Someone You Think You Know…15 Questions with BASE jumper Jevto Dedijer

  • Name: Jevto Dedijer
  • Age: 46
  • Marital Status: Wife- Yolaine de Saint D’Authingues
  • Children: Damien 19 and Chloé 15
  • Location: Québec City – Canada
  • Number of Jumps: 15 BASE jumps
  • Year of first Jump: 1982
  • Container: Racer
  • Canopy: Strato Cloud
  • Profession: Brand Strategist
  • Number of Skydives: 800

In speaking with an up and coming B.A.S.E. jumper, I inquired if they had heard of “Jevto Dedijer”; they paused for a moment and said “they didn’t think so.” When I in turn asked, “B.A.S.E. 66”, he replied, “The book? Yes I have heard of it.” In a sport where names seem to become lost and number’s take their place Jevto Dedijer cemented his number into the history of the sport at Europe’s exit points and behind the brightly colored orange book jacket with the simple title, “BASE 66”.

A story of a young man who took up skydiving at the age of 17, who in the summer of 1983 set off to Paris, France from his homeland of Sweden to start his work career and during that period he discovered an adventure of a lifetime.

Yuri Kuznetsov-BASE416 described the book as “BASE 66 is a fascinating story about life and death, terror and joy, and intimate friendship. It is an account of extraordinary people taking a step beyond.”

Not only does Dedijer paint a picture of his pioneering B.A.S.E. experiences, but brings into play the dynamics of concealing and balancing his journey into attaining his B.A.S.E. number from family, work and relationships.

I originally wrote to the BASE jumper turned author months ago, introducing myself and ordering his book from his website. I asked if we might talk once I completed reading his story, to which he said “it would be a pleasure to talk with you” and sent me his telephone number. In the end, the pleasure became mine to make the acquaintance of this energetic man who has maintained his lust for fear and fun. For those of you that have read the story or met Dedijer, I hope you enjoy hearing from an old friend. For those who have yet to do so, read the interview and then do yourself a favor and buy the book.

The first 5 questions are from a university student/B.A.S.E. jumper (Spawnmaster) that had written a book review for a class.

1) During the early days of B.A.S.E.  the community was much smaller and it had to have felt very lonely during that period, being a pioneer and on the very edge of a new and exciting activity. How did you overcome fear of the “unknown” as you had no past experiences to draw from?

You know what? I never overcame the fear of the unknown because it transformed itself into the fear of the known, which was even worse. It is difficult today to imagine a world without Internet, e-mail, MSN, YouTube etc. but in a sense it was good. We had to rely entirely on our own judgment and knowledge, which when we started jumping in 1982 wasn’t impressive. We had no one to ask for advice, no one to talk to who was more experienced than we were and we had no clue where to find these guys. We heard about people BASE jumping through the grape vine on the Dropzone La Ferté Gaucher outside Paris. That was it. We indeed felt lonely and that’s what made it even more thrilling.

2) Your book BASE 66 does not detail much about how active you were after you achieved your B.A.S.E. number.

After my jump from Trollveggen I kind of took a break for a year. I needed perspective on what I had accomplished and I also felt that if I continued BASE jumping I would be taking bigger and bigger risks, try more stuff, jump from lower objects etc. But after that break I went back to Kochertalbrucke for a weekend of jumping with Scott and Bernard, I went to Bridge Day and that was about it. In total I made 15 BASE jumps although it felt as if I had done 100. Every jump was emotionally exhausting because we had to figure out things along the way. Our parachutes weren’t the coolest stuff in the world and I didn’t really trust my gear and that is kind of nerve racking!

3) Do you kept in touch with other jumpers and keep abreast of the sport as a whole?

