Finding Bridge Day
Fun Jumper & Team ILL Vision Fan, Charles Plant from Skydive New England’s Club Jump IN! is a full blown altitude addict by the time off student status. With just a few jumps under his belt he races off to Bridge Day in search of his destiny. Get cup of coffee, sit back and reminice. Do you remember the excitement, the energy, the absolute thrill of just thinking about jumping off something? Anything?…………
Finding Bridge Day
If you wanted to know whether BASE is all that it’s cracked up to be let me assure you that it most certainly is! What you see on YouTube in NO WAY does justice to witnessing BASE in real life. Completely difference experience!!! See BASE live= Sex with a Porn star. YouTube = Amateur porn. :P ”No comparison, no competition, end of story!”
I left Thursday after class, (And skipped my last one. :P), and met up with Dan Congdon, around 5pm in Boston. From there on out we took turns driving my car for the next 14 hours down to Oak Hill, WV. The moment we arrived at the Holiday Lodge there was no question we got the right place. Aside from all the “Welcome BASE Jumpers” signs, the pitched tents and license plates such “BASE 729″, “BASE 1453″, ect… were alone enough of a dead give away. And just to confirm that suspicion, as soon as we walked in the door the first thing you noticed was that the whole front lobby had be cleared out, were at 6:30 in the morning there were already several jumpers packing their rigs and getting read for the class that was to commonsense two hours later, let alone the following morning’s events.
We’ve all been around skydivers, but BASE jumpers have a subtle, yet different vibe, and I was all about it. Dan and I grabbed some breakfast and shortly after met up with the head of the event, Jason Bell. We introduced ourselves, and begged for some work. So he told us to come back around 10. With 3 hours to burn Dan and I check out the gear displays that were in the conference room, and met with some of the pros. Apex, BASER and Morpheus were all there, as well as Vertical Visions (obviously). Registration was also held in the same room.
After that we still had some time to burn so Dan and headed down to the bridge to see what it was all about, and were able to get some gorgeous shots. We even met some fellow skydivers while we were there. Kind of a surreal moment, but I guess you had to be there. From there we went up to a local DZ about 3 miles away since I had heard that there were supposed to be a ton of BASE jumpers there, and even a First Jump Course… nada. Nothing. So we left there pretty quick, headed back to the hotel and hunted Jason down again, and hounded him for some work. Nothing yet. So we went out back where Apex was holding it’s simulated first jump training, met up with some awesome people (Some of which were at Tiki this year) and was able to them about the class, which sounded great!
Finally an opportunity to help out arrived! And talk about hitting the jack pot! Dan and I got to help set up the exit ramp with with some veteran jumpers!!! AWSOME experience!!! Made some great friends and gained some truly invaluable info at the same time. All I can say is if you plan on going to bridge day, plan on helping out! If you don’t, you miss out… BIG! You get out a this even what you put into it. Period!
The rest of the day was just spent hanging out with jumpers, over hearing their awesome stories, watching BASE videos, and going to the pre- Bridge Bay briefing. Again the energy that you get from these people is NOT altogether radically different from the vibe you get at OUR DZ… Maybe I’m weird, but they’re different in all the right ways. I can’t quite put my finger on it… Oh well, I guess it’s another case of “You’d have to be there.”
After having a beer for dinner, and feeling exhausted from the prior night’s driving, Dan and I crashed only to awake up at 5 in the morning, and head down to the bridge by 6. Word to the wise, if you plan on getting good seats, plan on getting there early! And not only early, but plan on running from the gates to the exit point. It’s like when they open up the doors @ Best Buy on Black Friday. We got the best seats, right next to the exit point and the VIP section where the Red Bull team was. Really chill guys. You could NOT get better seats. Trust me. We even got to meet one of Jeb Corliss’s photographers. Super cool chick! Just plain awesome. Check her site out: www.houseofdevon.com
For the rest of the day it was nothing but non stop jumping. The winds were insane, reaching 25 to 45 mph, and one guy breaking both wrist. After which the question of the day was how he planned on whipping his ass. Jennifer Bell was nice enough to offer him a hooker for $100 to wipe his ass! LOL, great people. On a more serious note though, there was also a near death accident in which a wing suiter accidentally pulled to low. Scary stuff. YouTube “Bridge Day 2011 accident.” He actually lived. We’re not sure of his current statues, but he is alive. Thankfully!
