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The BASE jumper’s life

Freedom is the mantra; regulation is impossible

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"You have to work at it for years before the first jump," Schultz says.

A short man with ruddy cheeks that seem to get a fresh shot of colour every time BASE jumping is mentioned, Schultz is the kind of guy who could easily become the sport's official ambassador.

The limitations of skydiving helped persuade Schultz to try BASE jumping.

"You are dependent on a plane and sometimes they don't fly on the weekends," he says of his reason to try BASE jumping.

Along the way, he started Over the Edge Productions, giving lesser mortals a chance to have some visceral fun viewing photos and videos of him and others performing the jumps.

In one of the photos he displayed on his laptop, Schultz is dressed like a bird, an Icarus-like figure flapping his wings between two peaks on Baffin Island.

"I was trying to turn left," Schultz explained the picture coolly, as if it was his car or his bike he was talking about and not his own body fluttering thousands of feet from the ground.

As they hurl toward the ground, BASE jumpers have but a few seconds to open their chutes. In those few seconds, Schultz and Gray say, their senses are hyper acute; everything around them is crystal clear.

"You can even hear the click of the chute opening," Gray said.

"You are aware, very aware. You see leaves and birds," Schultz says and smiles, "I've flown with a lot of sea gulls."

Although BASE jumping attempts were recorded in the early 20 th century, the sport's modern inventor was an American named Carl Boenish, who made a video of his first jump in 1978 in Yosemite National Park. Now, there are BASE jumping associations all over the world, with annual events and competitions. It remains, however, a small community with a few thousand members.

BASE jumping is legal in many park sites, like the Squamish Chief, but it's illegal in most urban settings. It's also illegal in the U.S. and New Zealand. But in Europe, Schultz points out eagerly, it's a sport that is fully legal. And in some small towns in Norway, BASE jumping is a revenue generator.

After the rescue of two BASE jumpers from the Stawamus Chief in the last month some voices were raised about regulating the sport. Both Schultz and Gray scoff at the suggestion.

"What are the cops going to do, like stand at the base of the Chief, looking up for BASE jumpers all day?" Schultz asks.

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