I think you guys are really going to LOVE this talk I had with Jamie Flynn, a British Special Forces operator turned world base jumping champion.
Jamie is also a wingsuit pilot, a professional bodyguard, has protected ships from pirates in the Gulf of Aden, works as a professional bodyguard to the rich and famous, and practices BJJ.
Table of Contents
Topics Covered in the Podcaset
In this audio AND video episode we go cover…
2:00 — Entering the British Army
8:00 — Surviving the selection procedure used by elite army units,
25:32 — The bond of camaraderie in the army,
29:57 — His close calls in Iraq and Afghanistan,
32:59 — Getting started base jumping and parachuting,
44:20 — Balancing risk vs reward in sport,
46:43 — The mental triggers he uses optimal performance,
56:00 — His horrific basejumping injury and the road back to jumping again,
87:34 — Training jiu-jitsu
1:20:46 — Confronting Somali pirates,
1:25:25 — Bodyguarding strategies and tactics,
1:37:42 — Similarities between base jumping and BJJ,
This is a fascinating deep dive into what makes an adrenaline junkie tick, the specific steps he takes to reduce risk, and how he prepares physically and mentally for his adventures
Jamie Flynn on The Strenuous Life Podcast – Video Version
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Jamie Flynn on The Strenuous Life Podcast – Audio Podcast Version
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1, Follow Jamie on Instagram @jamieflynnbase where he shares a lot of his adventures!
2, Make sure to check my latest release, the best-selling Pressure Guard Passing System instructional with BJJ legend Fabio Gurgel at https://www.grapplearts.com/pressure
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If you want to read the interview instead of listening, it’s posted below!
STEPHAN: Ladies and gentlemen, former British special forces, former world champion base jumper, current bodyguard, current Jiu-Jitsu aficionado Jamie Flynn. Jamie, how are you doing?
JAMIE: Good, thanks for having me.
STEPHAN: Thanks for coming down, you had to do that drive on the Sea to Sky Highway this morning hey?
JAMIE: I will never ever get bored of that drive. Honestly, I come from London in the ass-end of England and honestly driving that highway every day, you can’t get bored of it. Like, it changes every day.
STEPHAN: Mmm hmm. Oh come on, the rolling hills of England. Or is it more of an industrial setting where you grew up?
JAMIE: Well I grew up in an industrial setting. Like, initially I was from a little s**hole there called Slough, which is a horrible area just outside of London, it’s not very nice. And then later on in my life –
STEPHAN: So when you say horrible, do you mean bleak and industrial or just very poor or what?
JAMIE: Bleak, industrial, pretty poor. You know Mars Chocolate bars?
JAMIE: Yeah, well they’re made in Slough. So you get the smell of the chocolate factory which is disgusting.
STEPHAN: I completely agree, I don’t think Mars Bars should be chocolate bars, they’re candy bars.
JAMIE: And I’m telling you, the smell across the town, if you lived in Slough or even pass through, Slough has this horrible plastic smell that just lingers. And everyone is like yeah that’s the chocolate factory. Not what you imagined.
JAMIE: Yeah, it’s horrible.
STEPHAN: Willy Wonka left town and we left…
JAMIE: Yeah we left Mars Bars to take over.
STEPHAN: So you went into the Army.
STEPHAN: At what age did you go to the army at?
JAMIE: I had just turned 16 so I left school.
STEPHAN: Wow. You’re allowed to go in at 16?
JAMIE: I think now they’ve changed it to 18, I might be wrong, it’s been a few years since I left the army. But when I was there, there was a team of junior leaders. So you went to a college, so the college I went to is in Harrogate, so it’s like 8 or 9 hours from where I grew up. And yeah I was 16, I got on a train and my parents were just like “eh, see ya” and I was like, I got on the train, I was 16 years old and bushy eyed. I look at the 16-year olds now and think holy I was young!
STEPHAN: Well I’m sure the average 16 year old male now has fired off many many many thousands more rounds than you did your whole entire army career, of course it’s all virtual, they’re all pretty much trained killers too.
