Someone You Think You Know…15 Questions with BASE jumper Jeb Corliss

  • Name: Jeb Corliss
  • Age: 33
  • Marital Status: Single
  • Children: 0
  • Location: Malibu, California
  • Number of Jumps: B.A.S.E jumps 1000+
  • Year of first Jump: 1997
  • Container: WS extreme / Morpheus
  • Canopy: Blackjack 265
  • Profession: B.A.S.E. jumper
  • Number of Skydives: wing-suits 1000+

“Jeb Corliss, Jeb Corliss, Jeb Corliss”, the mere mention of his name causes veins on some B.A.S.E. jumper’s necks to constrict as they mumble expletives regarding a man they most likely have never met or interacted with on a personal level.

All part of the internet world we now live in, where stepping out into the public eye can open doors to positive new adventures and friendships or lead to ridicule, assumptions and personal attacks. In most cases, it’s a mixture of both to varying degrees in the case of a man who at heart prefers the shadows to the spotlight.

I asked Jeb if he would take a few moments from life to respond to some questions. He obliged with honesty, candor and a generous nature. Upon reading his replies to my inquires, I discovered his answers reflected a very “down to earth”, “common sense”, “black and white” approach to life.

He is a man who accepts who he is and that others will paint him as they see fit. He is more concerned with his own demons then fighting the misconceptions and perception of others. He is in no position to control what others buy into regarding who he is as a jumper or man, therefore why waste energy on issues that he does not own.

Make no mistake he is a man on a mission of “living life on his own terms and succeeding”.

1. What is your jump philosophy? What shaped your philosophy?

I was once asked by an interviewer if I was scared to die. I looked at her and said “would you like to know a secret?” She said, “Yes I would”. I then told her, “I was going to die and guess what? So are you. Everyone dies, the person holding that camera, the producers of this show, everyone. There is nothing I can do to stop death from coming for me.” So I for one will not allow the fear of something that is completely and absolutely inevitable prevent me from living my dreams and doing the things that I love.

For me B.A.S.E. jumping has been an exercise in learning to control fear. I have always felt you have two choices in life. You can either learn to control your fears or you can allow your fears to control you. B.A.S.E jumping helped me learn how to harness fear, confront fear and has made it much easier for me in my everyday life to deal with fear. After you have jumped off a few dozen buildings everything else seems less scary.

2. Do you prefer solo jumps or group jumps? Please explain your reasoning for either or both.

In the earlier years of my B.A.S.E. jumping career I use to really love doing solo jumps. I have always been pretty anti-social and one of the things I loved about B.A.S.E jumping when I started was the fact I could do it alone. But over time I started meeting some really cool people that had a very similar mindset. I made some really good friends, who became more like family. Then, all of a sudden I preferred jumping with them. It really made the whole experience more fun to share it with others.

3. For you personally do you view B.A.S.E. jumping as a sport, stunt, hobby, or exploration into flight? In other words do you view yourself as an athlete, a stuntman, a hobbyist, or a test pilot?

For me B.A.S.E. jumping is a philosophy. It’s an understanding of one’s own mortality. It’s about going out in the world and pushing the boundaries of what you can do. To call it a sport is to insult it. Sports are games with made up rules with little or no real consequences. B.A.S.E. jumping is a test a person puts themselves through, to see what they are made of. To see how far they can go. See how much pain they can take. How much fear they can handle. It becomes a journey into one’s own mind. If you didn’t know yourself before you started jumping, you will after you have done it long enough.

4. What has been the most difficult personal challenge that you have faced over the past year?

Raising money for my landing project has turned out to be one of the most difficult challenges I have faced up to this point. Most of the projects I have done in the past could be done for relatively small amounts of money. This project is so massive in scope and so costly to make happen, it has been very hard to get the funding we need. This is the first time I haven’t been able to just turn one of my dreams into a reality on my own. This time I need the support of others on a scale hard to comprehend. But, if it takes me 10 years and 9 million dollars to make it happen, then so be it. I will never give up and one way or another I will find a way. It’s just going to take me time.

5. You have taken a great deal of criticism within the online B.A.S.E. community regarding being a “glory hound”, “attention seeker”, “lacking respect for B.A.S.E. ethics & history”. Do you feel any of the criticism it is justifiable? Do you consider yourself a part of the B.A.S.E. community?

People are entitled to their opinions and are free to think whatever they like about me. I am just a person trying to live my life the best that I can. I am not perfect and I do make mistakes. I have dreams and all I am trying to do is turn them into realities. My intentions have never been to hurt others or hurt B.A.S.E jumping. But sometimes things don’t go as planned. Sometimes things go wrong in a way you really hoped they wouldn’t. However, if you want to do amazing things with your life you must be willing to take the amazing risks. Sometimes when you take big risks things can go in a really bad way for you. I have taken big risks and I have had things go in a bad way for me a few times over the years.

