“A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture, and transform.”
~ Diane Mariechild, author of “Mother of Wit”
Big Girls Don’t Cry
Karen Lewis Dalton
Ana Isabel Dao
Don’t ask these women who brought them to the party. Not only did they come alone, but the party is all theirs. Not every female BASE jumper shows up at an exit point accompanying her BASE man.
Marital Status: Single
Location: Planet Earth
Education: University courses, no degree
Hometown: Moscow, Russia
Year of first jump: 2002
Number of Jumps: 360+
Profession: Camera-person, Gravity Workshop Team, Adventurer
Most admired BASE jumper: If I start listing them I may forget somebody, I have so many. I truly love all my friends and each of them is a real legend.
Canopy: IMDV Troll 225
Do you have a fitness regime and what does it consist of? No. Sometimes I do running or gymnastics or yoga…but my maximum time of focusing on something that is everyday-like “regime” usually doesn’t exceed the two month period.
What would you say your life’s greatest achievement has been to date? On a whole, my life is an achievement. With all my stupidity and fuck ups, the story still goes on and I am rarely bored with it.
I was introduced to Lika by her teammate Andrey Karr over a year ago via instant messenger. To say that Lika is instantly LIKA-ble is an understatement. She comes across as humble, polite, good natured, adventurous and loyal to her teammates and friends. In her heart, her teammates on the Gravity Workshop Team are her family. Traveling the world, checking off a list of “places to see, places to jump,” the team relies on one another in life itself outside the realm of jumping.
As I quickly learned, Lika and teammate Andrey Karr are, as the saying goes, “two peas in a pod” living a nomadic existence but make no mistake—when it comes to BASE, she is as independent minded and diverse as any jumper I have encountered. I love the fact that she BASE jumps and lists cleaning house as a favorite activity. Lika, much like her counterparts in this series, can do it all.
Lika is one of those young women who don’t seem to realize how beautiful a person she is inside and out, which adds to her mystique. She is quick to point out others’ assets or skills while seemingly not seeing the same in herself—or at least she is too humble to brag. Trust me, her womanly charms do not go unnoticed by the male population that crosses her path in jumping and no doubt her list of admirers will grow as she is better known outside the sport of BASE.
“Lika is one of the most wonderful people I have had the pleasure of meeting or jumping with! She is an incredible personality that is instantly welcoming and holds things together in an organized way with unorganized people. She is Queen of the Gypsies…what else can I say!?” —Blake Dimeff
I asked Lika if there was anything in life she wouldn’t try; her response was, “Sure, but I don‘t have things listed; I usually make the decision whether I wanna go for something or not while I face the situation.
My biggest fear, I don’t have one. I’m scared but not fearful of many different things such as depth, apnea, darkness, fire, big dogs, cancer, etc.”
Lika is complicated, as are most people; add in her life experiences and she offers a diverse perspective of the world that surrounds her. On the topic of religion and spirituality, she gave what I consider one of the most insightful responses I have ever received to the question.
“I am not religious, but I do believe in some things. I believe in the Universe filled with energy that cannot just disappear, in karma, not the full concept though, but in the basic principles. In the cycle of organic life as those things are hard to ignore. I very much respect ancient cultures and animistic religions. There are no Gods in my own world, but I try to be careful with other people’s beliefs; you cannot take a shit in somebody else’s temple, you never know what could happen in the way of revenge.”
As for hobbies when she isn’t working, “Not a hobby as I define it, but there are some things that I enjoy doing. Surfing is very cool, very healthy and a lot scarier than BASE jumping. It’s a lot more challenging for me. It also corresponds with everything I believe in so I’m doing it with pleasure. I love traveling, learning about new countries, nature and animals. Volcanoes, mountains, endemic animals and everything about them capture my curiosity. I love music, parties and dancing. Cooking and cleaning are activities I can do all day long and enjoy doing. Filming was a hobby before I started working for the television station, now I’m not doing as much of it as I used to, but still like it.”
In recalling the jumps that stand out in her mind she had this to say, “I have so many of them. The World Record jumps in Norway—49-way and 53-way were just full on; the collective energy, the exit count, an amazing view, crazy visuals in freefall. Other jumps I made in Norway. My first aerials, the jumps at the Ostaniko TV Tower Boogie in 2004 and 2007, our team jump from an Indonesian skyscraper, and one from Europe’s tallest crane. On all of these events and jumps the atmosphere, location and people were outrageously cool. “Every new cliff, the good tracking jumps, the slow gainers, the full control wing suit flights, and many urban jumps. The list goes on; there are just too many memorable jumps to write about. Usually it‘s the companions and the location that makes the jump special. For me the jumps that require the most concentration, when the mind is working at a super-high performance level and therefore seems as if time slows down and detailed images are stored in the mind, outshining other moments.”