JAMIE: Yeah, exactly. Call of Duty is something to write home about.
STEPHAN: There was that super sexy Mexican weather girl, have you ever seen footage of her, Yanet Garcia? I mean she’s been surgically enhanced to be ridiculous, she’s like a human Barbie Doll. Really hot. And she was recently left by her boyfriend who wanted to pursue his Call of Duty career.
JAMIE: Ha ha ha ha.
STEPHAN: Well it just drives home, I mean maybe she’s really annoying? Could be.
JAMIE: Well if you talk to my wife about Call of Duty, she hates it. I sit there sometimes and you can see her eyes roll. What the hell are you doing.
STEPHAN: You can “hear” her eyes roll.
JAMIE: I can already hear her and she hasn’t even come home yet. But yeah she asks why, I’m like I don’t know, I like video games, it chills me out it’s like a state of meditation. I don’t have to think about what’s going on, I can play for like 30 minutes and then I’m bored and I’ll put it down. But then I chill out a bit more and I can settle down for the evening.
STEPHAN: Well let’s drag it back from sexy Mexican weather girls, and video games, back to your army career. So there you are at 16, you went to the Junior leaders program.
JAMIE: Yes, I turned up at Harrogate and I lined up. Like you come off the train, I had my suitcase and a sandwich and stood there and I get off and this guy is standing there…
STEPHAN: This is your first exposure to the army, like you had never been a member of the cadets?
JAMIE: I had been in cadets when I was younger but it doesn’t really compare.
JAMIE: I stepped off and I looked over and saw a guy with the parachute regiment, beret, like I looked at him, I looked at that guy and thought wow that guy looks amazing. He looks like a soldier. And I walked over to him and said “Hi I’m Jamie”. And he looked at my hand and said “no, go stand against that wall.” So I stood at this wall and I said “Um, I need to go to the toilet”, but he said “stand against that wall”. OK, so, I waited. Then more people and trains came down and when they got a group of us they put us on a bus. We drove in and that’s how, that was my introduction. Straight in, moved into a bedroom, like there was like 8 or 9 in the bedroom. I just walked in there and stood by an extra bed, there was all these other 16 year olds. From then onwards we were just –
STEPHAN: Full on Lord of the Flies
JAMIE: Yeah it was just like, everyone was like “what the hell just happened” and they were like ok don’t pack anything up and we get issued gear. Was like a whirlwind the first bit, you didn’t know what was going on. Go here, go there, here’s gear, here’s this. I’m a size 8 boot, they were like yeah we only have size 9’s, there you go. Like, that’s what you’re going to get. And it just, after a while you get into these routines. The course I was on was for a year, so you did loads of education, so you want to up your education a bit more because you’re only 16. In there they taught you army drills, you know, but over a longer period of time. So normally a British army unit, for their basic training is like 6 weeks, it’s really condensed. Whereas we had a whole year to learn everything, so we really knew everything. It was, yeah, I think it benefited my army career because I fully understood it before I left.
STEPHAN: Um hmm.
JAMIE: So when I went to basic training a year later to the parachute regiment, where they make it very clear as soon as you get there, like “We don’t need you. You need to prove to us that you need to be here.” So when I first got there, I was in a platoon –
STEPHAN: Had the war in Afghanistan already started? Was this pre or post September 11?
JAMIE: It was pre. It was 2004, 2003 when I joined the army. When I turned up to the parachute regiment it was like 2004. And then we –
STEPHAN: So there was definitely a possibility of going overseas at that point.
JAMIE: Yeah, Afghanistan hadn’t really, I mean they already had been over and came back but it wasn’t on the table. Iraq at the time was on the table, it was driven into us like “you guys might be going to Iraq.”
JAMIE: I’m going to, but Afghanistan hadn’t even surfaced our, we weren’t even thinking about it.
JAMIE: Um, we went through the selection process for the parachute regiment and by week I think it was week 16 or something, we were down to 11 guys in the platoon.
