Enjoy this brand new BASE web series from GoWorld Project and Rob Pelon. Ever been curious about the life of a free-faller? Well here’s your chance to get to meet one and learn the real reasons that motivate someone to participate in the dangerous and often times misunderstood sports of skydiving & BASE jumping.
Rob Pelon: I don’t know what really spurred my interest in jumping out of an airplane. I just made one jump, and then I made another one, and it just … the pieces fell into place. It’s just one more incredible excuse to play outside and fly.
My name is Rob Pelon. I was born in North Carolina, right around Raleigh. Growing up, I had a pretty normal childhood, normal youth, nothing crazy and wild, and someway somehow I got in my mind that I wanted to jump out of a plane when I turned 16. Thankfully, I convinced my parents that that was okay, and found the place, and I went. Three days after I turned 16, I made my very first skydive with Raeford Parachute Center, which is where I ended up spending pretty much the next five years of my life.
This is a formative years of my youth, were actually being around skydiving. By the end of that five years, I had over a thousand jumps that I’d already transitioned into BASE jumping. I had tandem ratings, AFF ratings, and a really good group of people that I’d learn to love being around and being around the air communities, whether it’s got anything, BASE jumping or paragliding.
That entry with skydiving is what introduced me to a whole new world and a whole new realm of human flight, human aviation. I mean, it still just absolutely blows my mind what we are capable in terms of unpowered or even powered flight as humans. It really just inspires me to always push harder and go further and explore more. My life’s passion at this point is that human’s flight element. It’s forced me to a whole new world of just a complete love of being in the outdoors, being outside.
As a large part, there’s a pretty huge misconception about what kind of people we really are. It’s funny when I think back about the people I’ve learned to BASE jump from and with, they’re fantastic people. Multiple of them had master’s degrees. A couple of them had former military service. The people that I found myself surrounded in with BASE jumping are often very accomplished, very intellectual, but they just don’t quite fit mold of everyday life. They want to ask questions. They want to push harder. They want to take what we know as it exists and make it into something new or better and look beautiful.
It’s unfortunate that popular culture loves to only focus on the negativity, only focus on the unfortunate deaths and the risk side of BASE jumping and less so on the actual beauty of what it is. The activity and the people have taken me literally around the world sitting on cliff edges that I never would have known existed and few other people have ever been to either only to experience some of the most challenging hikes and the most rewarding flights and an experience in life that I have yet to come across anything that even comes close to matching it.
I don’t know what really spurred my interest in jumping out of an airplane and learning to skydive. In fact, I often find myself telling people I didn’t have any grand plan of ending up where I am today in terms of skydiving, BASE jumping. I just made one jump, and then I made another one, and it just … the pieces fell into place. I found out that it was something I liked to do and I was able to spend my time, my free time, hanging out with some of the coolest people I’d ever known and jumping out of airplanes at the time. It totally opened up a world that I didn’t even know existed, and then it became a path incidental, the fact I was already on it.
One of the frequent questions that I find myself getting asked is, “Well, what do your parents think about this?” In my case, I’m blessed with the fact that they’re totally supportive. My dad was the one who drove me to the airport when I was 16 to drop me off to go skydiving. My mom was fully onboard. Been very fortunate having a family that was not closed off to something that they were unfamiliar with.
When I started BASE jumping, in there, I think they understood that the risk factor goes up quite a bit over skydiving. There was still the supportiveness. There was still the conversations that revolved around assuring them with the risk management side of it. None of my aviations, activities, sports, any of them, have been in any hunt for the edge.
Scott: Oh, there he goes.
Rob Pelon: What’s up?
This past weekend was spent in Mexico, enjoying a wonderful, some wonderful weather on the beach. Myself and my buddy, Scott, we did what, to the best of our knowledge, as a world’s first of two ultralights flying in formation, myself in one and Scott in the other, and basically flying right next to each other, wingtip to wingtip. We actually jumped out together, made a quick dock, and then tracked away right over the beach, right over the bar.
The first attempt, we just played it a little safer. In the second attempt, the airplanes flew just a little bit closer and we exited just a little bit tighter on each other, and add just tiny bit more altitude and we were able to, and just that split-second, get together, say hi, give each other a high five, and check off, and that was the last jump we did over the beach.
Scott: Thank you, Lord. So freaking awesome.
Rob Pelon: From the outside looking in on BASE jumping, it’s got to be a common question. People want to know how we can proceed, how we can go on when we have our friends get hurt, or even killed. Although I’ve never personally really found solace in saying, “They died doing what they love,” because, ultimately, you still have a friend who’s gone.
On the other hand, I don’t lose much time being affected by it because although the consequences are our final and it can be heartbreaking, these people lives the most genuine and vibrant life of the most people that I’ve met. Well no, it’s not acceptable. No, it’s not okay. There is that comfort knowing what they’ve experienced, the highs and lows. We’ve all been there. To be able to move on and continue to explore this passion of flight, I find it’s almost as natural as any grieving process.
A couple years ago, a good friend of mine back in North Carolina, we were having a drink and having a good conversation and talking about my BASE jumping at the time. I think I was really jazzed up on wingsuit BASE jumping, I think I just gotten into it at the time. He got quiet for a minute and looked at me and was like, “So, what’s the end game?” I had to ask him. I was like, “So, what?”
He’s like, “What’s the end game?” In the recent time, that’s sat with me a little bit more than it did that day. It’s a tough question. Is there ever going to be a point where the risk versus reward of BASE jumping doesn’t equate? Who’s to say? That’s possible. Life changes, things changes. I am open to that change in my life happening.
On the other hand, right now, do I see myself ever stopping BASE jumping? No. It provides so much to me and I get so much enjoyment sharing these adventures with other people and getting to … It’s just one more incredible excuse to play outside and fly.