Yeah I do keep in touch with the BASE jumping community because I get e-mails and calls from people who have read my book. I exchange ideas with some of the guys out there– Tom Aiello, Johnny Utah and a lot of people who are less experienced. I am on the BASE forums reading, watching videos etc. and I am amazed at how far the sport, no that’s terrible to call BASE jumping a sport because that means it has become so mainstream, has come. On August 5th I am meeting the French BASE jumper Marc Audap in the bar on the 56th floor in the Montparnasse Tower in Paris. On August 6th I a meeting a Portuguese screen writer in the same place and he is currently working on a screen play based on my book.

4) Do you ever feel like returning to B.A.S.E.?

I never felt as close to making another BASE jump as when I came to Bridge Day in 2006. I was there to promote my book and all these people were telling me: ‘’Come on Jevto, make a jump, just one. You’re gonna love it. ‘’ I spent the weekend watching other people jump and that was real tough. On the other hand how smart would it have been to strap on a BASE rig and go off the edge off the bridge 22 years after having made my last BASE jump? That’s how you end up dead.

5) What do you think of the B.A.S.E. jumping wingsuit piloting or ski base jumping?

I think it’s great that jumpers out there are innovating and inventing new ways to have fun and be scared. It’s like any adrenalin based activity; things need to evolve to stay relevant.

1. What became of Cloudia?

I sold Cloudia to a Swedish Skydiver in 1985 but I think she been in a retirement home for a long time now.

2. Selling ones story to the newspapers is frowned upon by many in the community of B.A.S.E. jumpers. Did you receive any personal criticism when your story appeared in the papers? You freely admit in your book that you sold your story to earn money.

No, I didn’t receive any criticism because there was no real community talk about at that time and it was also a way to communicate with other BASE jumpers. ‘’I read about a guy who jumped a bridge in Switzerland, let’s go check it out’’. That was how we learned about jumpable objects and about other BASE jumpers. Remember, no Internet, no e-mail. I guess publishing articles became like having a sponsor. Today there is the Red Bull team, back then it was selling the story to the press.

3. What motivated you to write BASE 66 and share not only the telling of the B.A.S.E. jumps but your personal life as well?

I wrote the book for several reasons. The first one was to find the answer to why I did all that. Surprise! I never really found out. The best answer I have found so far is: BASE jumping is reality in its truest sense; life and death separated only by your own decisions. The second reason is that I thought it would be fun for my kids to be able to read about my adventures. Today they still tell me: ‘’Dad, did you see that guy who jumped from a cliff with a wing suit? ’’ I tell them I did stuff like that more than 20 years ago but I have no video to prove it and without a video I guess it never happened to them. So by reading my book one day they should get a better understanding for what I did back then. The third reason is that I decided to write the book for people interested in adventure and crazy pursuits. I never intended the book to be a technical manifest for the BASE jumping community and I believe that you cannot separate BASE jumping from what we call our ‘’normal’’ life. How fun would BASE jumping be if we never got back to our normal lives in between. It’s doing mundane things such as the laundry, sipping a latté at Starbucks, washing the car etc that makes BASE jumping more exciting. One moment you are in the ‘’normal’, world and the next you are freefalling from a cliff.

4. Were Bernard and Scott aware that you were going to write the book? What was their initial reaction to the book?

Yeah I told them I was writing a book but I never let them read the manuscript. After all I was writing about my perception of the whole adventure. Scott liked the book and has been promoting it actively in his entourage in Bangkok. I don’t think Bernard ever read it because he doesn’t read English.

It took a long time to get the book printed. After having finished my first manuscript of 200 pages I pushed the wrong button on my word processor (that’s what we called it back then) and the whole manuscript vanished into thin air. I didn’t have a copy and that was it. It took me one year to muster the courage to start writing from scratch again.

5. I know you mentioned to me in the past that a screenwriter is developing a screenplay to bring BASE 66 to film. Does the screenwriter feel there is a large enough audience to warrant backing for a film or is it being looked at as an independent film?

Here is Joao Martins, the screen writer’s answer.

I believe there is much more to “BASE 66″ than base jumping. The underlying “coming of age” story about courage, friendship and the discovery of life’s finer things has a universal appeal that can reach large audiences. We are not limited to the BASE jumper’s niche at all!

