- Base jumpers from 20 countries took part in the KL Tower International Jump 2013
- Jumpers leaped from 300-meter-high platform, have only seconds to release parachutes
- Paraplegic base jumper from Canada among festival participants
Launching off a 300-meter-high tower platform with only seconds to pull your rip cord might sound like the act of an insane person.
But that's exactly what 103 base jumpers from 20 countries -- presumably all of sound mind -- did in Malaysia
over the weekend.
The jumps were part of the annual KL Tower International Jump 2013
, held in Kuala Lumpur from September 27 to 30.
Kat Donahue, 32, a location manager from the United States, was one of six women jumping this year.
"A lot of people do say I'm crazy but my family is pretty supportive," she said.
"Jumping can be scary, but when you calm your nerves and become quiet it's very peaceful out there, meditative. Base jumping can be solitary but this is such a social event, it's great."
This year's jump also welcomed Sean Chuma
from the U.S., a pioneer in tandem base jumps, and Lonnie Bissonnette
, a paraplegic base jumper from Canada.
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"Lonnie is inspiring for me as there are extra risks involved for him, but he has been jumping for years," said event organizer Gary Cunningham, 42, an electronic engineer from Australia.
"Unfortunately his accident was caused by base jumping, but he highlights how if one avenue closes you focus on what you can do. Lonnie has been able to do some pretty amazing stuff."
Cunningham has been organizing the Kuala Lumpur event since 2005 and has around 2,900 jumps under his belt.
He said if you want to try base jumping, start by skydiving.
"Through skydiving you learn precision falling and how to handle parachutes. You also learn how to deal with things when they go wrong. The potential risk is very real."
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With risk comes reward -- the ultimate adrenalin buzz.
But you'd be mistaken to assume that saying you're a base jumper works as a pick-up line.
"It doesn't help you pick up women, it helps you lose them actually," said Peter Wyllie, 33, a junior doctor from Australia.
"Women tend to see base jumpers as not a particularly secure future. Who wants to have babies with someone who is committed to tracking down a 4,000 foot wall?"
The point was echoed by David Laffargue
, 24, from France.
"Some women say they're scared of the sport, but then I do also spend all my time and money on base jumping!"
'100% of people who drink bottled water die'
Base jumping is dangerous. From 1981 to the present there have been more than 200 fatalities related to the sport.
The base jumping community tries to minimize risks.
In order to leap from the KL Tower
, which opened in the Malaysian capital in 1996, jumpers need to have two years of experience and more than 120 jumps under their belt.
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Veteran base jumper Chris "Douggs" McDougall
, 37, known for shouting "ready, steady, spaghetti" as he throws himself off the edge, stresses safety.
"It's not about having [guts], it's about arming yourself with knowledge -- risk management is key," he said.
"We accept what we do is dangerous but we want to see everyone walk away safely. One hundred percent of people who drink bottled water die. Life is a risk. If you accept that you will die you get on with living. Base jumpers focus on the positive."
"Bonkers," "mad" and "nuts" were adjectives hurled at jumpers by spectators attached to the tower's ledge with safety harnesses, as they looked over the edge and snapped photos.
"We didn't realize the festival was going on," said UK tourist Jessica Pugh, standing on the open deck of the tower watching jumpers leap.
"We were just sat in Nando's and saw someone fall off the tower -- we thought they'd jumped," added her partner, Jordan Lott.
"Thankfully we saw them pull the parachute. That was an experience in itself and then we came up here to see it. It feels better to watch than to do it yourself."
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