Tag Archives: Base Jumping

The Edge Radio Now Available as Podcasts

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With the winter season fast approaching (but not fast enough if you ask me), I’ve decided to take a small break from the radio interviews. But not to worry. All of my interviews from The Edge Radio are now available as podcasts. Hosting The Edge Radio has been a fascinating journey. I’ve met amazing people, heard some incredible stories and envied more than a few of my guests for their adventures.

The Edge Radio explores the motivations for getting out on the edge. From kayaking waterfalls with Brad Ludden to wingsuit flying with JT Holmes and Andy Farrington, to skiing and riding big lines with Ingrid Backstrom and Kimmy Fasani, below you’ll find interviews with some of the most amazing people on earth.

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Andy Farrington: Born to Fly

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Redbull Airforce team member Andy Farrington

Redbull Airforce team member Andy Farrington

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Listen now

Andy Farrington can fly. A member of the elite Red Bull Air Force, a team of the most accomplished BASE jumpers, wingsuit pilots, and paraglider pilots in the world, Andy is a bit of an expert. He can maneuver around buildings and along cliff faces with his wingsuit, and has jumped out of an airplane more than 19,000 times.

There are birds that haven’t flown as much as Andy. As a BASE jumper and skydiver, Andy is on the cutting edge of wingsuit flying. Andy has over 1,000 BASE jumps, two action films and numerous canopy piloting championships under his belt. But for Andy, this is just normal life.

If the first time you ever met Andy was at 12,000 feet after just having jumped from an airplane, strapped to your skydiving instructor’s belly, like I did, you might get a very different first impression. I hadn’t really noticed Andy on the plane ride. I was too nervous contemplating what I was about to do. When the cockpit door slid open, Andy jumped out. My stomach flip-flopped as a few other experts jumped out of the plane and disappeared with a freaky swooshing sound as if being sucked into outer space.

Andy Farrington skimming

Andy Farrington skimming

I first noticed Andy during freefall, when he swooped close by in his wingsuit and hovered for a moment. My brain registered his presence, even while my cheeks were inflating with wind as if I’d stuck my head out the window while riding shotgun at the Grand Prix. I looked at this winged man and thought, that guy is awesome; then he made an invisible adjustment of his limbs and darted away like a human hummingbird. Then I thought, that guy is insane.

One of 19,000 jumps for Andy Farrington

One of 19,000 jumps for Andy Farrington

When you’re about to BASE jump off a 2,000-foot cliff, you simply can’t hesitate. You cannot jump halfway. Andy Farrington lives his life without hesitation. There is simply no room for doubt. He claims he’s never walked up to a cliff and decided not to jump. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t without his own risk/reward calculus. When he’s up against something especially risky, he asks his mother for her advice. What mom says, goes.

Before he was born, his mother Jessie jumped 100 times while he was in utero. You could say he was born to jump out of airplanes. At age 10, he packed chutes at Skydive Kapowsin, his family’s skydive center, for $3 a pack. He now owns the drop zone with his sister, the third generation to carry on the family tradition. Andy and his wife Kasha recently had a baby, so perhaps the next generation is already queuing up to take over.

Some might think Andy is trying to escape the real world with all this time in the air. But for Andy, this is the real world. After meeting Andy in flight, I sat down and talked to him over a beer. It took a moment to connect the two images: one of a human bird capable of superhuman feats, the other a quiet, almost shy, man of great humility.

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In the film Transformers 3, Andy flies between Chicago’s downtown buildings at 150 mph, and BASE jumped off the Sears Tower. Andy’s current movie Iron Man 3, in which he does stunt work with mom Jessie, is in theaters now.

Join me this week on The Edge Radio when I talk to Andy Farrington about BASE jumping, the Redbull team and stunt filming. You won’t want to miss this one.