This being said, it must be understood that in the screenwriting process it doesn’t make sense to talk about a choice between a “commercial” or “indie” approach. The screenwriter – if he is intellectually honest – will use whatever form and substance he may find necessary for telling a good story. No more, no less.

The story told in BASE 66 is very much alike the Oscar winning documentary Man on Wire which is a story about a French guy, Philippe Petit, who strung a wire between the twin towers in New York in 1976 an walked back and forth 8 times.

6. I seen where you are organizing a reunion of “the idiots club” in France during the upcoming year when was the last time you all gathered?

The last time the three of us got together was when we jumped Kochertalbrucke in 1985! I have met Scott in Rode Island, Bangkok and Paris and I have gotten together with Bernard in Paris several times but it has been a long time since the Idiot Club had an annual meeting. When we do get together it will have to be without our wives. Otherwise we will try to behave, be polite and not curse. That would be bad.

7. I know your wife skydived with you, have you taken your children skydiving and would you want to know if they B.A.S.E. jumped?

I haven’t taken my kids skydiving yet but the plan is to celebrate my 50th birthday in freefall the four of us. My daughter Chloé asked my last week if the plan was still on. Damien, my son, is an artist and has o interest in BASE but with Chloé it’s different. She is into risk taking (she stole a pair of jean in a store when she was 13!) and yeah I would like to know if she decides to beat the world free diving record, become a bull fighter or white shark trainer. I would be nervous about it but how well placed am I to criticize such a decision?!

8. What is your latest passion?

I have had this dilemma since I stopped BASE jumping. What am I going to do now to keep the adrenalin flowing? It came naturally though. Since my childhood in Sweden I have had this passion for nature and wildlife. My parents had a cottage in the woods in southern Sweden and my brother and I used to spend all our free time outside. As I live in Québec, in Eastern Canada, the is no shortage of space, wildlife, rivers, lakes etc. I spend about a month per year alone in the woods, track bears with cubs (yeah I know not smart!), sleep where the wolves congregate and listen to them howl, fly fish for salmon… I feel totally free and at peace all alone in the middle of nowhere. My next project is to spend a month alone in Yukon, paddling down a river in a canoe.

9. What did B.A.S.E. contribute to your personal growth as a person?

I definitely became a stronger person mentally. It has helped me immensely in my professional life and as a business owner because taking calculated risks comes naturally now and I have no problem venturing into the unknown. Once you have stared death in the eye several times you are not the same anymore. On the other hand I became a more difficult person for ‘’normal’’ people to be around. I am very demanding, have a freakish attention to detail and can be arrogant.

10. How is it that you came to live in Canada?

I was working as a Marketing Director for IKEA in France and one day I went fly fishing on a lake near Paris. I got lost in my thoughts when I suddenly had a vision. I saw my grandkids, which do not exist yet, come up to me and ask: ‘’Grandpa, tell us about your life.’’ I started telling them about my career in Marketing, my nice Volvo 480 etc. After two minutes they got off my lap and ran away. I was horrified, stopped fishing and drove home. As soon as I got home I told my wife Yolaine: ‘’we have to change the story, the grandkids we don’t have yet don’t want to sit on my lap, and my life story is to boring! (I had BASE jumped but to me it was no big deal. It took time for me to discover that it was a bit special. ) So we took out the world Atlas and made a short list of 7 countries. Only two years later I picked up Yolaine, Damien, who was 5 at the time, and Chloé, who was one, at the Québec City Airport. They had never set foot in Canada before and we have been here for the last 15 years. Yolaine was either madly in love with me to trust me that much or totally insane. I think she was insane.