STEPHAN: How many did you start with?
JAMIE: Like, 30-something.
STEPHAN: Ok. And these are guys who had already been training for a whole year essentially.
STEPHAN: What was selection like?
JAMIE: So it’s like, pretty brutal. You would get up at like 5 o’clock in the morning, go through your morning routine and go straight onto fitness, five mile or ten mile run or something, then you’d come back and we’d call it “beasting”, it was like an excuse for them to do some ‘character building’ (hahaha).
STEPHAN: So for an external observer, what would have been the most unfair, it’s not about being fair, but what would have been the most unfair thing that happened to you or the meanest character building thing that happened?
JAMIE: Well, we used to get woken up at 3 o’clock in the morning, they’d run into the room and be like “Joe!!” In our regiment we called everyone Joe. So the basic trainer, the person who’s just joined the army is called Joe. Yeah it was like we don’t care what your name is, you are Joe.
STEPHAN: You haven’t earned the right to have a name yet.
JAMIE: You haven’t earned the right to your name. So all of us would be like Joe, get in the corridor, and everyone jumps there. We’re like ok – one man, one mattress, and get your respirators on (your gas mask). So we all grabbed our mattresses and then like one guy was against the wall holding the two mattresses, you had your gas mask on and you were just punching the hell out of it.
STEPHAN: At 3 in the morning?
JAMIE: At 3 in the morning and you’re just like, what’s going on. And then the corporal would come in and be like “Joe, what the f**k are you guys doing out of bed at 3 in the morning, put your mattresses away”. And you’re like what? And they’re like “Ok, if you guys want to play silly games, we’ll play corridor Olympics”. And they used to get mop and buckets and throw mop bucket water down the corridor and you know you get the sleeping pads, the foam ones. If you throw water down, it will slip initially. And then when it starts soaking in it will be sticky. And then we had races up and down the corridors. And then other corporal who did the whole punching thing would come back and the other corporal would leave and he’d be like “Joe, I told you to go to bed like an hour ago, what are you still doing up? If you want to play games, we can play games.” And so the cycle began. And I think it was just to weed out the people that weren’t mentally strong. Or teach, because I was really young so it taught me men are resilient. At the time I didn’t enjoy it, “this is bullying” like outright bullying. And then as I got older I realized actually no, they were trying to weed out the guys who couldn’t stand there and go, you know, because it’s going to be a tough time. You’re joining a parachute regiment. You know you’re joining –
STEPHAN: It’s elite.
JAMIE: Yeah, it’s elite, you know you’re going to be dropped in behind enemy lines with you know, and you’re going to have to be self sufficient. And that means there’s going to be times when your brain is going “I don’t want to be here.”
STEPHAN: “It’s not fair that there are four enemies up in that bunker, it’s not fair.”
JAMIE: And you’ve just had a 20 mile hike and all this other stuff. So you’ve got to be mentally prepared. And at the time I didn’t agree on it, but as later on in life I understood why, like why week 19 or whatever it was, there was only 11 of us left.
STEPHAN: Wow. How many people just quit versus getting injured?
JAMIE: Honestly, I don’t know. I was 16.
STEPHAN: One day there were 2 Joe’s, the next day there was 1.
JAMIE: Yeah, like I’d come back after a fitness session and there’s a guy packing his bag and I can tell you now I do not remember that guy’s name.
STEPHAN: Yeah. Ok. Fair enough.
JAMIE: And um it just, it just went like that for the whole time. And there was 11 of us and we still hadn’t done, there was a selection week called P Company and they have these different exercises. And one is called Millan. You stand up against your buddy and you punch eachother in the head but there’s no blocking, there’s no pairing, no nothing. You just have to stand and throw punches. Yeah, that was a bit nuts. Other things were like carrying a log, carrying a stretcher that weighed 180 pounds or something, over distances, and everyone had to pass these events. That’s called P Company and that was a pass or fail event. You could fail one event and still pass the course but you didn’t want to fail two.
