Differences Between Skydiving and BASE Jumping

In a single word, BASE is…an acronym! (Maybe that sounds weird, but so is the “scuba” in scuba diving.) Those four letters stand for the names of the four objects most often used by BASE jumpers as, quite literally, jumping-off points: buildings, antennae (as in radio antennae and power towers), spans (which is actually just another word for bridge) and earth (but not just any earth: dizzyingly high, vertical cliffs).

First difference: The number of parachutes.

BASE jumpers use a single-parachute system. It looks like the backpack (“container”) that contains a skydiving parachute, but it’s significantly simpler. This bit of kit is not approved by any oversight organization — it’s just the result of the intervening years of development that have passed since people first started BASE jumping sometime in the 1980s. There’s only one parachute because the few seconds of freefall that BASE conveys don’t allow for the time it would take to cut away and deploy a reserve. There’s simply not enough time for backup emergency procedures. If it doesn’t work, you’re living (or otherwise) with the consequences.

Skydivers, on the other hand, have two parachutes. A skydiving “rig” has a main parachute and a reserve parachute, as well as, in almost every case, an automatic activation device that deploys the reserve parachute in case the skydiver loses consciousness. All the skydiving parachute systems in the air are overseen and approved by the FAA, which means that all reserves are opened and repacked on a regular schedule by FAA-certified riggers. If that sounds serious, it is! Skydiving safety is incredibly important, and this kind of high-level hoo-hah over equipment helps keep our skydiving safety statistics in top form.

Difference two: The margin of survival in BASE is WAY less.

Skydivers jump with altitude-measuring devices because they have some altitude to play with. BASE jumpers don’t jump with altimeters. They have hardly any freefall at all to play with in order to establish proper body position and heading (mostly, in slippery-feeling “dead air”) before deploying a parachute. Because the margins are so tight, a smart BASE jumper has to measure up all kinds of conditions before choosing to make a jump: weather conditions, emotional conditions, physical conditions, equipment conditions, conditions of legality, and so on and so on. There are about a million variables to adjust for.

The “legality” thing is sticky, as you might imagine. Some BASE jumpers choose to jump from objects that have to be accessed illegally (a practice we very obviously don’t recommend), so they’re worried about security guards and police officers as well as the technical elements of the jump. Quite literally all BASE jumpers jump into landing areas that serve more than that one purpose. Pretty much all of these feature some perilous combination of fences, power lines, animals, children, crowds, moving traffic and enforcement personnel. The challenge is nerve-tickling, but not everyone is up to it — not all of the time.

The Upshot: They’re very different sports.

Heck yes, BASE jumping is a thrill. It makes for a good video (at least sometimes). And there are thousands of BASE jumpers who survive to enjoy that particular brand of thrill repeatedly. Plenty of other very smart, very talented BASE jumpers, however, do not.

While Skydive Paraclete XP counts quite a few BASE jumpers among our extended sky family, we neither offer BASE jumping instruction nor do we particularly condone the practice. That said: learning to skydive is the starting point of every BASE jumping career. If you ask any BASE jumper with a meaningful career, that person will tell you that the more skydives you make, the longer and less-injury-prone that BASE jumping career is likely to be. The best advice is this: Starting the skydiving chapter of your life at a great dropzone is the healthiest initial step in that direction. We’d be honored if you’d start yours with us! Give us a try.

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What is The Difference Between Base Jumping and Skydiving?

Is there a difference between base jumping and skydiving? Skydiving, parachuting, and freefalling are interchangeable terms; used to describe the act of jumping and descending from great heights. But when people use the term ‘base jumping’ they are referring to something very specific.

To get to the heart of what the difference is between base jumping and skydiving we need to look at a few things: the techniques, the equipment, and the dangers.

The basic principles of base jumping and skydiving are very similar, but there are also some important differences. As well as using different equipment, the risks and dangers are poles apart. And while a base jumper should first become an accomplished skydiver, very few skydivers will go on to base jump. And here’s why…

What is the difference between base jumping and skydiving?

gliding through air

Jumping and gliding through the mountains

Skydiving is a sport where people jump and descend from great heights: usually done by jumping from a plane at altitudes of over 10,000 feet. They involve a freefall of around 7,000 feet, followed by a parachute descent for the last 3,000 feet.

