It’s definitely a subjective question, asking, ‘who is the best base jumper?’ Depending on who you ask, you are likely to get many different answers. What you value and regard as being true ‘greatness’ may be different from what others consider great. But base jumping is a sport that has produced a lot of outstanding athletes and iconic characters.
Some may call the best base jumper the person who has completed the most insanely daring jumps. Some will refer to the record books for great ones. Others may admire those who travel the furthest and widest and taken on ambassadorial roles in the sport. At the same time, some will give most regard to the pioneers of the sport and the base jumpers who pathed the way and pushed the limits of what is possible.
Let’s look at several iconic base jumpers considered the best in the sport. We will look at what they have achieved and stake their claim for greatness.
Coming from Kapowsin, WA, American base jumper, Matt Gerdes, is best known as the author of ‘The Great Book of BASE.’ To many, this book is the bible of base jumping and is often used to inform new and intermediate base jumpers. The book covers a wealth of valuable information and insight, and is highly entertaining and loved within the community.
With over 1,200 base jumps, Matt is a highly accomplished base jumper. He works as a consultant for several base jump equipment designers and has helped test and design wingsuits. He is also the CEO of Squirrel, one of the leading wingsuit manufacturers and extreme sports trainers. Matt regularly competes in Red Bull Aces events, finishing 5th in 2016 and taking 3rd place in 2015. He is also a professional paraglider and equally well respected in that industry.
Canadian, Shane McConkey, was an icon and industry leader at skiing and base jumping. He would often perform complex stunts combining the two sports. Before becoming a movie stuntman, Shane won several competitions and awards as a ski racer, specializing in extreme skiing and base jumping maneuvers.
Beyond his daring and imaginative stunts, Shane was also credited for his contributions to equipment design, including his invention of the reverse sidecut and reverse camber skis. In 2011, Shane was inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboarding Hall of Fame. His other notable achievements included:
- 2001 ESPN Skier of the Year + number one rank Skier in Skiing Magazine.
- 2003 & 2004 Powder Magazine Base Jumper of the Year – Ranked two
- 2005 Ranked number one by Powder Magazine + Laureus World Alternative Sportsperson of the Year
Shane tragically passed away in 2009 after a horrific ski-base jumping stunt went wrong in the Italian Dolomites. On March 26th of that year, Shane made a ski jump to transition into a base jump, but one ski failed to release. This ski sent him into an uncontrollable spin which he was unable to correct in time.
Chris Douggs McDougall
A well-known extreme sports athlete, Chris Douggs McDougall, is a professional base jumper and wingsuit pilot. In total, he has completed well over 13,000 jumps. Originating from Australia, Chris has a string of national and international base jumping records to his name, including:
- 2003/04 Base Jumping World Championships – 1st place in three events
- 2008 UK ProBase Champion
- 2011 World BASE Championships – 2nd place
- 2012 First Night Human Slingshot
- 2013 World Accuracy Championships – 1st place (at both Turkey and China events)
- 2013 World Extreme BASE Championships – 1st place
With a sizable social media following and known for appearing on many world news and media channels, promoting base jumping, Chris is a very familiar and much-loved ambassador of the sport and community. He is an expert at base jumping risk management and was the founder of ‘Learn to Base’; one of the best base jumping schools on the scene.
Felix Baumgartner has set many world records for his stunning feats and is one of the most famous names in modern-day base jumping. The Austrian daredevil is perhaps best known for leading the Red Bull Stratos Project, where he jumped from the stratosphere via a helium balloon. This single event set several world records, including the jump’s height at 39 KM and the top speed reached in freefall, which was 843.6 MPH. In doing so, he became the first human to break the sound barrier without using a vehicle.
Felix’s base jumping feats include becoming the first person to jump from the top of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur in 2003 (at the time, the highest parachute jump from a building). He also holds the world record for the lowest ever base jump after successfully jumping 95 feet from the Christ the Redeemer Statue in Rio de Janeiro. These are just a few of the many firsts and record-breaking base jumps, skydives (learn about differences), and wingsuit flights that Felix has completed.
Jeb Corliss is one of base jumpings’ most infamous athletes, known for pushing the limits of what is possible (and safe). He has completed many high-profile base jumps from the world’s most iconic monuments, such as the Eiffel Tower, the Petronas Towers, Seattle’s Space Needle, and the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio. American-born Jay pushes the boundaries, often adding complex twists and somersaults during these already dangerous, low altitude jumps.
His death-defying career has seen him become one of the icons of the sport, having featured in The New York Times, Smithsonian Air & Space, and Rolling Stone. Jen has appeared on several TV shows and specials; 60 Minutes Australia, Good Morning America, and Conan. His most famous screen outing was as the lead subject in the documentary’ Fearless.’ Often seen as the best base jumping documentary, Fearless explores Jeb’s life, achievements, and motivations. Many consider it a miracle that he has performed and survived so many dangerous jumps.
Born on April 3rd, 1941, Carl Boenish is considered by many to be the father of base jumping. Initially working as a skydiving and freefall cinematographer, Carl and a group of friends were the first to modify skydiving equipment and perform a modern-day base jump. This pioneering event happened in 1978, off EL Capitan, using ram-air parachutes. The group successfully repeated the feat; this moment is now known as the birth of modern base jumping.
It greatly helps that Carl was a skilled cameraman. The incredible footage of the event helped establish and grow the sport quickly. Carl went on to take a pioneering role in developing the sport further, creating the BASE Magazine and shooting several important base jumping videos and documentaries. He was also a big advocate for safety and helped publish and prevent instructional videos and safety guides.
Sadly, Carl Boenish passed away after a base jumping accident. It happened off a pinnacle close to Troll Wall in Norway in 1984. The incident was during the shooting for a television show hosted by the Guinness World Records. Tragically his wife was jumping with him at the time.