JAMIE: At the time they had 11 of us before selection started and they were like well, this is like a 45% pass rate there. That means we’re going to have maybe 5, maybe 4 guys who pass, or maybe 6 guys. But then you’ve also still got another few weeks afterwards that we can still crumble someone and someone leaves, so we’re like we could be having 4 people in a passing out parade at the end of the whole course, and all your parents come and there’s only 4 of you standing on the parade. It could be silly. So we all got I think back-squatted so we, our whole platoon got back-squatted. God knows how long, all the way back to week 6 or something.
STEPHAN: Oh, good lord.
JAMIE: Yeah, good lord wasn’t the word I used. Hahaha.
STEPHAN: Rhymes with the word duck.
JAMIE: Yeah. And I was absolutely devastated. I remember sitting there thinking f**k, how am I going to do this again. Like, I barely got through that. I wasn’t a grade A student, I was scraping the pass marks. But I was there, trying all the time. And then we started this other course and I ended up, I had a weak moment and decided I wanted to leave. So went and spoke to the corporal and the corporal said “Oh funny that you ask to leave, because I’ve been told about you.” My friend he passed away now but he won the Victoria Cross which is like the highest gallantry medal. And he said, he told my corporal “If he ever leaves, you’re to call me.” And he called me into the office, put me on the phone to him, and I said “Yes, corporal?” He’s just like “Look at the corporal now.” So I look up and he’s ripping my discharge papers up, the ones I wanted to leave. He goes “You’re not leaving.” And he hung up the phone.
STEPHAN: Good talk!
JAMIE: Good talk! I guess I’m not leaving. And I mean if I wanted to I could but I was just having a weak moment and everyone has those weak days and that’s the thing that they try and teach. You know we can have our weak days but on our weak days, we still need to show up. Still, it’s like Jiu-Jitsu, my days where I’m tired, I’m like I’m going to head to the gym. Don’t want to be there, but it’s that same mental robustness.
STEPHAN: So you didn’t, did you stay, how long were you in the parachute regiment for? Because you ended up moving into, as I recall, the Special Forces Sport Battalion?
JAMIE: So I did two years in 3 Para, which is one of, the Parachute Regiment is made up of 3 battalions and one territorial or reservists. I was in 3 Para, I deployed to Afghanistan with them. Um, yeah that was a pretty serious tour. I actually lost one of my really good friends in there, the guy called me, he did in Afghanistan. His story is just out there, his whole platoon was pinned down and they couldn’t work out how to get out of there, and he stood up and charged them down with a bayonet and when he was found, he was found with 3 dead Taliban around him. His bayonet on and the rest of the guys managed to get out of there because of this guy. So he won the Victoria Cross, gallantry medal. And that was, for me that was quite traumatic at that point, I think I was 18 at that point, I was just like Whoa…
STEPHAN: Was he in charge of that unit?
JAMIE: He was one of the section commanders, so.
STEPHAN: Talk about leadership, or, leading from the front.
JAMIE: Yeah, he left the front and he, I wasn’t there on that specific attack but by accounts of my friends that were, were like if he didn’t do that those guys might not be here today. Yeah, so that’s one guys. And that’s the guy that pushed me into the parachute regiment, managed to direct me into the parachute regiment. He introduced me to skydiving, he was the first guy I ever met that was a skydiver and he pushed me into it. You know I didn’t skydive at that point.
STEPHAN: You didn’t skydive when you were in the parachute regiment?
JAMIE: No no, you don’t really skydive, you jump out a plane attached to a parachute.
STEPHAN: Oh ok. So you’re going to need to explain the difference here because this is where it gets, big part of your base jumping too.
JAMIE: Yeah, it gets a bit complicated. Skydiving, base jumping, military parachuting. All complicated stuff. It’s all different. Military stuff is a big round parachute, you’ve probably seen World War II.
STEPHAN: Normandy, yeah.
