You started off skydiving. How did you become interested in wingsuit BASE jumping?
I always wanted to fly, ever since I was a little kid. On my eighteenth birthday, my grandmother took me to a drop zone where I did my first two skydives. I found it marginally entertaining, but it was just a stepping-stone to BASE jumping. When I saw [wingsuit] BASE jumping for the first time, I saw a man stand on the edge of a cliff, jump off, open his wings and fly. I instantly hooked into it and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.
What kind of physical training is involved in preparing for a jump?
I’ve been doing yoga for almost 10 years now, and it’s been beneficial for not just physical and core strength, but also in calming my mind and controlling fear. The actual physical act of flying the wingsuit, as long as you train properly, is not that hard. As long as you jump them out of airplanes and learn how to control them there, once you get yourself into the position where you’re trying to fly them into a canyon, you should be ready.
How many countries have you jumped in at this point?
I’ve jumped on five continents and [between] 26 to 30 countries so far.
Early in your career, you devised a plan to jump from the top of Angel Falls in Venezuela, the world’s highest waterfall. You had no food, water or supplies. How did it go?
What we thought was going to be an eight-hour nature walk turned into a three-day epic journey through the gnarliest jungle on the planet. The first night we got trapped on top of the waterfall because we couldn’t find the exit point. We had no machetes, nothing. The next day we got up and were looking for the exit point, but when we found it, we couldn’t jump because the whole jungle was in a cloud. Finally, I saw a hole break open. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my entire life—a 3,200-foot waterfall just dropping off next to you is spectacular. And that was it; I stepped off. It was a very special experience.
It’s an understatement to say that your work is pretty extreme, so what do you do to relax?
I like to dive with sharks—that’s what I do on vacation when I’m not BASE jumping.
Look for Jeb Corliss on Facebook or Twitter to learn more about his upcoming wingsuit jump in China, scheduled for September 24, 2011.