instead a widespread misconception about personal skill (people think they are better at it than they are), and a lack of education (few are teaching, and few are giving enough importance to learning).

WS BASE is so "elite", and special, that many participants feel they have already achieved a level that makes them an "experienced jumper" just because they are doing it. It's as though just putting on a wingsuit and jumping from a cliff makes you feel so special that your ego stops you from admitting you're still a beginner and are constantly in danger of making a fatal mistake.

We're doing something that is inherently dangerous, and there is not much formal training available. Worse, many people are confusing themselves by thinking they have enough experience and knowledge to do what they see in videos. In a lack of classifications and levels, we are often misclassifying ourselves.

In other sports, such as in whitewater kayaking or rock climbing, you know that if you're a class III or 5.12 climber, it doesn't make sense to attempt class V or 5.14 routes. Wingsuit BASE jumping lacks this, and the result is that we have 5.9 climbers throwing themselves at 5.14 routes. And what makes this doubly dangerous and fucked up, is that you can't luck your way up a 5.14 route – but in some cases, some wingsuit pilots are lucking their way off of some advanced cliffs, and thinking that "getting away with it" means they're qualified to be there. It is possible to fly close to terrain without much skill or experience, and get away with it a few times, tricking yourself into thinking you actually know how to do it safely. This summer I even saw "experienced" pilots who many other wingsuiters look up to make relatively basic errors which could have cost them their lives – and they did so without even knowing that it was a mistake.

Get training. You have your entire life to kill yourself, so there is no need to be in a hurry.


Ps. All of the above applies equally to me and if I die wingsuit BASE jumping, then that doesn't mean the sport has no margin for error. It just means that all humans are capable of making multiple, compounded, mistakes.