JAMIE: Yeah. Running out the door. Now that’s called a static line so you like hook up on these wires in the plane and you walk out the door.
STEPHAN: As long as you’re hooked up, it’s going to open.
JAMIE: Exactly and that’s why they get the military to do it because let’s be honest a lot of the infantry units aren’t the most intelligent guys in the world, so trying to teach them all these technical stuff about skydiving, I mean sure they would learn it but it’s easy insertion. You know, you can just dump a load of guys out there and those guys can go out there and fight. So it’s just a quick insertion, you know with equipment and getting guys on the ground quickly without helicopters and vehicles at risk.
STEPHAN: Right. How often does that actually happen, because I know a lot of the parachute regiments that were formed in WWII ended up doing mostly tailboard jumps in the sense that they drive, after the first couple of disasters of trying to parachute a whole bunch of guys in, an elite unit, they’d be inserted by truck, not by airplane.
JAMIE: Nowadays, it’s unlikely we’re ever going to see a Normandy or Market Garden or anything like that. Because that’s a really stupid idea. You’re going to dump them on top of the guys and they’re going to shoot up and kill you. You know, so they lost a whole…And this is where the Elite regiment started coming from. They were like if we can get these super fit energetic guys and we dump them 20 miles way, we can dump them in, they can get all their s**t together, get ready for the battle, move in you know and hike in and no one will even know. Because you’re not going to hear a plane 20 miles away, you know, so it’s going to be a surprise. And that was how the parachute regiment started, being able to build around their attacks. How much we do of it now, it’s turned more into more of an air assault. So you do –
STEPHAN: Jumping out of a helicopters?
JAMIE: Jumping out of helicopters with ropes, on the back of tailgates, running off the bag, like there’s many ways of assaulting but we keep the eliteness of the regiment as something we’re all super proud of. But there is a huge parachute element to is because we still have that capability in case we ever need it.
STEPHAN: I suppose it’s also another way of weeding out people who can’t you know, were too scared or just lack some component of being able to jump out of a perfectly good airplane.
JAMIE: They’re not perfectly good airplanes. Hahaha. I can tell you now they’re not. I’ve been to some skydive centres and they’re held together by like duct tape and you’re like, whoa, I’m glad I’ve got this parachute on me. People generally on planes, go on holidays in these planes and are like “how old is this plane?” “oh this is built in 1961” What?? You see my car from 1961, it’s like held together with…
STEPHAN: I know up north in northern Canada there are some planes that basically when they crash they just go get this plate, that says this plane, this model, they’ve basically rebuilt the whole thing. Having that little plate is license to do a giant amount of rebuilding.
JAMIE: Oh wow.
STEPHAN: So even planes that aren’t built anymore are still being built, in the name of “Oh no look we have the registration plate”. It’s like when people renovate a house and they leave one wall standing and they tear everything down and rebuild it all and then they tear that one wall down. “No, this wasn’t a new build, this was a renovation.”
JAMIE: Yeah, like the janitor with the same broomstick for 20 years. It’s had 27 new heads and 30 new handles.
STEPHAN: It’s like Odyesseus ship, or chasing the ship. Where the uh, if you change out every part of a ship is it still the same ship. We are totally getting into the weeds here. So, you went to Afghanistan, you went to Iraq.
STEPHAN: Where were you in Iraq and where you were you in Afghanistan, can you say?
JAMIE: Yeah. So in Afghanistan when I first toured, in Helmand Province, that was the first time the British had, I think the Gurkhas were in there building Camp Bastion at the time, or defending Camp Bastion as it was being built. We were the first unit in there to do operations, you know, open operations in Helmand Province. So we didn’t really know what we were walking into, and neither did the Taliban. They were like “well who the hell are these guys?” After that tour I then, there was an order that went around saying if anyone wants to join this new special forces support group unit, put your name down on this list and you guys might get the opportunity. So 3 Battalions, I was in 3, our first battalion ended up getting this role called specialist support group, and I put my name down and though you know what I want some of that. Let’s see what that’s all about. So I put my name down and then my name was like yeah, ok you can go and do that. So I moved over to One Para, just after 2006, got into the unit and just found my way. It’s a different way of life. They were finding themselves as a brand new unit, and didn’t really know what they were doing because initially it was meant to support the SAS and their operations and, but how are we going to work with them…
STEPHAN: Was it put together in England or put together in Iraq?
