The Basics of BASE Jumping

A relatively new addition to the circle of extreme air sports, BASE jumping is indeed extreme; the name is well earned, as statistics show that BASE jumping is the most fatal extreme sport of all, with one in sixty participants dying. These are extremely undesirable odds for most, but they have served to be a perfect fit for those people who truly seek to take the greatest risks possible. So, then, what exactly is BASE jumping?

Base Jumping


The type of BASE jumping that individuals engage in today was developed originally in 1978 by one Carl Boenish. Boenish was convinced that the sky diving equipment utilized at that time could be used to successfully complete a similarly executed jump off of El Capitan, a vertical rock formation in Yosemite National Park that extends approximately three thousand feet from base to summit. After conducting an adequate amount of reconnaissance, Boenish filmed four people jumping from the top; they all landed safely. It was from this initial excursion that the BASE acronym was developed.


B – Buildings – Due to legal constraints, most BASE jumpers looking to jump from a building choose skyscrapers that are still under construction.

A – Antennas – Often preferred over regular buildings, antenna towers are easier to climb and can be found in more remote areas.

S – Spans – Bridges; these are a more difficult jumping challenge, as they must span over large and deep canyons or gorges in order to be suitable.

E – Earth – As can be deduced from the name, this letter constitutes jumps from large natural formations.


The world of BASE jumping is often shrouded in ambiguity due to the questionable integrity of the activity’s legality. In most places, jumping from buildings, towers, bridges, and natural monuments is illegal. This is not due, however, to the fact that BASE jumping is illegal in and of itself; it is not, in fact. What constitutes the illegality is that, more often than not, owners of desirable BASE jump sites are reluctant to allow such dangerous acts to be committed on their property.  This, by extension, essentially necessitates trespassing in order to complete the desired jump. If caught, there can be legal and or pecuniary ramifications.Legality

In the United States, for example, BASE jumpers can face fines numbered in the thousands of dollars for BASE jumping in a national park. Due to the illegality of BASE jumping, such excursions are often committed covertly. This is why antenna towers in remote locations are often among the most desirable places to attempt a BASE jump; there are far fewer people around and security tends to be more lax. Exceptions do exist, such as the Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls, Idaho, where BASE jumping is permitted year round. There is even a holiday that involves a BASE jumping locale. The New River Gorge Bridge in Fayetteville, West Virginia has a holiday rightfully entitled Bridge Day, where BASE jumping is legal for the day, and a festival is held in honor of the event.

Laura Ginn writes for Extreme Sports X, an extreme sports magazine that covers a wide range of sports including BASE jumping.