Base jumping is a very different animal and s usually performed at much lower heights. Base jumps must also be from a fixed object. The word ‘base’ is an acronym, which stands for those four types of objects: buildings (towers and skyscrapers), antennae (radio towers), spans (bridges), earth (cliffs and mountains).

The term ‘base jump’ was first coined by Carl Boensih in 1978. Carl was an extreme filmmaker and one of the pioneers behind the sport. Using ram-air parachutes he and a group of friends would jump from El Capitan, in Yosemite National Park. For many, this was the birth of base jumping as we know it today.

A typical base jump can be as low as 300 to 500 feet, with some even going below 150 feet. To put that into better context; the U.S. Parachute Association recommends a class D skydiver to pull their parachute before 2,000 feet (it takes 600 to 1,200 feet for a standard parachute to fully open!).

Do you use a parachute in BASE jumping?

base jumping

Base jumpers use large and quick to deploy parachutes

The equipment and parachutes used for base jumping are very different from those used in skydiving. Safety is at the heart of standard skydiving equipment, as well as having the main shoot, a skydiver will also have a reliable reserve in case of an emergency. In contrast to this, base jumpers only use one parachute, which is designed to open as fast and accurately as possible.

When base jumping first started jumpers would modify standard skydiving gear, usually by removing the deployment bag and slider. Since growing in popularity, you can now purchase specialist base jumping equipment. Such specialist equipment lessens the chance of broken lines or line-overs, but it’s still far from being a safe sport.

A modern base jump parachute is wing-loaded and much larger than a skydiving parachute. It will usually have vents and use an extra-large pilot chute to overcome the airspeeds at low altitudes.

There are also wingsuit base jumps, which don’t use parachutes. French skydiver, Patrick de Gayardon, is widely regarded as the creator of wingsuit base jumping. His first wingsuit base jumps were in 1997.

Can you base jump without skydiving?

jumping from plane

Freefalling while skydiving

When people say skydiving they are often referring to the freefall part of the skydive. Freefall is considered to be an adrenaline rush; especially those few seconds of freefall acceleration before hitting terminal velocity. So while there is an element of freefalling involved in base jumping, given the low heights, it can be very brief.

Skydivers freefall at approximately 200 feet per second. On a skydive over 10,000 feet, there will be 30 to 45 seconds of freefall before the parachute must be deployed. With base jumping the freefall can be as short as a few seconds, and on extremely low base jumps there is little to no canopy time: here equipment such as a static line or direct bag must be used. Super low base divers often jump with the parachute already out!

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A lot of base jumpers want an element of freefall and so prefer higher objects to jump from. With some base jump locations being over 3,000 feet, it’s possible for a base jumper to reach terminal velocity.

What are the highest and lowest recorded base jumps?

huge mountain

El Capitan is one of the homes of base jumping

Some of the highest base jumps are actually done at typical skydiving altitudes. In fact, the highest base jump on record was performant 25,300 feet! It was set by Russian extreme skydiver, Valery Rozov, off Cho Oyu mountain, in Nepal, in 2016.

In stark contrast to that, the lowest based jump currently on record was just 95 feet! It was complete by Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner (yes, the same person who did the famous Rebull Stratos jump). Felix made his base jump off the icon Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio De Janeiro.

Is BASE jumping more dangerous than skydiving?

base jumping from cliff

Base jumping is an extremely dangerous sport

It’s a myth that skydiving is a dangerous sport. Today skydiving is well regulated with lots of emphasis on safety and accessibility. Skydiving organizations are held to the highest standards, with equipment regularly tested and inspected. But while professionally supervised skydiving is a very safe sport, base jumping is certainly not.

Even the most experienced professional skydivers would never attempt base jumping, due to the risks. For starters, base jumpers only use one parachute, which is usually held in a very simple backpack; unlike the highly sophisticated packing and rigging of standard skydive parachute – which also has an equally sophisticated backup). While skydiving is highly regulated, base jumping is not, and there is no official organization that approves base jumping equipment.

The drops in base jumping are often so short, that when there is a problem there is almost no time to react or fix the issue. There is also the added risk that you are jumping next to a fixed object and collisions are not uncommon; it’s estimated that base jumping is 100 times riskier than skydiving.

Is it legal to BASE jump?

a bridge

Tall buildings and bridges are popular base jumping locations

Technically, base jumping is not illegal; very few countries or regions ban the act of base jumping. Legal issues occur due to the base jumping locations, with most base jumps done without permission. This has caused base jumping to get a bad reputation, due to so many jumps involving trespassing.