JAMIE: Back in England. Yeah. So it was all put together, I don’t know how and who was thinking of how it was all going to work. But we started to grow. And we grew in a different want of how the army expected us to. So we started getting –
STEPHAN: What does that mean? For example?
JAMIE: For example, they wanted us to be direct support in the SAS –
STEPHAN: What would that mean. So the SAS goes in to do a –
JAMIE: So they go in and get a hostage rescue, for example, and then we would have the coordinates, so we would have, make security for these guys to be safe. And then, and we did that for a while, and then eventually we were doing these like long range rescue patrols in Afghanistan. Like, going out and looking for where the Taliban’s strongholds are or training the Afghan special forces to do stuff. Like we would do more our own strike ops and our own training and not just following the SAS around. We still were but I believe they still offer it now. There’s still a time where if the SAS go here we’ll go with them. And then we did the stuff like counter terrorism in the UK, go on like 3 hours notice to move and be prepared in case anything happened in the UK. My 2nd tour was Iraq. And that was a direct support role with the SAS and we used to go around and pick up high-end Al Quaida targets.
JAMIE: Um, and that was pretty interesting tour actually, and was my 2nd operational tour and I was now, I could see the bigger picture I could see what I would do in this and I wasn’t just rabbit in the headlights, you know, like “what’s going on.” I started to enjoy it. I can tell you that Iraq was one of my favourite tours I did when I was in the army, it was.
STEPHAN: What years were you there?
JAMIE: I think I was there 2009, 2010. Yeah. We had such a good time, we worked direct with the SAS, we had Delta force that we worked with, we had the US Rangers we were working with. We were just going out, getting these targets and coming back and it was like super interesting. And the guys I was with, like it was like going on a camping trip with the boys you know. We were out there for 6 months and one of my best tours I did.
STEPHAN: That’s always the, you know it’s the same with the fire department. Again, you’re like yes it’s a night shift, it’s also a sleepover with the boys. It’s a day shift. It’s also a barbeque with the boys. But, the idea of then having these close connections and somebody getting badly hurt or injured, that’s the flip side of that coin right. On the one hand you’re really really tight, you’re really good friends with these people, you spend a ton of time together you know what’s going on in their lives, you know just how to tease them and they know just how to tease you. So you work together better. But at the same time if somebody gets hurt or injured or killed, it really is like losing a member of your family.
JAMIE: Yeah, like some of these guys, I know them more than some of my biological family. Like these guys I knew, you know everything about them. You even know when they’re playing away from…
STEPHAN: “So the 3rd girl you ever slept with, she had a mole on the back of her shoulder…”
JAMIE: Yeah. You knew so much about these guys and what they were doing and you know which girl they were…if you could keep up with half these guys, like, how do you keep up with 5 girlfriends. I struggle with one.
STEPHAN: Well, they’ve got a safe – if it’s anything like the fire department – there’s your life and then there’s the responsibility to provide entertainment for everybody else. So these guys with five girlfriends, four of them might be imaginary to provide entertainment for everybody else. It’s possible.
JAMIE: Yeah, yeah. We’re not there with them to vouch.
STEPHAN: Exactly. “I want a signed affidavit from each one”. Unlikely.
JAMIE: The stitch-ups were like, I still tell stories…
STEPHAN: Sorry, stitch-ups?
JAMIE: Yeah like playing pranks on eachother. We had this one –
STEPHAN: This is an English term?
JAMIE: Yeah, an English term. I’m still struggling with in Canada.
STEPHAN: No, that’s why I’m here, I’m the translator. Haha.
