A Tribute to Mario Richard: A Life of Passion and Adventure
Death is inevitable. We all come in the door and out another at some mysterious time. The reality of not being invincible remains a commonality for all mortal beings where death eventually confronts us in the end… During the past 10 days, international headlines have bleed regularly as 7 BASE jumpers/wingsuit pilots have died flying from various cliffs in different parts of the world while pushing the limits of human flight. Tragically so, a recent addition to this growing list happened to be a local Moab hero, and one of the most talented jumpers worldwide who boasted an impressive history of over 20 years in the sport without any severe injuries. This discussion of risk vs reward has always been a common topic of discussion amongst the adventure sports community, which understands these risks far too well, as participants take on a high level of commitment in their passionate outdoor pursuits. Due to all the recent fatalities I felt inclined to share some perspectives on life and death as a whole, and provide some insight to the stories that are created in between.
It’s easy to attribute mistakes and death in the BASE world to inexperience and a lack of awareness, but when one of the most accomplished pioneers of the sport goes in, your mind can feel a bit jolted and confused about personal risk assessment decisions. This question of risk vs reward that comes up seems even more pertinent than ever before, leading to new ways of approaching everyday circumstances for some of us. The death of a friend or family member is so very real, more so than any personal injury or temporary physical pain, because it penetrates to the very soul of everyone around you, your family and the community. It illustrates tangibly the incredible influence that everyone has on each other in this world. While sustaining a life of adventure, death hides behind every corner you approach, leading its participants to think differently, live differently and appreciate all aspects of daily life differently. Confronting mental obstacles, physical set backs and potentialy fatal scenarios regularly, at some point puts you in a position of balancing the unknown outcomes of your personal decisions with the adventure you’ve committed to. When pushing the extremes in high risk sports, life and death simply become a bigger part of your daily thought process and chosen path. You begin to ask, what are your real motivations? At what point is the pursuit of adventure worth the outcome of not coming back on your next expedition? The questions go on and on and I don’t claim to know the universal answers, just the personal ones… There exists no universal response, in fact, but at some point when you’re putting it all on the line you have to be brutally honest about what you’re seeking in life. Is the pursuit of freedom worth dying for?… For some of us it is. This distinction is inherently what defines our personalities as extreme athletes and we accept the give and take of living so fully, while losing so much from time to time.
Reflecting on the recent death of Mario Richard, one of the most genuinely talented and unscathed BASE jumpers/skydivers/wingsuit pilots worldwide, this topic becomes very personal and emotional. I’ve always resorted to the poetic response that a life well lived is better than a life never lived at all, and I often find this to be the common cultural thread of connection in this adventure sports community. In the words of a dear Australian friend, Luke Chappell, who lived and died for the sport of BASE jumping, “everyone dies mate, not everyone lives.” Despite the roller coaster of feelings and emotions between friendships and partnerships living with heavy risks, you start to see the guiding philosophy behind these athletes and compassionate human beings. Accepting the fragility of life and the ever passing moments of time, we’re forced to consider that our physical lives will eventually end at any moment… Not necessarily tomorrow or the next year, but maybe today. Retirement plans begin to seem a scam and organizing life for the very distant future starts to feel like a distraction from living fully in the moment. This lifestyle of flight and gravity is what brings us back to the present and provides a new filter for the living experience. Culturally speaking, it might seem easy to follow a career path of predictable routine and occasional boredom, ignoring the fact of an inevitable end daily, but when you set yourself on a careful course of balancing along the edge of risk and progression, you have to acknowledge this reality of an inevitable conclusion. Indulging in superficial entertainment and petty life concerns becomes a laughing matter and your heart expands in new directions toward a more compassionate way of interaction. Who you love, what you do, and how you spend your allotted time becomes a bigger consideration than how much money you accumulate or what car you drive. Without placing blame or criticism on a materialistic culture, I just want to challenge everyone to take a quiet moment, long or short, to think about all the important people in their lives and question what it is they feel their purpose is. I recommend following that query as far you can until you come face to face with your personal passions, individual growths and love for life. Then, grab hold tight and don’t let go! Don’t waste your time! Commit yourself to those values and a loving community that supports them. Follow with full force a greater path of enlightenment for yourself and everyone around you. To pass flippantly through life without purpose, killing time just to get from one place to another without real intention in your actions, is suicide one minute at a time. This life we choose to create, this finite time we have to do it in, should be a work of art that reflects our unique talents, contributions and compassions for all life potentials.
Mario, and all the others that have died in the act of living out their dreams full heartedly, represent a model of living with intention alongside those they love. Thinking back on my last and brief interaction with him several weeks ago, he was smiling ear to ear, happy as could be telling me and my friend Ryan to take risks and explore the limits of our comfort zones. It wasn’t haphazard advice to be reckless. It was a message of living passionately and growing through our experiences. Advice not to be stagnant or burned out. He was one of most inspiring people I’ve ever known, even if it was for a brief and passing time. Admirable on so many levels, for his progression and contributions to the sports he participated in, and more importantly in the way he chose to poetically live his life so passionately with his adventure partner, Steph Davis. He will be severely missed by everyone that was touched by his unique presence worldwide.
These recent events have led to a lot of emotions and personal growth between my friends and family here in Moab. His death very quickly took me back to some important life lessons I first learned when I was 19-years-old, at a time when my father unexpectedly died while I was a freshmen in college. Through the hardships of familiar loss I learned to understand the impermanence of our physical lives and appreciate the unique impact we all have on the environment around us. This new lifestyle and community of BASE jumpers continues to reinforce this very same reality all too often. For better or worse, I’m constantly reminded of the influences our presence has on everything and everyone around us on the deepest of levels. We learn from those that have come before us and carry on their knowledge and wisdom like a torch to guide through the dark and tough times ahead. It seems nothing truly dies then, it only changes form and manifests in new unknown ways… I’m so inexplicably grateful for all the special people in my unique community and I cherish the memories of those that have passed on to new adventures and spaces. My deepest condolences go out to Steph, their families and everyone else who was personally touched by Mario’s amazing personality and approach to life. He was a legend amongst men and I know he’ll never be forgotten in this close community of flying humans. Wandering about the desert of Moab, his contributions and passion for the area continues to echo through the endless slot canyons for an eternity, soaring with the whispering winds over red sandstone cliffs and desert towers where he once called home. With love and respect, fly free Mario…