11. Are your parents still alive? What became of your brother?

My father passed away in his bed in Dubrovnik, Croatia, in 2005 at the age of 94. The last book he read before his death was BASE 66. I think he read it 10 times and he told me every time he finished it that he couldn’t believe what I had done. Coming from a guy who was in the 101 airborne and General Maxwell Taylor’s bodyguard in the battle of the bulge is kind of amazing. My mother still lives in southern Sweden and is in good health. Last week she sent me an e-mail telling me that she had just watched a guy wing suit jumping a cliff in Norway and that I had to promise not to ever do something so foolish again. I promised to never BASE jump again but couldn’t promise her I wouldn’t do something foolish in the future. My brother Miki lives on the west coast in Sweden with his wife Cecilia and son Corbin. They have a 35 acre eco farm and have a fusion like relationship with nature and the animals surrounding them.

12. You write in your book that B.A.S.E. jumping websites have made is “easy” for people to get into B.A.S.E. and that First Jump Courses can have a jumper up and going in a matter of days. You add that that is “dangerous stuff”. Even with the advancement in gear, do you still feel it’s too “easy” to get into the sport?

All the available training out there is great. The gear is fantastic and there is a huge quantity of collective knowledge out there. BASE jumping is more accessible, or seams more accessible, today than ever before. I am just reading an article in Outside Magazine, the same issue with the tribute to Shane McConkey, about how K2 is well on its way to becoming the new death trap in the Himalayas. When you get people with very little training and knowledge up on a mountain like that it’s a disaster in waiting. It’s the same with BASE jumping. BASE jumping looks great on YouTube but it’s not for everybody.

13. Besides the advances in gear, First Jump courses and the wealth of information on the internet, do you see any changes to the “philosophy “of B.A.S.E. itself?

Of course there has been a change. 20 years ago we were in the pioneering era of BASE and those are scary, challenging and exciting times. Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay faced the same situation when they climbed Everest in 1953, so did Joe Kittinger when he leaped from a hot air balloon from 102,000 feet in 1960. Having had the opportunity to experience the pioneering era of BASE is something I will cherish forever. I think most ‘’Extreme Sports’’ have gone through the same thing. Back in the 80ies BASE was a more personal thing than today because we didn’t have to worry about the cameras, YouTube uploads etc. But now I will stop because I am starting to sound like an old fart!

14. Do you see a common thread in all jumpers, regardless of location, gender or skill level?

Yeah I do and I think it goes not only for BASE jumpers but for all adrenalin based activities. Just look and soldiers, they feel that people from the outside don’t understand them. They have difficulties communicating their experiences and feelings to people who haven’t been in a combat zone. The same goes for war photographers, fighter pilots, free climbers… I think most BASE jumpers have an uncomplicated outlook on life, like to drink huge amounts of alcohol, be wild, go over the edge or maybe I’m just talking about myself here!?

15. What advice would you offer to new jumpers?

The day you don’t feel fear, quit. The day you feel over confident, quit. The day you don’t trust yourself, quit. By the way that’s a good question to ask your self – Do I trust myself today? Always listen to your gut. I would also advise them to read Tom Aiello’s article – getting into BASE. I loved it when he gave practical tests such as: If a coin falls from the table, do you catch it before it hits the ground? If not, don’t get into BASE.

I would also advise a new jumper to set personal limits and never to cave in to group pressure from other BASE jumpers.

Bonus Question: Today when a new jumper asks for information on the forum they are told to “go read” or “you’re not ready because you had to ask” I know that Scott wrote letters to Carl for advice. Would you have still jumped if Carl or Jean’s response to your letters was “go read” or “you’re not ready because you had to ask questions”?

There was nothing that could have stopped us from jumping. We were determined to get our BASE numbers. It might sound corny today but that’s how we felt about it. If somebody had told me: ‘’you are not ready because you have to ask.’’, I would have kicked him down something very high! Who would ever be ready to jump if you had to exhaust all questions circulating in your head before jumping? I think it is a question of balance; balance between reading, hanging out with experienced jumpers, watching videos, reading incident reports and hands on experience etc. It’s about trusting yourself and your jumping buddies with your life.

All rights reserved. No republication of this material, in any form or medium, is permitted without express permission of the author.

You can visit Jevto at BASE66

This is the third 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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