That aside we had an 82 year old jumper, a cancer survivor, 24% were first time jumpers that went on to second and even third in one day, a gorilla, several Mr. Bill’s, some flying pigs, wing suiters, water landings galore, carnage in the LZ, canopy collisions, BASE tandems (First time ever at Bridge Day.), falling through a canopy, near death experiences, some of the most impressive acts of acrobatics you’re going to find, and we’re just getting warmed up! We took loads of pics, many of which are posted on my FB. Look me up and brows through ‘em all. BTW these were all a combination of Dan and my shots. We had many more shots, but Murphy being Murphy, he decided to strike our cams that day. My battery died and Dan’s camera deiced to randomly over expose or delete pics. Nice! So what’s there is what we salvaged, but in no way does it do Bridge Day ANY kind of justice. Here’s a link to my page (Feel free to friend me. I don’t bite to bad. Charles Plant on Facebook :P):
And that’s something that needs to be explained. Many of you have been jumping for quite some time now. And chances are you’ve forgotten what it feels like to be in the back of the plane on your first tandem or AFF jump, just watching everyone one exit in front of you, as you slowly get pushed towards the exit. Remember how that felt? What about when you first looked out? Think back… JUST WATCHING B.A.S.E., NOT EVEN DOING IT, just WATCHING it, makes you feel like that, and amplified to a FAR HIGHER LEVEL! It got to the point where Dan and I could only watching it for 30 minutes before we had to rotate watching in shifts. I can’t even conceive of what it would be like seeing other jumpers go before you, and to finally be waved to the exit point before your first jump… I want it. After just watching and talking to these jumpers I can already see why there are some who won’t even skydive any more. And I want that to understand that. Don’t think this will make you never want to skydive every again. Most of them still do. But there are a select few who only BASE now, and seeing this allows one to begin to make sense of it.
This event was nothing short of being THEE game changer. And one that will have a permanent influence on me. I got into skydiving because I thought it was the safest and most mature rout to take in order to get into BASE, and if you’ve suspect that as well, let me assure you it’s true. Does that mean I plan on still skydiving? My answer: For the rest of my life!
After Bridge Day ended at around 3:10 PM due to train holds (1 hour and 10 minutes of train hold time total! WTF!?!?) everyone packed up and headed out, only to find that the bridge was locked down for another 2 hours. When we finally made it back to the hotel the after party was just getting underway. I couldn’t help but feel slightly detached though. I was able to jump right into conversations with these people, but I knew deep down I couldn’t connect with them on the level they were all on. They had experienced something I wanted so bad, but was still out of my grasp. But back to the party.
Unfortunately Dan and I couldn’t stay long because of the long drive ahead of us, but we were able to be there for the closing ceremony, which consisted of giving us the stats as far as injuries and fuck-ups wet, followed by awards, prizes (The competitions, if you want to call it that, were fucking awesome!) videos made by other jumpers, an announcement officially recognizing the first two BASE tandem masters ever, and a donation pot that went around for the injured wing suiter.
And let me tell you the acts of charity on theses people’s part was enough to tug at anyone’s heart. These people were just as, if not more, generous than they are considered insane. Is it possible to find better people?… I guess only if you’ve jumped at SNE. ;)?? I even passed the star (Can’t remember his name ATM, at least I’m 99% sure it was him) of the BASE documentary JUMP, right out side the conference room, but he was busy looking at the vendors work, so I couldn’t snag him. Check it out. Journey to the Center (With Jeb, Douggs and Paul) is also a great doc.
Among many things that I learned on this trip I discovered something that stuck out. Now I’ve only been in the skydiving community for about 7 months now. So a few of the more obvious things to most of you are are just coming into focus for me. Until I read The Great Book of BASE (MANDATORY READING!!!), I had NO IDEA that Harry was anything more than one of the camera guys at SNE. Read the book, that’s all I can say. But to solidify that even more, I was told by one of the vets there after informing him that my home DZ was SNE, that if you’ve been in BASE for at least a year (AT LEAST), you’ve heard of THEE Harry Parker.
I had NO IDEA we had someone that renowned at the DZ. And do you have any idea how many people know and love Carp? It was like that seen in the Sandlot when the kid hits the ball over the fence and he tells his friend it was signed by Babe Ruth only to find out that was THEE Great Bambino. The light turned on if you will. This is NOT an attempt to brown nose, but instead to inform those of you who are as new as me to this sport. Take advantage of the the amazing yet humble sources of info and experience that our unique DZ has to offer. Where else can you jump next to people like Harry, Carp, Scott or Jeff? … Not many places I’m learning.
Before leaving we made sure to thank Jason and his crew for the opportunity to volunteer and watch the event. I also assured him that Dan and I would be back next year and with a few of you all.?? So with that let me just make this early announcement. I’ll be make a pre-sign up info announcement this coming March, that way when registration opens up June 1st you can all register for you class and jump ticket. If you want a room, that would be the best time to register. TRUST ME! But camping is a great way to go as well, and it’s free (I’ll let you all use my shower). I’ll have everything planned out by then. So no excuses this time! If you wanted to go next year with a your fellow SNEers, now is the time to start seriously thinking about it.
“So for those of you who were on the fence about the whole “BASE thing”, hopefully this gave some of you the push you were looking for, and will allow us to see you there next year at the exit point with the rest of us!”
The Best,? Charles