BASE Jumping is the process of jumping off a fixed object with a parachute. The word BASE is an acronym which stands for Building, Antenna, Span, Earth- Building jumps usually take place in cities with large buildings, Antenna jumps are done off any antenna like structure often being secured to the ground by guy wires, Span means any object which spans over a jumpable area namely a bridge and Earth jumps are done from mountain and cliff faces.
The process of becoming a BASE jumper in most cases first involves becoming a solid skydiver, as BASE requires skilful canopy control for tight landing spaces which are often encountered. It is recommended that those interested in starting BASE jumping should have 300 skydives at least, this will allow for the person to have enough canopy control for the landings and experience in canopy related malfunctions. Though with this said, there have been those who were mentored to become successful jumpers without any previous skydiving experience, though this is not recommended.
For those interested in starting BASE jumping it is recommended to find an experienced BASE jumper in your area and to contact them. This way you can get involved with the community and understand how things work before attempting to just dive into it. Once you have got your feet into the community and made friends you can attempt finding out if they are willing to mentor you. BASE jumping is most certainly an extremely dangerous activity and this often deters jumpers from having the responsibilities of mentoring others, as they do not want to have the weight of any possible incidents on their shoulders.
There are both legal and illegal exit points in BASE jumping, though luckily for those in South Africa most earth jumps are legal. The main problem will remain when attempting to gain access to an object in an area of private property.
It is very important for those interested in getting into BASE to understand the ethics involved in BASE jumping. This is another reason why finding a mentor is essential.
BASE numbers are given to applicants who have performed at least 1 jump off each of the 4 fixed object types in BASE (A building, antenna, span, earth). Once you have jumped off each of these objects you can apply for a BASE number which is your own special ID into the BASE world. BASE numbers are generally handed our numerically in sequence of application. Those with lower BASE numbers are usually respected by other jumpers due to their history in the activity.
South African BASE History
Apart from from a handful of jumpers, the South African BASE scene is still very new and unexplored even though the first jumps were made almost than 20 years ago.
The first recorded BASE jump in South Africa was made on 3 August 1988. The gear used in those days ranged from Invaders with Cruselite 220 Skydiving Mains to Zulu harnesses with modified Tempo reserves.
Over the past 20 years little more than 30 people have jumped from all four fixed objects and accomplished BASE in South Africa but many more has experienced the rush of one or more BASE jumps.
In the early 80's the local parachuting association did not welcome the new sport. Skydivers that were doing BASE jumps could have been grounded for long periods. Fortunately this relationship has mended over the years. Below is a letter received and printed in The Fixed Object Journal in March 1992
SA first lady wing suit BASE jump
Lynda Gaiao jumped herself into South African history on 20 June 2008 at Kjerag, Norway when she became the first South African lady to do a wing suit BASE jump. Visit her and Eddy's homepage at www.edlyndreams.com