Surviving to Look Back

Female Progression in BASE

In BASE jumping, women are put at great risk by men who want to impress them

Ladies, be proactive in your learning – seek knowledge, read articles, ask questions, critique yourself
Ladies, be proactive in your learning – seek knowledge, read articles, ask questions, critique yourself

Awareness

Inexperienced female jumpers are being fast-tracked to BASE objects and exit points that they don’t belong on yet, and unsafely accelerated through their BASE progression. Responsibility ultimately falls on the jumper for her own jump, but awareness of this phenomenon is the first step for females to protect themselves from it. Aside from awareness, integrity from the mentor and females taking a proactive role in their progression are both important in getting through this dangerous first phase safely and with as much knowledge as possible.

you have to survive in order to look back

Hindsight is 20:20, but you have to survive in order to look back. Too often it is not until women are injured or survive their early progression thanks only to luck, that they realize what was really going on. Luck, while always appreciated, is not something we want to rely on in this sport. In the most serious cases the fast-tracked jumper never learned because she died. It is easy to look at someone else and say, “that won’t happen to me,” or “I’m different because…” but the truth is, these are not stories about distant people that have no relevance to us. They are our sisters in our own community and they were not any more aware they were about to die on their next jump than you are aware you are about to die on yours. They were not consciously jumping something they had no business being on. They were with someone they trusted, with friends, with mentors. There is nothing that can be written in one article that accurately covers the dynamics of every relationship. So the point is, be aware, ladies. You are not different.

they were not any more aware they were about to die on their next jump than you are aware you are about to die on yours
Author Katie Hansen jumps through the steel  — by Noah Bahnson
Author Katie Hansen jumps through the steel  — by Noah Bahnson

Have Only Platonic Mentors

Students look to mentors for guidance while learning their limitations and realizing how much they do not know yet. There is a huge amount of trust put into that relationship. There are not enough female or gay mentors to avoid the inevitability of attraction complicating mentor/student relationships. Ladies, set yourself up for success. To the best of your ability, choose to learn from someone that you have a platonic relationship with - and be brutally clear with your mentor. Know that truly platonic relationships are extremely rare, and even one-way feelings may drastically increase the risk you are subjected to. Guys, do not abuse the trust that your student has put into the relationship.

Guys, do not abuse the trust that your student has put into the relationship

BASE Family

BASE jumping is more than just jumping off of things - it is a lifestyle, it is a family, it is a coping mechanism, it is a passion. BASE jumping is many things to every single one of us, none of them trivial. If someone has been found by BASE jumping and is there for the right reasons, do not crush this valuable opportunity in its infancy. I would never encourage anyone to BASE jump but, knowing what it is, I also would never strip it away from someone either. Do not ruin what could potentially be the best thing in a student's life by putting her in danger, or making it uncomfortable for her to be in the community. Do not needlessly endanger her, and do not be the AFF instructor hooking up with his students - it’s straight up sleazy.

Gents, Have Integrity

While we already established where the ultimate responsibility resides, we need to demand integrity from mentors. This is a call to arms for the entire community, we need to look out for each other. Breaching trust and taking females to inappropriate objects is not cool and it is not okay. When you see it happening have the courage to speak up. Respect where the student really is in her progression. You might be surprised to find that by honoring what is best for the student instead of fast-tracking her, she will appreciate you more for it.

Breaching trust and taking females to inappropriate objects is not cool and it is not okay

Ladies, Be Proactive

Ladies, do not learn to BASE jump from someone who is interested in hooking up with you. This can be tricky, because we all know that despite what guys say, if they thought they had half a shot… so it is best that they don’t. Do not encourage them or flirt with the person teaching you to BASE jump. Don’t blur the lines.

I have talked with guys who are in full agreement with me about this entire article, yet still sympathize with the problematic mentors stating that it is in their nature to want to be extra helpful to girls. Being helpful is great guys, but be self-aware and ask yourself if what you are doing is best for her. Ladies, overly helpful guys make it so easy to skate by in some ways. Be proactive in your learning. Don’t be the girl who looks at her unpacked rig and pouts, letting a guy come to your rescue and pack. Don’t be content with praise. Seek knowledge, read articles (check your sources), ask questions. Critique yourself in your object assessment, in the patterns you fly. Did you think about your outs? Your emergency procedures? Your plan if someone gets hurt? Arrested? Did you have a radio on you or are you relying on others? How hard did you push off the exit point? Were you lazy with your pilot chute pitch? We need to change the double standard. Too many times I have seen girls with a weak exit, moderately stable freefall, and below-average canopy skills being told how awesome they are. Seek criticism. There is always something that could be improved on each jump, student and experienced jumper alike. Learning never stops.

Red Flags - Beware!

  • Red Flag - “You’ll be fine”
  • Red Flag - Mentors who show 'romantic' interest
  • Red Flag - Partying before jumping, anyone trying to be cool or impress you
Author Katie Hansen, BASE jumping since 2003
Author Katie Hansen, BASE jumping since 2003

Pro Tips

  • Become a better canopy pilot, right now. This cannot be stressed enough.
  • Part of BASE jumping is not BASE jumping, it’s okay to walk down. You don’t even need a good reason.
  • Being a BASE jumper doesn’t make you cool, progression makes you cool.
  • Keep skydiving, it will only make you a better body pilot and better canopy pilot.

Summary

There is no simple answer or easy solution to stop females from being taken to exit points above their skill level. BASE is about personal responsibility, and ultimately it is on each of us to jump or not - but the only way we can protect ourselves from danger is to recognize it. Awareness of this dynamic is critical. And the integrity of our community is a group effort in which we must all partake. We are one community, one family, one love. We need to look out for each other, not take advantage of each other.

This article was originally published on skydivemag

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