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Saturday October 12, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Saturday October 12, 2013 MYT 6:09:10 AM
by gayathri nair
Airborne: A BASE-jumper parachuting down at the Gua Damai Extreme Park, Batu Caves, Selangor. – S.S. KANESAN/The Star
BASE-jumpers love living on the edge.
WHAT do you mean why do I want to jump again, because it’s awesome, obviously!” said one of the jumpers at the annual BASE-jumping event held at Gua Damai’s Extreme Park in Batu Caves, Selangor, recently.
BASE-jumping – which stands for Buildings, Antennae, Span and Earth – is an extreme sport for daring types who jump from these high places for the thrill of it.
For the jumpers, the tough part isn’t about jumping off a cliff or how high the place you’re jumping from is, it’s all about the landing. If one “over stirs” the air while on the way down, they may be headed for trees, shrubs ... or worse, back to the object they jumped from!
“Of course, the worst that could happen is that you die!” said 32-year-old jumper Kat Donahue from the United States.
“But let’s not talk about that ... and never ask a BASE jumper what’s the worst that could happen!” said the young thrill seeker jokingly.
“BASE-jumping can still be a fun activity for people who are wild at heart. For me, a sudden calmness comes over me when I leap.
“But I won’t lie, it is scary almost every single time, but the fear dissipates quickly,” she explained.
Donahue has done 150 jumps. Her love for this extreme sport began with skydiving.
“The fundamentals of BASE-jumping are the same as skydiving,” she said.
“Every BASE-jumper will need to learn to skydive first. That’s where you learn the basics. You learn how to navigate yourself in the air and there’s a lot more space and time to get your equipment ready. Therefore, in a way, it’s safer compared to BASE-jumping. Plus, you also have a back-up parachute.
“As for BASE-jumping, it happens really quickly and you only have one parachute. So you have to think and move very quickly.
Donahue was the only female jumper at the event.
“I like hanging out with the boys,” she joked when asked about that.
“Honestly, that’s something to think about. Why are there fewer female jumpers?
“Maybe it’s a certain level of fear or a physical requirement? I really don’t know. I mean, to me, it’s all good fun, but you have to be responsible and keep your skills current.”
Although there isn’t a fixed fitness requirement for one to BASE-jump, some fitness is still required.
“You’ll definitely need the energy to climb a cliff, like this one for instance,” said Donahue referring to the limestone cave in Gua Damai. Although the venue now has a bigger metal ramp and an improved route to the launch point, it still takes some effort and endurance to get there.
Wind or rain?
As for American mechanical engineer Christian Newman, it’s the physics and mathematics involved in the activity that intrigues him.
The 31-year-old, who made three jumps between 8am and 9am, said those weren’t his last jumps for the day either.
“Naturally, as an engineer, I see it all in a mathematical value.
“There are so many factors to take into consideration. When and where you land, how you take off and how you fight against the wind, when you’re jumping off the ledge. All-in-all, you’re aiming for a safe landing.”
Newman has thus far done 418 BASE-jumps and has been active for the past two-and-a-half years.
“There are many precautions to take before taking the plunge. Wind conditions are an important factor.
“Even the rain doesn’t matter so much, but if there are strong winds, it’s a no go.
“However, above all that, I have to say that when I am about to jump, there’s no other time I am more focused. And when I take off, I’m relaxed once again until it’s time to land,” said Newman.
Hazik Azlan, 25, from Kuala Lumpur, is a full- time skydiver. He has done 600 skydives and 60 BASE-jumps. He was one of two local BASE-jumpers at the event.
The other person was Azuan Taharudin, 42, who started BASE-jumping in 1999 and has done 250 jumps to date. The buildings he has jumped from include Menara Telekom in KL and the Komtar tower in Penang.
“Every time I make my jump, I say to myself: this may be my last jump, but if I make it, I live to do more jumps.
“It’s a fear of every jumper, but you don’t allow that fear to take over,” he shared.
BASE-jumping can be done day or night. However, there are many differences between the two. Using the analogy of driving a car, Azlan offers:
“Think about when you’re driving during the day or at night. You know your route, but because it’s dark, your vision isn’t as clear and there’s a tendency to take a wrong turn. When one jumps at night, you need to be more focused and aware of your surroundings.
“The landing part can be quite tricky, so you’ll need to steer yourself very carefully to a safe stop. Of course, it helps if your surroundings are well-lit.
Gua Damai also saw a world record holders for BASE-jumping: Canadian Lonnie Bissonnette, the only paraplegic BASE-jumper in the world to have leaped from all four of the objects in the sport’s title.
Bissonnette, 48, an elite extreme athlete from Canada was injured in July 2004 during his 1,100th BASE-jump when the lines of his parachute tangled around his foot, causing it to not open. He went crashing into a river at about 100km/h, breaking his neck and spine in the process.
But one year later, he was back BASE-jumping again.
“I don’t let being paralysed stop me for one moment,” Bissonnette told a British newspaper. “BASE-jumping brings an amazing feeling to me that I don’t get any other way.”
Also at the event was American Sean Chuma, who broke the world record last June when he tandem jumped with a 102-year-old woman from Perrine Bridge Twin Falls, Idaho. Gua Damai also witnessed its first ever tandem jump when Chuma and Donahue plunged together.
Gua Damai has been a popular venue for BASE-jumpers and this year marks the sixth consecutive year jumpers have taken on the 96m limestone cliff.
According to event organiser, Wira Adventure Consultant’s Mustapha Al Bakri Omar, this year saw an increase in jumpers compared to the previous year. Jumpers came from all around the world including Norway, Russia, Brazil, Australia, France and Denmark.
The Gua Damai cliff was the second location on the list for the jumpers this year after Wisma Sanyan in Sibu, Sarawak (Sept 21-22). At 126m high, Wisma Sanyan is the tallest building in East Malaysia.
The jumpers once again took on KL Tower in conjunction with the 2013 KL Tower BASE Jump event that took place on Sept 27 this year.
The event at Gua Damai was jointly hosted by 4B Youth Movement (Gerakan Belia 4B) and Wira Adventure Consultant and was supported by Majlis Perbandaran Selayang (MPS).
Tags / Keywords:
Lifestyle, Sport, BASE-jumping, BASE-jumpers, Gua Damai, Extreme Park, Batu Caves, Selangor
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