6. Being a veteran of B.A.S.E., what advice would you give to a new jumper following their completion of a FJC? How important do you feel attending a FJC is to being a B.A.S.E. jumper?

I think the more a person trains the better. I know the FJC I took saved my life. What I learned from BR was absolutely crucial in keeping me alive long enough to get the practical experience. It helped me survive my walk through the mine field that some people call B.A.S.E. jumping.

I will be honest; I do not promote B.A.S.E. jumping as a healthy safe lifestyle. I think the dark art of B.A.S.E. is dangerous and if you can find happiness in your life without doing it, you should. But, for some people, B.A.S.E. jumping is what makes them happy. For some people it is what helps set them free. For some people, it saves their life. If you are one of these people then I wish you luck and all I can say is train hard and don’t rush.

7. In a recent posting on the Go Fast Energy Drink site, which is one of your sponsors, you say: “After two days of test piloting, Jeb Corliss said landing the wing-suit was possible as early as next year. ‘We found there is a definite and reasonable speed for a landing attempt sometime next summer. We’re now developing four different types of technologies to land safely—it’s very important to land with zero injuries,’ said Corliss after analyzing data from the test flight.”

Do you ever think to yourself, “How did I get myself into this?” Or are you so focused on the technical aspects of the project that you don’t question yourself? Is there room to question oneself without creating overwhelming doubt and fear?

Go Fast is not my sponsor. I have done projects with them in the past and I like working with them. They have never given me money of any kind for any of my jumps or projects. I actually have no real sponsors. Mirage has sponsored my gear for skydiving, that’s about it.

I don’t think it can be done, I know it can be. I like projects like this because everyone thinks it’s so impossible. The more people say it can’t be done, the more I want to do it. I love showing people that the only limits are the ones we place upon ourselves. This has become an obsession for me. I will do whatever it takes to make this project come to fruition. It’s a complex puzzle in figuring out how to do something that has never been done before. It’s really what I live for now. Everything I have done up to this point has been preparation for these kinds of projects.

8. How much do you think you influence others, “whuffos”, whether they are “whuffos skydivers looking to B.A.S.E. jump or non-jumpers who seek out participation in B.A.S.E. due to seeing you appearing in videos and presenting a public image?

I have no idea what kind of influence what I do in my life has on other people.

To be honest, if I could earn a living B.A.S.E. jumping in the dark with no cameras rolling I would. I have way more jumps not filmed, then filmed. If I could raise the money I needed for the wing-suit landing without talking about it first I would. But unfortunately that is not how the world I live in works.

If I don’t want to work in a box and want to do things like travel the world B.A.S.E. jumping. Then I have to license footage that gets put on TV, in turn, I can earn a living to continue making my dreams come true. Everyone has to make sacrifices in life to live their dreams.

I personally wish no one knew who I was. I am anti-social and at times I don’t enjoy being around people very much. But if I have to raise millions of dollars to make one of my “crazy” dreams come true then I will have to come out of the dark and let people know what I am doing. Fame sucks donkey balls, but it’s necessary to get funding to do huge projects. It really is a double edged sword.

9. Do you ever Google your name to see what is being written about you? Have you ever responded to any of the negative comments on the blogs, forums, ect?

Yes I have.

10. What do you do to de-stress?

I don’t really have stress. I take things as they come. After breaking my back in Africa in a jump and lying in a bed for a month I learned that as long as you can get out of bed and go to the bathroom without another person’s help, life is good.

11. In the media you are often touted as “a legend”, “a pioneer”, “one of the greatest”. Do you feel that you live up to the hype? Or is it just that “hype” by the media to spice up their stories?

I am just a person living his life. I am not the best. I am not a legend and I am defiantly not a pioneer. For every person that likes something I do, there are 3 that think I am a total douche. It’s nothing new; I have experienced this same thinking from a very young age. You just learn that it really doesn’t matter what other people think of you. Just be true to yourself and if others have a problem with you, then it truly is their problem. Not yours.

12. What is your biggest fear in life?

It used to be love. Now I am not sure.

13. Who was the biggest influence in your life and why?

My step-dad influenced me. He was my first real friend and he got me into scuba diving when I was 16. He pushed me to be a better person and introduced me to shark diving. Shark diving was my first real passion and I still love the little buggers to this day.

14. Do you foresee “enough every being enough” for you when it comes to seeking out new adventures, challenges, or pushing the limits of your own mental strength?

I will die on my feet turning my dreams into realities.

15. Why did you agree to participate in this interview? And who would you like to see interviewed in the next round?

If people ask me questions I answer them. I have never felt like I have anything to hide. I don’t usually read things like this. So whoever you interview, I most likely won’t read it.

Journey to the Center an awarding winning Banff Film Festival documentary featuring Jeb Corliss, Paul Fortun and Chris “Douggs” McDougall can be purchased at:

www.mycontent.com/jebcorliss

This is the first in a series of 15 Question Interviews with participants from the world of BASE jumping by Cynthia Lynn. Look for future interviews in the upcoming months.

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