Keep calm and push the limits - in Malaysia
The KL Tower Event in Kuala Lumpur is probably the oldest and most established B.A.S.E. boogie in the world. Hosts and sponsors have been organizing this sports event for 12 years now and it is still drawing thousands of spectators, lots of media attention and is used by tourism boards for marketing purposes. Lucky number 3, I thought, and this year my schedule even allowed me to participate in all of the events. Because along with the main event at the KL Tower there were also the opportunities to jump the highest building complex in nearby town of Sibu (Borneo) as well as a cliff called Batucaves in the Malaysian jungle.
I met up with Math at Frankfurt airport and from there we started our 30-hour trip to Sibu (State of Sarawak, East Malaysia, Borneo) with stops along the way in Ho Chi Min and Kuala Lumpur. Completely exhausted we arrived at the airport and directly into the arms of a waiting Malaysian cab driver who was on the lookout for two European B.A.S.E. jumpers. What an incredible service! Everything was perfectly organized and the local hospitality was incredible. Nothing offered any evidence to that cannibalism garbage some people had tried to feed me when I told them about my upcoming trip to Borneo. From arrival to departure we were met only by laughing, friendly, curious and open minded faces.
The field of participants in Sibu may have been small but very enjoyable. With 30 jumpers from 14 nations the event was filled with familiar faces. But before we could even think about jumping off the highest building in Sibu (Wisma Sanyan, 126m tall) we had to endure a whole day of briefings, press conferences, photo shootings as well as meet & greets with the hosts and sponsors of the event. Due to its fairly low altitude the building doesn’t allow for excessive aerials and acrobatics. Instead the focus was on giving the spectators a good and safe show to present the sport in the best light. During each of the three days of jumping there were an incredible amount of spectators and after each landing we were swarmed by kids and adults, posed for countless pictures, carried children around and wrote autographs until our fingers hurt.
B.A.S.E. jumping showed a different side for once but there were still plenty of highlights to witness out of a total number of 584 jumps: Lonnie Bissonnetti, a paralyzed B.A.S.E. jumper from Canada made the first ever B.A.S.E. jump from a building in a wheelchair. Another highlight was the American Sean Chuma who made the first tandem B.A.S.E. jump with his Malaysian passenger Rudy Anoi. The press was beside themselves and we were on the headlines on a daily basis on the regional and national newspapers. The only low point of the event was the building collision of French jumper Yves Escudier during a night jump - luckily without serious injuries.
Borneo is a very diverse and also very superstitious country. Every day there were a multitude of ceremonies hosted in our honor along with sacrifices and prayers for our safety and well-being. This peaked in the final ceremony in the longhouse Bawang Assan Iban, located right in the middle of the Borneo jungle about an hour outside of Sibu. Longhouses are part of a tradition that leads back into the early 18th century. In them members of the Iban tribes live door to door with their families and manage to combine traditional with modern culture. The longhouses are being used as community rooms for meals and festivities and are the social center of the communities. And this was, where hospitality was redefined for us. We were presented with everything we could ever ask for and everything the jungle had to offer. First the evil spirits were vanished with various songs, dances and rituals before the local families finally proceeded to get us absolutely hammered on home made rice spirits…
Back in Kuala Lumpur we spent a few days in Chinatown enjoyed ourselves with countless fish foot treatments and were well rested for our next stop: Batucaves, a Hindu temple right in the middle of the jungle, 15km north of the Malaysian capital city. On the back of the 100-meter high cathedral cave there is a steep cliff of approximately the same height. To improve our exits the organizers had built a little ramp just for this event. Below the exit point and at the base of the mountain there are plenty of large trees. Wind here is usually quite strong and the cliffs all around us were very eroded with plenty of little cracks and crannies. This makes for a very “interesting” jump, because everything but a dead straight opening will get you in big trouble. The way to the exit point is another highlight. The path leads through narrow caves where you are met by snakes, oversized spiders and bats that are hanging from the walls. Afterwards you are met again by the hot tropical jungle and surrounded by monkeys and all kinds of birds and insects. At the exit point we were then greeted by school classes from the surrounding villages, who had eagerly awaited our arrival. Conclusion: Jumped, good straight opening and a safe landing! However, the urge for more jumps was missing a bit afterwards… The Batucaves temple is very much worth a visit, though!
And the best was still saved for the end. After another day of briefings, press conferences, group pictures with 103 jumpers from 20 different countries, sponsor meetings as well as meet & greets with Malaysian politicians and mayors the KL Tower Jumps 2013 had finally begun. Now, the “Open Deck” at 300 meters altitude was back under the firm control of the international B.A.S.E. community. The motto of the event was changed at the last minute from “Keep calm and push the limits” to “Keep calm and be amazed” – which most likely was done as a safety precaution in order to avoid “boogie fever”. Four full days as well as nights of jumping now lay in front of us.
This time the 421m high tower had a multitude of exit points to offer: A 3 by 4 meter ramp, a crane which is usually used for cleaning works as well as the actual ring of the tower top. Each time we thought that we had seen all the exit variations we were proven wrong.
The level of jumping was extremely high. Highlights included the freefly B.A.S.E. jumps of the Soul Flyers team, a train around the tower with 70 jumpers who jumped one after another, Mr. Bills and countless other shenanigans. Sean did some more Tandem B.A.S.E. jumps with the sponsors and Lonnie was able to log a wheelchair jump from yet another object. A record breaking number of 2860 jumps and only one broke ankle after a normal landing made the 2013 Event once again a complete success and made jumpers, spectators, sponsors and organizers, as well as various TV stations and newspapers extremely happy. A huge praise and thank you goes out to the Australian Gary Cunningham, who with his team was in charge of preparing and organizing a smooth event. Another thanks goes out to the sponsors who are supporting this event and last but not least the management of the KL Tower and the locals who welcome us to their beautiful country each and every year.
Keep calm and be amazed - in Malaysia
01See Hua Daily News
02The Borneo Post
03United Daily News
04Sin Chew Daily