Project pBASE



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About me:

My name is Russel, Iím 30 years old and Iím a T3-T4 paraplegic (complete) due to a motorcycle accident on March 3rd, 2000.  Before my accident I was an avid scuba diver, rock climber, skydiver (250 jumps) and motorcycle rider.  In fact I used to teach both rock climbing and scuba diving classes.  Since my accident I have taken up paragliding and tried to get more into BASE jumping.  Iím quite sure Iím the first and only paraplegic in the world ever to make a BASE jump.  Since then Iíve done solo BASE jumps with some freefall and am in the process of trying to attain my
BASE number.  Many people have called my challenge ďProject pBASEĒ, the ďpĒ standing for paraplegic.

What is BASE jumping:

BASE jumping is the sport of parachuting from fixed objects.  B.A.S.E. is an acronym for the four main types of objects that are jumped:

Span (bridges)
Earth (cliffs)

For a jumper to attain a BASE number they must jump from each of these objects.  Getting a BASE number isnít anything more than having the feeling of accomplishment.  It doesnít allow you to do anything you couldnít do already, itís just an accomplishment few people in the world have achieved.  There arenít very many BASE jumpers worldwide.  There are only about 1,000-1,500 active BASE jumpers and less than 10,000 people have ever even made a BASE jump.  Currently there are just over 1,000 people worldwide that have a BASE number.  Click
here to see the chronology of BASE numbers.

BASE jumping gear and terminology:

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BASE Gear vs. Skydiving Gear - Gear used for skydiving has two parachutes.  If the first parachute fails the jumper can release it and open the second parachute.  This is possible because in skydiving deployment of the parachute starts at a very high altitude above the ground when compared to BASE jumping.  Due to the fact that BASE jumps are done at much lower altitudes there is no time to release and deploy a second parachute if the first were to fail.  Therefore BASE specific gear only has one parachute.
Bridle - A piece of 9 foot long webbing that is attached to the pilot chute on one end and the top of the canopy on the other end.  The pin(s)/velcro that keeps the container closed are sewn onto the bridal just before the attachment point of the canopy.
Canopy - Another word for a parachute.
Container - The backpack like piece of equipment that holds the packed parachute.  The container and the harness are all one unit sewn together.
Delay - Another term for the amount of time spent in freefall before throwing the pilot chute.
Floater - A term used when a jumper leaves the object facing the object instead of away from it.  The jumper then has to either turn away from the object or fall past it before deploying the parachute to avoid striking the object.
Line-Over - A type of malfunction in which a line is wrapped over the top of the parachute (see picture below).  A line-over is usually due to poor packing technique or not using a tailgate but sometimes they just happen!

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No Slider/Slider Down - A term used to indicate that the jumper has removed the slider in order for the parachute to open more quickly.
PCA - Pilot Chute Assis (see two pictures up).  This is a type of jump where the first person jumps but a second person, still on the object, holds the jumpers pilot chute.  The pilot chute is held by the non-jumper until the pin(s)/velcro is pulled, the container is opened and the canopy starts to become extracted from the container.  This type of jump gets the parachute out and inflated in less time and altitude than just throwing the pilot chute yourself.
Pilot chute - The small round parachute used to start deployment of the parachute.  Pilot chutes range in sizes from 32 inches in diameter to 52 inches.  The size used depends generally on how much time will be spent in freefall.  The pilot chute attaches to the bridle and pulls the pin(s)/velcro to open the container.  It also helps in the extraction of the canopy from the container and can be held in the jumpers hand or stowed in a pocket on the bottom of the container.  It is thrown into the clean air to start the deployment sequence.
Slider - A rectangular piece of fabric with holes through it in each corner that all the lines of the canopy run through.  It is used to slow the opening of the parachute.  The slider is packed up inside the fabric of the parachute and "slides" down the lines of the canopy during deployment and stops just above the jumperís head.
Stowed - A word used to indicate that the jumper has packed the pilot chute into a pouch on the bottom of the container.  To deploy the pilot chute the jumper must reach back, grab the pilot chute, pull it out of the pouch and let it go into the undisturbed air off to the side.
Tailgate - A piece of stiffened line used to group several lines of the canopy together during the opening sequence.  Holding these lines together helps prevent a malfunction called a line-over.

Articles I've been in:

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Other fun stuff:

Aside from BASE jumping I like to go paragliding.  I have found a way to combine a bit of both worlds by making jumps off of my friends tandem paraglider.  I use my BASE
canopy and my modified paragliding harness to do jumps ranging in height from 1100' above ground level down to 200'.  These jumps have been done not only for fun but also to practice necessary canopy skills required for BASE jumping.