There are some iconic buildings and landmarks where base jumping is permitted; the Perrine Bridge in Idaho is one good example. There are also a large number of natural base jumping points where it is legal and popular: the French Alps is one such location. However, there are also some areas where it isn’t: in the United States National Parks base jumping is prohibited.

Many regard Austria as being the spiritual home of base jumping, and in recent years the country has laid out jumping laws; jumping from mountains and cliffs is generally permitted, but many man-made structures, such as bridges and damn are not allowed.

Skydiving and BASE Jumping – What’s the Difference?

Skydiving and BASE Jumping - What’s the Difference?

Without having already learned the differences, it is easy to forgive someone for thinking that jumping out of an aircraft or off the top of a big cliff or tall building is the same thing. It looks the same, right? Put on a backpack containing a parachute, jump, open parachute and then land. While BASE jumping and skydiving are indeed related in certain ways, there are some crucial differences that separate the two to the point where they are defined and considered as different sports.

The Name

BASE is an acronym – like SCUBA or NASA – with each letter standing for one the four main categories of object that people jump from. Building, Antenna, Span (which means bridge) and Earth. However, people also sometimes jump from objects not represented by these letters, such as giant wind turbines or very tall fairground rides – even proven possible have been the top mast of a sailing ship and a particularly tall tree. The easiest way to think of it is that whatever you are jumping from is attached to the ground it is a BASE jump, if it is flying in the air it is a skydive. People routinely skydive from aeroplanes, but also from helicopters and hot-air balloons, airships and paragliders – even from a purpose built drone platform.

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BASE Jumping

The Gear

The gear used by skydivers and BASE jumpers is also different. Skydivers jump from much higher altitudes and because they have time utilise it if necessary they always carry two parachutes – called a main and a reserve. BASE jumps happen from much, much closer to the ground, the object you are jumping from and the surrounding terrain – so there is no time to use a reserve system and as such they are not carried. Skydivers also carry additional awareness devices in the form of both visual and audible altimeters – along with an automatic activation device (AAD) that when activated properly, open a the reserve parachute if the main parachute opening parameters are not met.

The Rules

In the USA and around the world skydiving is a recognized and regulated sport with a huge emphasis on maintaining excellent safety standards. Skydiving gear is regularly inspected and tested, and must have accompanying documentation to support its usability. For example – the reserve parachute you carry on every skydive must be inspected and re-packed every six months by a suitably qualified professional, and every dropzone you visit will ask to see the official documentation that you carry before you will be allowed anywhere near the plane.

There are places around the world where it is legal to BASE jump, but as often as not climbing something to jump off the top of it will likely involve breaking a law or two – mostly by trespassing on private property. BASE jumpers are (for the most part) very responsible and unlikely to cause damage with their actions, but even the most commendable attitude towards breaking the law will still get you arrested.

The Risk

Although they are definitely related in some ways, skydiving and BASE jumping are very different. The very short version is that while skydiving can be considered as a safe sport, realistically BASE jumping cannot. Due to the lower altitudes involved and both the closer proximity to terrain and objects combined with the use of a single parachute system, the risk involved in BASE jumping is much higher.

Both BASE jumping and skydiving are tremendously exciting things to do, and the crossovers that do exist mean that once you begin your skydiving journey, opportunities to pursue BASE jumping may begin to present themselves. The key things to understand for rewarding experiences in both are the same – do things in the right order, take your time to learn them properly and surround yourself with the correct people.

Skydiving vs BASE Jumping

The building blocks of pursuing BASE jumping in the safest and most sustainable way begins with a strong career in skydiving. Both sports involve managing the risk of what you are attempting – and sport skydiving as both an industry and a community have a very healthy support structure for building the skill and experience you require. Also, skydiving is an amazing, life changing hobby all by itself and the sport is full of people that spend their entire lives flinging themselves out of flying machines and loving every minute of it without ever making a single BASE jump. So, what are you waiting for? Regardless of which direction your skydiving career ends up taking you – the first step is always high up in the sky leaping out of a perfectly good aeroplane, and here at Skydive Long Island we have everything you need to get started in exactly the right way.

Source https://skydiveparacletexp.com/2019/04/30/base-jumping/

Source https://skydivingplanet.com/what-is-the-difference-between-base-jumping-and-skydiving/

Source https://www.skydivelongisland.com/about/articles/skydiving-and-base-jumping-what-s-the-difference/

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