Learning to Fly

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When Jon Malmberg picked up a paraglider for the first time six years ago, he didn’t know his life was about to change. A longtime skier, rock climber, windsurfer and

Jon Malmberg takes flight

Jon Malmberg takes flight

white water kayaker, Jon was no stranger to action sports. Now, John just wants to fly. Canopy sports are his new passion. A skilled acrobatic pilot and paraglider, Malmberg recently spent a winter in the Alps learning to speedfly (the sport of flying a small wing close to steep slopes, usually wearing skis). He’s currently BASE jumping with the hope of someday piloting a wingsuit. He hopes to return to the Alps this summer to complete that goal.

What I find most intriguing about Jon is his passion for a sport that he knows is dangerous. His goal is to fly off the Eiger in a wingsuit. But once he reaches that goal, he plans on quitting the sport. When I asked him why, he told me about the BASE fatality list. This compilation of deaths from the sport of BASE jumping is indeed sobering.

Kircher-show-descriptionThe Edge. I will talk to action sports athletes, sport psychologists and neuroscientists among others as I delve into the behavior and motivations for living a life close to the edge. Please join us while we talk about the rush of flying, the thrill of takeoff and the dreams of flying a wingsuit.

Is It Okay to Die Doing What You Love?

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In the ski world, like any number of high-risk sports, tragic accidents sometimes happen. When Shane McConkey died nearly two years ago, like a mantra worn thin by repeated mumblings, the refrain echoed through the ski industry, “Well, at least he died doing what he loved.”

Two days before his disappearance, I talked to Paul Melby about his job as a diving instructor. He liked it, but it was cutting into his ski time. As both a former ski patroller and snowcat driver at Crystal, Melby was accustomed to skiing every day. And now, his four day-a-week schedule just wasn’t enough. So, while probing around a tree well yesterday, my heart in my throat, I remembered the refrain. “At least he died doing what he loved.”

But I don’t buy it. I can’t. Death is death. And even if someone dies with a heart full of joy, their blood pumping with a nirvana-esque sparkle, they are still gone.

“At least he died doing what he loved.” Tell that to his mother, to his family, to the hundreds of volunteers that have searched for him.

A few years I ago, I spoke to J.T. Holmes about base jumping. J.T. jumps off cliffs in a squirrel suit and flies. He says he’s like a bird, and that the feeling is unparalleled anywhere else. You can’t get this feeling skiing. When I asked him if it was dangerous, he just smiled.

He explained it to me like this: when you start out base jumping “you have a bucket of skill and a bucket of luck. At first, the bucket of skill is empty, and the bucket of luck is full. You pour from the bucket of luck into the bucket of skill. And someday the bucket of luck will run out.”

I wonder how different that is from drug addicts–engaging in risky behavior one knows will kill you. If J.T. was speaking of using heroin–how the high was worth the risk, how one day it would most likely be his demise–I would have been alarmed. I might have told him to get some help. I may have even taken him to a drug rehab center.

But when we talk about high-risk sports, everyone seems okay with it. Like it’s okay to die doing it, as long as you were happy right up until the end. But aren’t drug addicts enjoying themselves too? Don’t they, too, love the high and want to prolong it, want to get back to that first ideal rush, when they didn’t know if they would ever land, if they would ever have to follow the laws of gravity and physical limitations again?

As a ski patroller, charged with saving lives, I just don’t buy it.

I want to believe that I can save lives, that I can find a missing skier, bring him home–alive and well–to his waiting family. I want to believe that no one will ever die on my watch.

And yet I know, from my own experiences, that isn’t always possible. I know, too, that the rush of adrenaline, the pure joy of cold snow, the deep promise of the untracked line, the expectation of winter storms marching relentlessly towards us makes it all worth the risk.

We tell ourselves, “I could die today and be happy.” And perhaps that’s true. But I would like to posit this view: it’s better to live and ski, or jump, or fly another day. Living is always better. It is only here that we can enjoy the breathtaking splendor of mountains and cold air and crisp joy. It is only here that we can return.