Here is a video of one of my jumps from a tandem paraglider.
Length / File Size:  0:51 / 2.15MB - Play

"Project pBASE" - Where I'm at:

  • 1st jump
  • 2nd jump
  • 3rd jump
  • 4th and 5th jumps
  • 6th and 7th jumps
  • 8th jump
  • 9th jump
  • 10th jump
  • 11th and 12th jumps
  • 13th through 17th jumps
  • 18th through 21st jumps
  • 22nd and 23rd jumps

  • 1st Jump:
    I made my first BASE jump before my motorcycle accident at Bridge Day 1999 off of an 876' high bridge in West Virginia.

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    I made this jump with old skydiving gear and I decided to land in the water because I didn't feel I had the skill to land in the small, rocky, tree infested landing area.

    2nd Jump:
    My next BASE jump was done at Bridge Day 2002, after my motorcycle accident.  I had help from two other people, Kenyon and Nick, whom I met through Troy from
    GoFast!.  We did a 3-way (AFF style) with me as the high person and Nick as the low guy.  I velcro'ed my legs together so they wouldn't get thrown around during opening (something I've done for all my jumps since).  Nick and Kenyon held me up at the edge of the bridge, gave a count, and launched me.  They jumped with me holding on to either side to help stabilize me in freefall and to get me in a good body position for deployment.  The jump went perfectly except I over delayed and Nick ended up in the water.  I landed in the water as planned and the rescue boats picked me out of the water within a few seconds.  As a side note this was my first BASE jump on proper BASE gear, albeit rented gear (hence the pink color).

    Here is a video of my second jump.
    Length / File Size:  0:18 / 1.52MB - Play

    This jump made me the first paraplegic to ever make a BASE jump.

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    3rd Jump:
    My third jump was done exactly the same as my second.  Same people, same place, and even the same rented
    BASE gear.  This time I took a shorter delay in hopes Nick (the low guy again) wouldn't go in the water this year.  He ended up in the water anyway but not because of me.  At this point I wasn't doing my own packing.  Kenyon packed my rig for me the night before but we didn't have a tailgate.  He packed the rig using a differential stow but as you can see in the second to last picture on this jump I ended up getting a line-over.  This malfunction ended up clearing itself and I didn't even know I had it until I saw the pictures later that night.  Just like the last jump I landed in the water and the boats were there to pick me up.

    Here is a video of my third jump.
    Length / File Size:  0:50 / 2.13MB - Play

    No new ground was broken on this jump.

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    Pictures by Steve Davies

    4th and 5th Jumps:
    After talking with Jason from
    Vertical Visions, the person who organized Bridge Day 2003, I decided I would go to Idaho for Memorial Day weekend in 2004.  Jason gave me the name of a BASE jumper, Tom, who lives in Idaho just a few miles from the local 486' tall Bridge.  I got in touch with Tom and told him I'd like to make a solo jump from the bridge that weekend and asked if he was willing to give me a hand.  I had recently bought my own BASE rig (thank god I got rid of that pink) and I started to practice packing it myself.  When I got to Idaho I met with Tom and we worked out a way I could do a solo BASE jump.  We figured it would be easiest to build a platform to extend out over the edge, I would sit on the platform with my legs dangling over, lean forward and push myself off.  We spent one day making the platform in Tomís garage with the help of several other people.  The next day I went out and made the first solo paraplegic BASE jump just as we planned.  For safety reasons we decided to do a PCA type jump.  We did it this way because we were worried about my body position and the possibility of me going head down.  I did two jumps like this that weekend.  I had four people help me to get over the railing of the bridge and onto the platform over the edge.  Then one of those four people would hold my pilot chute and PCA me.  On my second jump that day (my fifth BASE jump) Johnny was the person PCA'ing me.  We both agree that if my body position looked good right as I exited he would release the pilot chute early to try to give me a bit more freefall.  He did just that but as it turned out that extra bit of freefall was enough for me to go head down.  Due to the fact this was a no slider jump the opening was very hard and I ended up giving myself a good case of whiplash.  The opening was hard enough that one of my shoes came off (we were able to find it in the water) and I ended up hitting myself in the face with my knees as well.

    Here is a video of my fourth jump but the first solo jump by a paraplegic.
    Length / File Size:  3:20 / 5.48MB - Play

    Here is a video of my fifth jump.
    Length / File Size:  1:10 / 1.94MB - Play

    The fourth jump was the first time a paraplegic ever made a solo BASE jump.

