I have been working on an appropriately objective report on the incident for the last week now. I realized something, though: that is not what I need right now. This is way too raw and real and life altering for me to try to 'step back' from it. I will complete the other eventually, if even just for myself, but for now, I really just need to let people now just how badly I fucked up that day. Sorry if it comes out a bit choppy, but quite frankly, it's a bit choppy in my head right now, too.
I make no excuses, so please don't read any of this as such. I only want to take responsibility for my own role in the events that transpired.
I was so excited to get to go down to Southern Mexico to jump a 3000 ft wall. The night after I arrived, we all had a safety briefing in regards to the jump. We were told this was a tracking cliff essentially, and that we should all take it easy. The day jumping was to begin, we all headed over to the landing area, which as has been stated previously was tight, but entirely doable. Really the only issue any of us really had regarding landing was the crocodiles, which were plentiful. Prior to jumping, we did not see any in the landing area, however, on the boat ride back to the van that was to take us to the exit point, we spotted 11 crocodiles. The fear was palpable among us. BASE is full on enough without having to worry about crocs.
We took the van up to the viewing area which was adjacent to the exit point. We checked out the cliff from there, and some of us decided to head out to the exit point. Some stayed behind to watch others complete a jump before they did. All the while we all nervously joked about the crocs waiting for us below. It is almost humourous to me now that we were ever worried about crocs.
Once by the exit point (the exit point was not to actually be seen until just about to jump, as it necessitated a 8 foot climb down), we all hung out for a bit, waiting for windblades to be put up, and ropes to be lowered down to the exit point. We were told that the launch direction was simply towards the landing area and that it was a 6 second rock drop. As we were milling about, I was scared out of my wits. Hindsight is of course 20/20, and I should have just backed down from the jump, because I think the lurking voice in the back of my head was telling me that it was beyond my experience level. It was. I was capable, but not ready for something of that magnitude.
Adam and I decided between 10-15 minutes before we left that we were going to do a 2-way. Right before the first jumper left, we heard over the radio that there was a crocodile in the landing area. We all nervously laughed and dismissed it as a joke. The first jumper did a nice, uneventful wingsuit jump and landed in the water. The second jumper wearing a Prodigy Suit left and did a front flip. Neither Adam nor I saw the second, involuntary, flip, and we did not have radio contact with the viewing area or the landing area.
I looked over the cliff and started checking what my line was going to be. Here is where all the holes in my logic started popping up. I looked and I saw something that wasn't there. I saw in my head that I could do a gainer into my track. I saw, but I didn't see. I was looking through inexperienced, naive, ignorant, fearful eyes. I fucked up. I looked over to Adam and said I was going to do a gainer. He looked back and said that he was going to do a front flip. I felt that click of reality in my head for a brief second before I pushed it away again, and asked "really?" He said yes. I looked over a few more times balking a bit at the jump. We decided I would go towards the left side of the landing area, and he would go towards the right. I did the count, and I left. I never saw Adam again.
The moment I came out of my gainer-- even before due to peripheral-- I knew I had just made the biggest mistake of my life. All I remember is thinking "this track better kick in soon." It did, and I realized that I needed the best track of my life to clear that ledge, as there was no way that I could pull with how low I was. I felt relief and euphoria wash over me as I cleared the ledge and headed out over the water. I pulled and was under canopy.
That is when my confusion began. I instantly knew how serious the front flip would have been, but we tell ourselves the lies we need to be told in order to finish what we need to do. I thought he must have pulled low. Nope. High, maybe blocked by the sun? No. I settled with the notion that he just must have not jumped for some reason-- loose chest strap or something.
I landed in the water and the boat came to pull me out. As I was clinging to the boat, I looked at my friend and asked if he had seen 2, because it was supposed to be a 2-way. The look on his face confirmed the nightmare. They scrambled to the other side of the boat, looking for any sign of Adam along the cliff. I just floated in the water praying that a croc would get me. I finally dragged myself to the back of the boat and with the driver's help, I finally flopped into the boat.
It was not until much later that I found out that Adam had gone after me and gone further left; that he had over-rotated his front flip.
I have always been a loner, but sitting on that beach for hours, waiting for any word, I have never felt more isolated and singularly alone in my life. That feeling lingers.
I had promised someone who I care about very much, that I would not do any aerials on that jump. Adam did the same. I really can't say what it was within both of us that caused us to go back on our word, but I think I have finally found my first ever regret in this life. If only....
So, here's the list of my personal fuck ups on this jump:
>I should have waited to see more experienced people exit first, so that I would have a better grasp on the magnitude of this jump.
>I should have done a solo for the first jump of of a new cliff with my experience level
>I should have gone off flat and stable to "scout out" the new jump for myself
>Reiterating the last point: I lost a good 2 1/2-3 seconds doing a gainer. That is time that I would have loved to have had back as I was shitting myself trying to get past the ledge.
>I should have gone over the launch direction and briefing again out loud with people that knew better than I what they were seeing when they looked over.
>Worry about your own actions more than that of the crocs
More importantly, I really feel that I should have been more true to my instincts and not jumped. I was more fearful on that jump than I have ever been prior to it. I did not listen to my body... I just thought I should go go go.
Most importantly, I should have kept my word. When someone with over 10x's your experience asks you not to do something, it's probably for a pretty good reason, even if you can't see it then
The gainer. The truth of it is, at some point this summer, the gainer became my 'crutch' move. I can finally be honest about that. I had always heard about people that struggled to do a flat and stable exit because all they ever did were aerials, I hadn't realized that I had moved in that direction. I was scared and gainers made me feel confident, so that's probably why I saw what I wanted to see when I looked over that ledge. Beyond that, I really thought that I could pull it off. Of course, the true test of a successful jump is not whether you can 'pull it off,' but rather if you can repeat it.
I am so sincerely sorry to everyone at the event for many different reasons.
I am sorry to Tracy for telling Adam I wanted to do a gainer. I will never know if he would have done a front flip anyway.
I am sorry to the Mexican BASE Crew for my disregard for what you all have fought to open. I am so grateful that my reckless actions did not put an end to jumping in the Canyon. I am so sorry.
I am sorry to the other jumpers there for my part in damaging an event that was to be incredible.
I am so sorry that I let my inexperience get in the way of my better judgement.
I am sorry to the BASE community for forgetting that every jump I do is bigger than myself and is a contributing part to a whole that I am representing, as well.
I am sorry to those that told me to slow down. I listened too late.
I am so sorry for breaking my promise.
I am forever changed. I am sorry that it took you to do that, Adam.