Clair Marie is a professional BASE jumper, a mountain bike racer, a rock climber, and a snow sports addict. We spoke with her about how she made the leap to her current career trajectory.
1. How did you first get started BASE jumping, and what drew you to it?
I saw BASE jumping when I was eight years old for the first time in a ski resort, and I knew I would do it one day. I remember I tugged on my mom’s shirt sleeve and I was like, “Hey I’m gonna do that.” She just laughed at me, but from then until I was sixteen years old I was obsessed. I would watch any videos I could find that had base jumping in them, and I was totally fixated on the prospect of becoming a jumper one day. It just looked like the most freeing and exciting thing. I could just feel it in me. When I was sixteen I was watching a BASE jumping and skydiving DVD and realized the creator had his email address on the back. I promptly emailed him and told him I’d never been skydiving before but I had always wanted to BASE jump, and I asked him if he would teach me. Probably the single most crazy email he had ever received. After a few email exchanges he agreed to teach me to jump before learning how to skydive, and we scheduled a time. It was about a week later that I made my way down to where he was located and began preparing for my first BASE jump. I ended up doing a jump off a 400ft power tower in the middle of the night with no moon. Oh, and he made me go first! He said, “you wanted to do this, so prove it.” It was everything I had imagined it would be. Scary, thrilling, intense, yet peaceful. I landed and I knew it was what I wanted to do!
2. Tell me more about BASE jumping as a sport. How does it work? What sort of training do you need? What are the challenges and rewards?
BASE is an acronym. It stands for Building, Antenna, Span (bridge) and Earth. These are the four main objects we jump from. Although it is still a parachute sport it is very different from skydiving. There really isn’t anything I could compare it to. Jumping from a fixed object with a single parachute on your back is still pretty surreal to me. The fact that it is possible for humans to almost attain flight is thrilling.
Although gravity does the majority of the work, BASE jumping is still a very involved sport. There is so much preparation that goes into each and every jump. Everything from scouting locations, jumps and landing areas to packing the parachute. It is more of a process then what most people see. There is so much thought and effort that goes into each jump that the actual act of leaping off an object is such a small percentage of what we actually do.
One of the best things about BASE jumping is the attention to detail — every little detail. BASE jumping really makes you focused on all of the beautiful aspects of life, including the hard times. It has given me a special perspective and changed my approach to life significantly.
3. What drew you to making BASE jumping your career? How does this intersect with your other athletic interests?
Turning my passion into my career was a very natural progression. I knew from a very young age that I wasn’t going to have a “normal” job. I didn’t have the head for it. I needed to be outside, pushing myself and experiencing the world. When I started BASE jumping I completely immersed myself in the sport. It was everything to me, so naturally I decided to start figuring out how to make a living jumping. I was fortunate enough to have the work ethic to really push hard and do what ever it took to make it work. I started as a skydiving instructor and, at the time, I was modeling almost full time. It really gave me an edge, to have the ability to shoot in locations other models didn’t want to work. I really just focused on working hard all the time and I developed a very positive reputation.
Slowly my career advanced and I was able to combine modeling and jumping more and more. I’ve worked with companies like Nike and Champion sports wear. I’ve done shoots on mountain tops, on antennas and once I did a shoot on the top of a crane on top of a skyscraper in SF. It was amazing. Fashion and adventure sports have always been a passion and that is why I love combining them. That is actually what prompted me to start Reverence Design. To create beautiful pieces, inspired by geometric design and wearable in more intense situations. my company is also eco conscious, US made and ethical. All things deeply important to me.
BASE jumping really set the stage for me in an athletic sense. It gave me the confidence to push harder outside of the sport as well. I had been a rock climber for years before I started BASE jumping so adventure sports have always been a huge part of my life, but I was always a bit timid. I began Mountain bike riding just over a year ago and racing at around the same time. Had I not been an experienced BASE jumper and knew how to react quickly I feel it would have been a much longer progression.
4. What’s it like being one of the top female BASE jumpers?
When I started jumping I was one of about 50 women in the entire world who had ever jumped. I never imagined that I would be one of the top female BASE jumpers when I started. I was more focused on just having fun. I feel very fortunate to lead the life that I do, and although there is a lot of judgement from the outside about BASE jumpers and what we do, I always try to stay positive and stay true to myself! People will always talk, people will always judge, but at the end of the day, what other people think about me is none of my business and I just keep being me!