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    6th and 7th Jumps:
    These two jumps were done during my Labor Day weekend 2004 trip back to the same bridge in Idaho.  They were done as the same types of jumps as my fourth and fifth jumps were,
    PCA's.  The only difference was that Tom and I decided to put the slider on so I wouldn't give myself whiplash again if I went head down.

    Nothing new on these two jumps.

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    Pictures by Image This Photography

    8th Jump:
    Having done four
    PCA jumps I wanted to take the next step and try to do a solo, non-PCA jump.  I was still having problems with starting to go head down doing the jumps the way I'd done them the last four times.  We decided that if I could hang on a bar with my legs dangling straight below me that might help get me in a better body position.  We spent a day in Tomís garage again adding a bar to the end of the platform we had built before.  We nicknamed the platform "The Jungle Gym".  The eighth jump went as planned.  This would also be the first jump I had actually packed for myself.  I asked Tom about doing a floater and he said sure go for it!  The plan was for me to reach out for the bar, hang on the bar, turn around so I was facing the bridge and then let go.  Again we weren't sure how my body would react in freefall from this position so we decided to do it as a PCA this time.  But if all went well then next time we wouldn't.  Chad PCA'd me and I was able to watch the steel structure of the bridge go whizzing by as I fell past it.  The visuals were awesome!

    Here is a video of my eighth jump were I was hanging by my arms and facing the bridge.
    Length / File Size:  1:04 / 1.77MB - Play

    No new real ground was broken this jump but what was learned would help break new ground on the next jump.  Hanging by my arms and turning around on the bar was definitely a strange feeling and a strange view.  I looked down at my feet before I let go and saw nothing but 486í of empty space.

    9th Jump:
    Since the previous hanging jump (the eighth jump) went so well it was time for me to do it again but instead of being
    PCA'd I'd go stowed and take a two second delay.  Two seconds would be enough to see how my body position reacted to freefall but not enough where if something went wrong I wouldn't have time to correct it.  I specifically remember Tom saying, "If you take four seconds Iíll kill you."  And I replied with, "What happens if something goes wrong and I accidentally take four?"  He said, "Iíll still kill you!" :)  I was quite nervous about going stowed for the first time.

    Here is a video of my ninth jump.
    Length / File Size:  1:25 / 2.34MB - Play

    This jump became the fist time a paraplegic would take an extended delay and at the same time go with the pilot chute stowed.

    10th Jump:
    The idea for this jump was to be able to take a longer
    delay than I had done previously.  Because the bridge is almost twice the height this could be done safely.  I found out accidentally on my eighth jump that if I let go of the bar just as I had swung back I was able to get into a better body position.  So this year at Bridge Day when I got out hanging on the bar I purposely let my body swing a bit back and forth.  I let go of the bar on the back swing and everything went great.  I felt like I had a nice body position.  After I let go of the bar I looked at the steel structure of the bridge below me.  I thought to myself that sure looks close.  I looked further down and thought Iím going to hit that piece of steel.  Sure enough my feet just clipped one of the steel beams of the bridge.  The strike caused me to go head down.  It was at that point I knew things were only going to get worse so I deployed.  In the process of reaching and throwing the pilot chute I had gone head down and then ended up doing a flip.  The canopy deployed cleanly and on heading with no other problems.  I flew the canopy to the water where the rescue boats picked me up within a few seconds as usual.  I went to the ER and found out I broke 6 bones in my left foot due to hitting the steel.  It could have been much worse so a broken foot really is no big deal.  I learned a valuable lesson on that jump.  Donít put that much swing into it (if any at all) before letting go of the bar.

    Here is a video of my tenth jump.
    Length / File Size:  1:46 / 2.91MB - Play

    The execution of this jump was the same as my ninth jump.

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    Pictures by Whitewater Photography

    This is what my feet looked like a few days later.  OUCH!!!  I'm glad I can't feel them. :)

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    I'm still in the process of figuring out how to make ground landings.  I've gone through several ideas starting out quite complicated and slowly widdled my way down to somthing simple yet effective.  You know what they say K.I.S.S. - Keep It Simple Stupid!  I'm having some straps made to hold my legs up.  I'm going to clip them to the chest strap and just land on my butt.  There is a paraplegic skydiver in South Africa that lands skydiving this way so I know it works.  My straps should be finished in a few weeks and then I have to test it all out in my backyard.  If it all seems ok then the next step would be to try a test jump.  I will do a jump with all the same gear as if I were planning on landing on the ground but I would land it in the water to see how the landing might be.  I'll post some more when I get to the next step.


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