Now, I’ve done many things of questionable sanity in my life—peeing on an electric fence comes to mind—but I’ve never BASE jumped. Nor do I (or my lawyers) recommend or advocate that you do it. But if you’re serious, you can learn the sport in one of these destinations, provided you have quite a bit of skydiving experience. Oh, and in case you’re curious about the electric fence: if the stream is steady enough, yes, you get a shock.
New River Gorge, West Virginia
Bridge Day, the sport’s biggest event, has been held every October for nearly three decades on the 876-foot-high New River Gorge Bridge in Fayetteville, West Virginia. During this one-day adrenaline-athon, the bridge (the third-tallest in the US) is closed to vehicles, and opened to people who want to parachute off it to the river below. Each year, 450 BASE jump passes are sold for Bridge Day, roughly half of them to first-time jumpers. You can take a comprehensive BASE jump course nearby during the three days prior to the event, taught by gear retailer and manufacturer Apex BASE. The cost is $400 and slots sell out fast. Something else to keep in mind: you need to have made 100 skydives to jump off the New River Gorge Bridge.
Apex BASE conducts its own weekend-long BASE jump courses in Idaho—giving you the essentials on packing the chute, emergency procedures, accounting for weather and wind conditions, and the jump itself. Most students jump five times during the course, depending on conditions. Graduates are invited to join Apex-led groups for free on their nearly monthly jumps off the I.B. Perrine Bridge in nearby Twin Falls, which hangs nearly 500 feet above the Snake River—for guidance, extra eyes for safety, and company. Contact Apex BASE directly to find out more.
The decade-old Freefall University offers a handful of skydiving and parachuting courses at its Spanish campus—complete with pool, bar, and restaurant—a half-hour south of Madrid in the town of Aranjuez. One of its advanced offerings is the six-day Full-BASE Course, which teaches the basics of BASE jumping, along with the essentials on packing and equipment. The course includes jumps off several different structures to give you a feel for a variety of conditions, heights, and hazards. While you’re there, you can get a taste of Spain’s historic culture, as much of the town is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its centuries-old architecture and gardens. Cost for the BASE jumping school is $1,000.
Just want to read about BASE jumping? Tim Sohn flung himself off a bridge with BASE jumper Miles Daisher, and it's almost as thrilling as the real thing.