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 Read more