As to the steps she takes before a jump, “On my first jumps I had been doing a little meditation before every jump to remind myself what I am about to do, why I am doing this and to get in proper state of mind. I usually do some stretching and think through safety procedures. Visualization is a good thing as well. “I used to do some gymnastics to train exits and aerials. There were some blue carpets and gymnastic equipment in the club where I was training; I tried to set imaginary marks on the mats as the exit while preparing for aerial jumps. It helped me to recall the feeling of being at a training session while actually doing the jump.
“When I’m scared on an urban jump, I usually sing while climbing the stairs. My song to help me relax is Bob Marley’s ‘Everything Gonna Be Alright.’ I enjoy jumping 2-ways on an urban jump; it’s an easy way to trick my mind, switching my concentration from my fears to focusing on a visual of the person I‘m jumping with at the time.”
Lika doesn‘t have a favorite object type and she manages to keep a steady diet of jumping in her life while exploring other sports. Lika’s various interests from sports, to art, to cooking, traveling, prevent her from being labeled. “I have jumped from 85 different objects in 13 countries and I have some great memories. Every single object is very cool when you jump it the first time. Some buildings in Moscow that I used to jump a lot in the beginning were very cool. Then there is the Italian terminal wall, the French cliffs with their nice gorges and cracks on the talus, a big antenna complex near Moscow, the Norway cliffs, a big French bridge, the Spanish mountains, a black glossy skyscraper in Jakarta, and crane shoulders with a long walk to get to the end. They are all super cool to me. “The number of career BASE jumps and time in BASE jumping shows that I jump every 8 days. There were more active years and some years that were calmer. I used to jump in the winter time even when it was -26C/-14.8F outside, but the last couple of winters I have opted to spend them surfing in the warm ocean. I gave up urban BASE and now only if the opportunity of getting a very special jump will entice me to climb the fences and spend the night hiding from guards. Now our BASE trips to the mountains are months long, not mere weeks.”
Her attraction to BASE came from her natural curiosity and after she completed her first jump and it was only a matter of weeks before her next. “Curiosity,” she explains, “led the way. I was super excited watching the jump performed by one of my friends that I decided to try it myself. I was hooked on the notion of jumping from a cliff and landing alive.”
BASE mentoring being hard to come by in an ever expanding sport, she notes how various experienced jumpers guided her in acquiring the skills to jump. “I always had an experienced jumper around to give me advice. The guy who assisted me on my first couple of jumps and taught me how to pack a canopy was a very safety-oriented jumper. He was really talented in explaining the technical aspect of jumping and I’m very thankful to him for teaching me. He also made BASE containers and I picked up his interest in rigging, which is why I spent my first season working for BASE and Skydiving gear manufacturers.
“The first generation of Russian jumpers had a great influence on me. When BASE first began for me, it was a very small club and I am happy that I witnessed it firsthand. The people were very sport minded, passionate close friends, travelling a lot, participating in outdoor sports, making movies and sharing their experiences. “In the first couple of years I spent time hanging out with one of the very experienced world-class jumpers, who in turn introduced me to the international crew. We did some European trips together, he showed me some new exits and I learned a great deal from him.
“My teammate Andrey Karr is a very talented and experienced jumper. He is a person who not only inspires me, but also supports me at all times. When we first met we both were teenagers. Together with him and another jumper, Kalmar, we started to jump new objects, a lot of slider-off 2- ways, slider-off acrobatics; we began filming a lot, making a movie together as well as other projects. Kalmar was a pro rider in snowboarding and we all teamed up on the idea of BASE jumping looking more like snowboarding, with its colorful cool tricks, which were filmed nicely. Good times. With Karr we did our first wingsuit jump on the same day. We’ve been traveling the world together since 2006 and still enjoy it.” Lika correlates her own personal growth with her career in skydiving and Base; she explains how the two sports have impacted her life. “I made my first skydive when I was 16 and started to BASE jump when I was 18 years of age. Almost every experience I have encountered on my path from school to adulthood was shown through the prism of skydiving and BASE jumping. My love stories, dreams, passion to travel, and learning English came from growing up within the community of extreme sports enthusiasts. I believe people who participate in extreme sports have special qualities; they are charismatic, interesting, spoiled, emotional, courageous, ambitious, they are dreamers, think fast, and most likely have gone or are going through extremely good and bad things in life. I would say it’s easy to get addicted to these characters as well as to the sport itself. These are the people I’ve spent my teenage years with growing as a person. Even in my career, I started to film for television only because I’d been filming my friends jumping. I received my first television job offer from my snowboarding friends.”
