Interview with Sheep, Skydiver and Basejumper, about the fight with fear and how to deal with it.
The most people who are doing crazy things, are doing it mainly to hide behind their boring lifes. With Sheep it’s different. He is always walking on the edge and, at the same time, is one of the nicest persons on the planet .
LvD: We have never met in person before but I have always heard of you as this very funny and nice hardcore dude with these crazy stage dives. I’m sure that you are still doing this but you also got into real sky dives in the recent years. When have you started with skydiving and what has gotten you into that sport?
Sheep: I’ve always wanted to skydive ever since I was a kid. It just always appealed to me. I remember the excitement I felt when I first saw a video of someone BASE jumping, it gave me tingles. I wanted to do one of those sponsored charity jumps when I was about 18 but the amount of money you needed seemed impossible to me. Fast forward a few years and I have a stable career and enough money to be able to pay to do it myself. I did my 1st jump and got my license in early 2012. Since the l’ve done about 260 jumps which apparently to non skydivers seems like a lot but in the skydiving world I’m still somewhat of a beginner. I’d like to jump more but work/life often gets in the way as its a pretty one consuming hobby and not the cheapest either…
I don’t like the term adrenaline junky but at the same time I’ve always been up for doing risky (ie fun) things, be it climbing industrial chimneys, jumping off a cliff into a lake, whatever… So to me it feels perfectly natural that I’d end up jumping out of planes.
LvD: Speaking of adrenaline, for me as a mountaineer and rock climber I always give up some sort of control and need to trust my gear, experience and skills. When you are about to step out of a plane this must multiply the effect, i guess. How do you get your mind under control, facing the fear or anxiety and are there days when you say “no thanks, not today, i don’t feel fine to do this”?
Sheep: Honestly, I’m not scared of it so I don’t have to face my fear. Even my first ever jump, I was more nervous about passing the test (your 1st 7 jumps are all tests) that I was about the fact that I was jumping out of a plane. When you’re 4000 metres above the ground it’s so high up that it’s somewhat surreal. You don’t really see cars or people, just buildings. I only get nervous when I’m jumping if I’m doing stuff with other people because I’m not a very gifted skydiver and I worry about fucking whatever we’re trying to do up.
As far as my equipment goes, I pack my own rig. I’ve had it for close to 200 jumps. I’m sure I’ll have a malfunction at some point, it’s almost inevitable, but that’s why you have a reserve chute that can only be packed by a qualified rigger. It has a little computer (AAD) attached and if you’re still falling fast than you shout be it will trigger the reserve at about 400 metres. If something went wrong and I got knocked out or lost consciousness, dislocated my arm so I could release the main or if I was just enjoying the view too much and didn’t pay attention to the altitude that would save me.
However, just because there are safeguards doesn’t mean that things can’t go wrong. I hope I’m not too blazè about my hear and my safety but I look after it all myself and it gets checked regularly so aside from doing everything that I can to be safe, it’s not really in the forefront of my mind.
“When I stand at the stop ready to jump, I’m shitting bricks. If you’re only 150 metres above the ground, it’s A LOT more real.”
When we move over to BASE jumping, you can throw everything I just said out of the window. When I stand at the stop ready to jump, I’m shitting bricks. If you’re only 150 metres above the ground, it’s A LOT more real. Also, you have no reserve and very little time to fix a mal should one occur.
While the gear is somewhat similar to a skydiving rig, you pack job is more complicated and needs to be precise. When skydiving you’re allowing a significant amount of time/altitude for the chute to open, not so in BASE. If you don’t pack you rig right, you can have an off opening heading and you can fly into whatever you just jumped off.
The last BASE jump I did I had a 180° twist on opening and I was headed directly to the cliff i just just leapt from. Luckily my reactions were fast enough to get me out of trouble. I’m putting that near miss to my (probably) shoddy pack job as I hadn’t done any BASE in a while prior to that.
In summary: skydiving isn’t so scary. BASE jumping is.
LvD: That’s interesting to hear. Sometimes you come across news about accidents with basejumper involved but you see mainly the videos in the web of people flying like birds as it would be the easiest thing in the world. Despite the big risk behind it what makes you do it? What is your motivation?
Sheep: Well like any sport, those who excel at it make it look easy. I’m sat at a wind tunnel right now watching a team practise and the way they fly makes it look effortless. Maintaining the right altitude in a wingsuit takes a lot practise and the manoeuvring they do, while it looks easy, is anything but!
Seems to me the majority of BASE accidents are people are the more extreme end of the sport, like the proximity flying you mention. The skill needed to do that is insane and the risks are much higher than a regular BASE jump. The margin for error is much much smaller.
“Obviously scaring yourself shitless gives you a buzz but there’s also a feeling of achievement.”
I think my motivation behind BASE jumping is much the same as why anyone does anything dangerous: it’s fun! I don’t really know if I can spin it out much more than that. Obviously scaring yourself shitless gives you a buzz but there’s also a feeling of achievement. It’s not easy to do and you have to put a lot of time into learning how to do it all.
I think it’s fair to point out that I only have about 20 BASE jumps so I’m not talking about it like I’m some kind of authority. I am the noobiest of noobs & only do nice easy jumps! No proximity flying for me (at least not until I get a lot better at BASE and wingsuiting so I can combine them).
LvD: Is proximity flying or base jumping something that you would like to take a bigger focus on in the next tim or what is the next project that you are planning?
Sheep: Absolutely. I haven’t been BASE jumping in a while because I don’t know anyone that does it here in Germany so since moving here it’s been a bit quiet on that front but I do wanna persue it further.
I also want to improve my wingsuiting, I only have about 20 wingsuit jumps so definitely have a lot of room for improvement. The drop zones here in Berlin just reopened a couple of weeks ago (they close for the winter) so it’s time to get busy!
I’m in Belgium rigt now visiting a friend that runs a wind tunnel so I’m working on my sit fly here which is fun because it’s a lot harder in s tunnel than it is in the air! You have to be much more precise with your flying as you have much more room to move around in the sky.
I think proximity flying is my ultimate goal but I want to do a little bit of everything too. I’m in no rush to get to the proximity flying though, I don’t want to do anything before I’m ready!
LvD: Is there a specific jump that you have done and you would it call your most memorable one so far?
Sheep: Well I think the one that stands out the most was the jump my girlfriend did with me. She doesn’t have the same disregard for health and safety that I do and had sworn that she would never did it. She surprised me with a weekend away to Texel island off the north coast of Holland and did a tandem jump with me on the same load.
Other than that, I did a night jump for my 100th which was pretty surreal, jumping into pitch black. I did a wingsuit rodeo (where you ride a guy on a wingsuit) for my 200th which was awesome too. 1st ever wingsuit ride was pretty awesome too. All of the firsts in the BASE world too: first bridge, first antennae, first building, first cliff…
LvD: That’s insane! OK, here’s my last one: is there anyone in the base world that stands out and you would recommend to take a closer look at?
Sheep: Well there are a lot of people doing crazy things all over the place these days but the guy I look up to most is Sean Chuma. He taught me how to jump and is a solid guy. Gives you the right amount of shit and pushes you to do it right without being a dick. His aerial acrobatics are second to nobody.
Thank you very much for the interview!
If you would like to see more of Sheep, either dropping out of an airplane, on the road with on his bands or just because, I recommend his account on Instagram .
(Intro by Chris Zehetleitner)