Tag Archives: base jumping

Adventurer of the Year: Felix Baumgartner

Felix Baumgartner prepares to jump from Christ the Redeemer in Rio.  photo: Red Bull Content Pool
Felix Baumgartner prepares to jump from Christ the Redeemer in Rio. photo: Red Bull Content Pool

It’s always fun to write about Felix Baumgartner. Probably because I get into so many arguments about him. People call him a daredevil, a nut, an adrenalin junkie, the Red Bull dude. Anything but a serious explorer. I wrote about him in October, just prior to his historic skydive from 128,000 feet (39,014m) on Oct. 14, 2012. A jump in which he also became the first human to break the sound barrier without a vehicle.

I watched the event live that morning, and although the Red Bull Stratos videos have been edited down to pure heroics, I can tell you there were a couple of minutes during the free fall, it did not look good. As he fell through the sound barrier (well over 800 mph) Felix was tumbling wildly out of control, arms and legs flailing. A hurricane will rip the roof off your house at 120 mph. A tornado will rip it off its foundation with winds at 300 mph. Nobody had any idea what 800 mph winds would do to the human body. I’ll be honest, when I saw that uncontrolled tumbling, I thought he was toast…

Obviously, we all know the ending.  It was picture perfect.  A man in a space suit soaring out of a cloudless sky, dropping to his knees in gratitude.  Fists held high.  It was awesome.  But now he’s up for Adventurer of the Year and if you’re gonna vote for him, you probably want to know this wasn’t just a Red Bull media stunt.  To me, it wasn’t.  But maybe you need to see a little more about Felix to be convinced.

Felix is way more than some guy who pulled a stunt.  He worked for 12 years to achieve what he did.  Because he was so well monitored, we know all kinds of things about the human body under extreme G forces.  We know NASA has at least one model to study for how to get humans back to earth, should their spacecraft fail.  And for the 70 million+ people who have seen the jump, there’s a whole new generation of explorers who just got an eyeful of possibility!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  when a guy does something this far out on the edge, we just don’t know its importance when it happens.  But the willingness to GO that far is something we can all respect.  Hope to meet him someday. Can’t wait to see what he does next.

Dean Potter Interview

Dean Potter photo: Jim Hurst
Dean Potter photo: Jim Hurst
Dean Potter is an easy guy to write about, for all the wrong reasons. Not ‘wrong’ because they’re uninteresting. Far from it. Just wrong because they only scratch the surface of the man. When you do things as extraordinarily as Dean does them, it’s easy to get pigeonholed: Dare devil. Adrenalin junkie. Wild man. None of these reflect the man I met in Telluride last May. A man more visibly centered and at peace with himself than most of the twitchy film goers whispering about him.

photo by Andy Anderson
photo by Andy Anderson
If you aren’t familiar with Dean Potter, the mythology goes roughly like this. He’s a rock climber of singular abilities, who made a name for himself in Yosemite free soloing the big walls without protection, and with the kind of unrestrained attack that set records and left jaws hanging. From a young age, he was haunted by dreams of free fall. An impending death from great heights. And he seems to have shaped his life to confound these visions. Which is your first clue that the mettle of this man lies far beneath his outer accomplishments. Whereas most of us run from our fears (or at least shuffle sheepishly away) Dean ran towards his. Full on.
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