Lika’s father was her greatest influence; he would read Jules Vern books to her as a child. “It made me dream about other countries. Other people who influenced me were my school teachers, the ‘alternative’ rock musicians whom I was hanging out with before the drop zone, skydivers and BASE jumpers. Everyone who I experienced life with has had an influence on me.”
As to how she wishes the people in her life to remember her, “I don‘t know. I have certain principles in my life which affect all my actions. I’m getting older, having more experience and knowledge this changes or adds to my philosophy. The person who is living my life is me; I’m alive and constantly moving forward. What will last in other people’s memories after I stop existing will be theirs, not mine. They will probably remember the actions I took that they witnessed.”
On the topic of whether female jumpers experience a bigger challenge entering the sport than their male counterparts, Lika gives a resounding, “No.” She further explains why she feels it’s the same challenge and perhaps “softer.” “Most of the times male jumpers are being men—they take care of girls around, trying to help, making sure the female jumpers feeling okay. Jumpers are always worried about each other, but with the girls they can let themselves to be a little softer.”
In Lika’s situation where she is constantly traveling, living and surrounded by her male teammates, she expresses in no uncertain terms that using your sexuality to manipulate your standing is unacceptable. In her case she finds herself blending in with the males by being herself, nothing more and nothing less, on a jump is the way to go.
“I think that it’s important to feel strong, healthy, fully awake, conscious, and able to use 200% perception while jumping and sexual energy is a part of this state of mind. However it’s an internalized sort of sexuality. The external oriented sexuality targeted at other people is kind of useless on exit. “I assume the question is about this sexuality, so let’s move it to an after-jumping party. If I find somebody attractive and this person is also attracted to me, of course there might be some playing. The game is the game since every player accepts the conditions. “I believe in free will and consciousness. I do things for somebody if I’m willing and able; I expect others to act the same. ‘Using’ in form of manipulation is not acceptable. I avoid doing this.”
She no longer skydives as the expense of traveling and BASE jumping take precedent at this juncture of her life and career. “It‘s been a while since I last skydived. I wish I could, but first of all I cannot afford both skydiving and BASE travels at this time. And now skydiving is #3 on priority list—after BASE and surfing. I love watching cool skydiving videos and I’m a big fan of my skydiving friends—Olga Bakulina, Alexandr Golovkin, Jay Moledzki, Sergey Kouznetsov and many others, who skydive a lot and do it well. I feel the same about tunnel flying. One day I will go in the wind tunnel and return back to some drop zone.”
What is your opinion of World Pro BASE/World BASE Race cup rankings being separated into male and female groupings? Do you foresee a female winning one of those events? “Good, nice for public. It’s kind of cute to have girls in the air…Sure you can separate technically—by the type of suit, or weight, height, but gender separation is more entertaining. Not really. There are girls out there who fly very well, Livia, Jen. But still, for now I don‘t see any girl flying the fastest in the world. If only it’s Angelina Jolie or Milla Jovovich’s movie heroines or that little kid from the ‘Kick Ass’ movie come to life.”Female voices appear to be absent from the BASE forums; do you have an opinion as to why that is and have you considered writing articles for the archives?
“They’re not absent. The percentage of males to females in BASE is the same on forums. Plus many jumpers I know don’t think there is any sense in posting on forums. You can use you Facebook or PMs or email to share your opinion with your friends or people who want to know your opinion and whose thoughts on subject are important for you. Most of the forums are just the arena where you can show your sense of humor or ability to attack without getting banned.”
Lastly we discussed media representation of BASE jumping and whether she sees a problem with the coverage given to the sport. I ask also if there is an advantage to being a female jumper in the media’s eye.
“No. I don‘t see any problems with media. Media is not a monster; it’s the people behind the word. We have shitty cheap newspapers and nice shiny magazines. The newspapers are aimed at the majority; they thrive on dirty fried facts, on Black Death and scary shit because this is sort of news that travels fast and lasts longer. This is what people can buy for little to nothing, read quickly and throw away, like fast food. This stuff will live forever, you cannot change it, just leave it. Nice magazines are different, but you can neither make everybody read them much the same as not every person on earth will love you. “BASE jumpers need an understanding of exactly how they would like to be presented to others. Want to be a superhero, do superhero stuff and live to tell the stories. If you want to show people what you experience during a jump to help them understand the emotions you feel. Then buy a good camera, shoot kick-ass pictures depicting exactly how you view it. Or read a lot of books to improve your language skills and write a book about the subject. As for advantages of publicity, I do media appearances for this reason and there has always been some extra attention related to the fact I’m a girl who BASE jumps.””