JAMIE: Probably subtitle me as well. No I remember this one time this guy was getting on my nerves a bit too much, he was such a p***k. Like why are you doing this. You know you can get under eachother skin and whatever. And I looked at my buddies and was like how do we get this guy back. And one of my friends had this hot sauce and it was called Da Bomb.
STEPHAN: Half a billion scoville units of heat.
JAMIE: Yeah, it was horrible. I have had like spoonfuls of it and thrown up everywhere. And I was like you know what I’m going to get this guy back. And he had Aquafresh toothpaste in his wash bag so when hew as out at work doing something on the vehicle, I went in his wash bag, grabbed out his Aquafresh, had a needle like a syringe and I hot sauced the stuff. You know it’s like red/white/blue. I injected the red. I’m only 18 years old so I’m like “Yeah this will get him in the morning”. But the needle is about this long. So I injected it in, pulled it out, and everyone knew I did this. So everyone’s like ok when’s he going to happen. So I’m like tomorrow, check tomorrow morning when he brushes his teeth. Nothing. The next day, nothing. So I’m like no way maybe the toothpaste cancelled the hot sauce out.
STEPHAN: 18 year old chemists trying to figure this out.
JAMIE: Yeah trying to figure it out. Not the most intelligent guy anyway but. We were like why isn’t this working? And then one day we got a phone call at like 4 in the morning, “guys, our base is being attacked, we need to get going, grab your gear let’s go!” so I was like grabbing my gear and you don’t know the next time you’re going to brush your teeth so everyone’s brushing their teeth in the toilet. I look over and this guys going “ahhh, ahhhh” And I’m like oh, what bad timing. And he’s down screaming and we were like brushing our teeth and helping him get his gear ready, and we’re in the helicopter and he’s got his bag and he’s barfing. I’m like I’m so sorry.
STEPHAN: You admitted it?
JAMIE: NO, we didn’t tell him then. He was so pissed. He is probably listening to this and be like “It was you!”
STEPHAN: Must kill. Did you have any close calls, in Iraq?
JAMIE: Not in Iraq, Iraq was pretty good because we were pretty strategic of how we were doing it. My 3rd tour to Afghanistan was the time that it started to get more kinetic. It was, from 2006 to my last one, 2010, so much had happened in the war, the Taliban had changed their tactics. We went back out there and it was a different country to the first time I went. It was like every day we were on the ground, it was like, we were doing something and we were getting quite kinetic with the Taliban.
STEPHAN: So when you say kinetic you mean shooting war?
JAMIE: Shooting war, you know shooting back and forth. Being in Afghanistan is not like the war movies where like you’re going to be playing Call of Duty every single day. You know like, you’ll go days with nothing. But there was more often where we would get into these little skirmishes with the Taliban. And I just remember one time I was told to go and speak to someone else but just ran across this, not open ground but it lowered down and I just had to go back because I was in charge of the radios. It was like “just go over there and tell him our radios aren’t working”. So as I started running all hell broke loose and I dived on the ground and was like ooh, my god, like this sucks, like what’s going on. And then all of a sudden I see the American guy who was attached to us running over like a scene out of Baywatch. And it’s like “what the f**k are you doing” and he was like “are you ok?” I’m like yeah, but why did you just run over here like this, you’re not going to get a medal here buddy. He was like “I thought you got shot” and I was like oh ok. All right so I’m lying there and just like ok what do we do. And we were a little bit starved. So I had my little jet boil cooker and I pulled it out and he said “what are you doing?” and I said “well, I’m making a cup of tea.”
STEPHAN: So you’re safe where you are, but you can’t move.
JAMIE: I couldn’t move. And I had to just leave and on my radio I could hear our platoon commander just saying hang on there and you can make your way back when we’re done. So I pull this out quickly and this American hasn’t got an earpiece in so he can’t hear the timings so he’s like “OK two minutes get ready to move”.
STEPHAN: This f***ing crazy British guy cooking up a tea in the middle of Iraq.
