Base Jumping: Would you ever?!

Jumping off mountains, buildings and cliffs isn’t your everyday sport, but Amy Shaw says she’s addicted.

Forget bungee jumping and Scuba diving. They might be more extreme than a round of golf or a tennis match, but when compared to BASE jumping, they seem like a breeze.

What is Base Jumping?

The word BASE is an acronym for Building, Antenna, Span and Earth as these are the fixed objects most commonly jumped from. BASE grew out of skydiving but while sky diving is done out of a plane at around 12 000 feet, BASE jumps are done from objects that are somehow fixed to the ground, the exits ranging from 150 to 3000 feet only.

And, unlike with skydiving, there is only one parachute involved in BASE jumping, as there isn’t enough time to deploy a reserve in the event of a malfunction.

Scary right?

Well, Amy Shaw (27) is addicted to the extreme sport. She’s one of only two South African women who actively take part in BASE Jumping, and that’s only what she does in her free time.

When she’s not busy jumping off cliffs, buildings or mountains, Amy flies all over the world a humanitarian airline pilot, for organisations such the Red Cross, United Nations and Doctors without Borders.

We sat down to find out more about Amy’s life of adventure.

1. Where did your love for flying start?

I obtained my commercial pilot licence at Aptrac aviation in Port Elizabeth and after much persistence, in 2008 I got in to my current company, Air-Tec. To date my work has taken me to Congo, DRC, Central African Republic, Chad, Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Sudan.

I now hold a South African Airline Transport Pilots licence; I’ve been flying for 7 years and have 3400 flying hours logged.

2. So what exactly does a humanitarian pilot do?

Each day we receive a mission order for the following day’s flying, and every day is different.
We handle medevacs, security evacuations, repatriation of refugees, and sometimes odd jobs like flying 2000 baby chickens to a location (I’ve done that once before!)

It is hot, hands-on work and although I start the day in a crisp white pilot shirt with 4 bars on my shoulder, I usually come home covered in mud!

After 4 years the craziness can start to feel like routine. But there are days, when you watch a family reunited or evacuate desperate refugees from civil war that the work is the most fulfilling.

3. How did you get into BASE Jumping?

I had to stop skydiving after high school while I was devoting all my time to getting my Aviation career established, but I never lost the passion for it.

But, after a four year break from the sport in 2010, with 250 skydives, I travelled to the United States for formalised courses to guide me through the first few base jumps.

Nowadays I pretty much dedicate all my off duty time to skydiving and BASE jumping all over the world.

4. What thoughts go through your mind when you’re base jumping?

No one tells you to jump, the decision is entirely yours and the experience is very personal.

No matter what worries you before a jump, what lies ahead after, once your feet leave the rock, these worries don’t exist. The first 2 seconds are completely silent and as you accelerate the sound is like a train approaching in your ears.

All your emotions and thought processes are 150% focused on the task at hand.  Wind, speed, glorious exhilarating speed!

And yet, every split second is magnified and seems to contain an eternity of action, emotion and possibility.

On every jump, as I stand at the edge, after a final deep composing breath, the last thought to run through my mind is always the same: “Alright Amy. Game on.”

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