How To Start BASE Jumping

BASE First Jump Courses in the United States

Classic Perrine.
Classic Perrine. Image Courtesy Annette O'Neil

After you've done your due diligence filling the heck out of that skydiving logbook, checked off a couple of balloon jumps and wrapped your head thoroughly around what you're getting into, it might finally be time for you to make that first BASE jump.

But how?

Despite the statistically high concentration of BASE jumpers in the population, the United States boasts just one beginner object that’s legal for the sport: the Perrine Bridge, a 486-foot span with a just-over-5-second rock drop.

For this reason, the “Potato Bridge” is a key locus for the administration of BASE First Jump Courses (also called “FJCs”) and aerials training. (While West Virginia’s beginner-friendly New River Gorge is legal for one day per year, that time frame does not allow for full-fledged FJCs.) Courses are run every weekend, in every season, whenever weather permits.

If you’re looking to learn how to BASE jump, there is a very high probability that your journey will take you to Idaho. Here’s who to contact – and what to expect.

What You Can Expect:

  • To learn to pack
  • To make at least a few beginner BASE jumps (weather permitting)
  • To learn enough BASE theory to utterly saturate your brain
  • To eat quite a bit of humble pie

What You Will Need*:

  • Proof of the course’s required minimum number of skydives (in logbook form)
  • Your skydiving license
  • A BASE-appropriate helmet (as most skydiving helmets will not resist rock puncture, and rock puncture is a guarantee of a very bad day)
  • Protective gear for elbows, knees, back and anything else you’d like to keep in one piece
  • Sturdy shoes/hiking boots
  • Layers of clothing

What You May Be Required to Have/Demonstrate:

  • Proof of health insurance that covers BASE jumping
  • A paid pre-course deposit
  • One or more modern BASE rigs of your own
  • A stash bag
  • Packing tools
  • Personal recommendations from BASE jumpers already in the sport

You Should Bring:

  • A hard drive (so you can walk away with all your “BASE baby pictures”)
  • Your hiking legs (for the climb-out)

*Requirements vary – sometimes, very widely – by course and instructor. You will be grilled in your interview, and you will be required to present proof.

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Chris “Douggs” McDougall: The BASE Dreams FJC

One of the sport’s most beloved and revered practitioners, BASE Legend Chris “Douggs” McDougall, has spent the last two decades perfecting the art of BASE from some of the most exotic objects in the world, writing hilarious and informative books about the process and coaching others to follow his awesome lead. He is genetically Australian and Swiss by marriage (to his stunning and talented athlete wife, Jenny); however, luckily for wanna-be BASE jumpers, Douggs happily hops the pond to Idaho’s Perrine Bridge to administer FJCs.

Douggs’ FJCs are longer, more comprehensive, more active and better-documented (by Douggs, who’s a spectacular cameraman) than other courses. They are, understandably, more expensive.

Click Here to Sign Up

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Sean Chuma: Inter-Demented BASE

Sean Chuma, one of the sport’s best and most prolific aerial performers, teaches a very popular FJC at the Perrine (as well as advanced aerials training for experienced BASE jumpers) called Inter-Demented BASE.

Sean, a pioneer in the nascent sport of tandem BASE jumping, also owns and operates the world's original tandem BASE jumping company; to date, he has logged over 250 tandem BASE jumps (the most in the world). I-D BASE also operates a multi-manufacturer gear shop, one of the only BASE equipment sources in Twin Falls, making gear sourcing easier for new-graduate jumpers.

Click Here to Sign Up

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Apex BASE, one of the premier gear manufacturers and innovators in the sport, offers an excellent first jump course. The husband-and-wife team of Jimmy Pouchert and Marta Empinotti – both preeminent BASE athletes, with hearts of solid gold – administer Apex’s courses.

Uniquely, this FJC starts with homework, as you’re expected to review the course outline and study the packing video (sent upon receipt of your deposit) before you arrive in Idaho.

This “preview” reduces some of the informational overload of the first day, allowing new jumpers to absorb more of the balance of vital information.

Click Here to Sign Up

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The Snake River BASE Academy

Snake River BASE is, uniquely, a BASE jumping school and a BASE jumping school only. It is not the educational arm of a BASE manufacturer, nor the bespoke instructional effort of a single sponsored athlete.

Founded by Tom Aiello, a longtime BASE jumper who began instructing in the sport in 2004, the Academy has the extensive infrastructure in town: a climate-controlled, carpeted indoor packing area, a gear room stocked with loaner equipment, a teaching rigging loft, one of the only BASE exit simulators in the world and a full classroom. The latter is put to extensive use, as the course includes approximately 15 hours’ worth of classroom instruction.

Click Here to Sign Up