JAMIE: I’m like “you want some?” and he’s like “no”. So I hear “Ok move now” so I put it away and I’m like “Buddy we can’t wait here all day, let’s f***ing go” and he’s like “what the hell just happened?”
STEPHAN: It’s just how we roll.
JAMIE: It’s how we roll. It goes back and like we like to make, our regiment like to have this image of having this crazy image, like not crazy but just like, you guys are different.
STEPHAN: So when did you start getting into the base jumping? You’re a world champion base jumper, we haven’t really mentioned it yet. When did you start getting into the sky diving, as opposed to jumping out of the plane and having the parachute open automatically. When did this start becoming your choice and you started jumping off of planes, buildings, antennaes.
JAMIE: One of the guys in the battalion had this huge poster, absolutely huge, of a guy base jumping off of a building. And the guy’s name was Chris MacDougall. And he was, old Dougs. He’s Austrailian…we are now friends, but I saw this poster and was like wow that’ insane. And he was like yeah, this is what I want to do. Ok. But he was like ok for me to practice what I’m going to do is do this rope swinging stuff. You know like drill holes into these bridges and make anchor points and swing under the bridges.
STEPHAN: Right, right.
JAMIE: So well I want some of that. So I went over and I was jumping off this bridge in this little town in South Wales called Merthyr Tydfil, a random bridge that I was just jumping off and swinging underneath. It just wasn’t, I was like this just isn’t base jumping so let’s get into this. Eventually this guy was, he went and just I don’t know if he did a course but he never saw, he never chased it. I was like I need to chase this, I need to do it. I reached out to a skydive centre, and I was in Iraq and I had two weeks off for R&R to come home and see family. And I landed in Brize Norton which is in Oxford, and I got on the train and I went to Heathrow and flew to the south of Spain. I was like I am doing this. Yeah. I remember flying out there and I just got back from Iraq, I’m like I’m going back in two weeks, I NEED to get my skydiving license. So I flew down there, and then just accelerate free for course, you just jump out with two instructors side by side. And you learn the curriculum until you’re an A license. Um, and I turned up and they said “what’s your goals?” I said “I want to be a base jumper.” And that’s like, the equivalent of like –
STEPHAN: Walk into a boxercise class and be like I want to be a UFC champ.
JAMIE: Yeah. And now I’m like, what an idiot. I’m that newbie guy who was like “I want to be the UFC champion”. And everyone laughed at me, like I wanted to be a base jumper, ok buddy. And I was like ok. Everyone laughed at me and I guess they didn’t know how driven I actually was. When I set a goal I’m like, I’m going to that goal, I don’t care what it takes but I will be there. And I started at the AFF course and they’re like “so you still want to do this at the end?” and I was like yep absolutely. So they just watched me grow as a skydiver. And I was still in the army for a couple of years….
STEPHAN: So to become a base jumper, you presumably start off with your free fall certification, but there is no base jumping certification. Nobody is out there saying “here is how you jump off a building.”
JAMIE: Well you can do courses.
STEPHAN: Oh really? Who’s dumb enough to run that, like the liability of like –
STEPHAN: All right before you started teaching these courses.
JAMIE: There’s actually not that many.
STEPHAN: I bet not.
JAMIE: It’s more of a mentor program rather than a course. But there are guys out there that run courses on a regular basis and you know you have to have a criteria. So most people would say, around 200-500 skydives. And in those skydives you need to have been competent at various different disciplines. And then, you can come onto the course. Now that can take you a few years, it’s not easy to get a few hundred jumps.
STEPHAN: Sure. How long did it take you?
JAMIE: A year? Yeah. Like I was, that’s all I had focused, I was eating ramen noodles and jumping every day, like it was what I wanted. But then I was trying to get on course, like a base jumping course. And everyone was like no, out in America, on we’re not running one this year. I was like how am I going to do this. And at that point I was going to Afghanistan for the 3rd time, and I’m like I need to do this before I go. So I asked everyone, and then I started asking base jumpers who were at this skydive center, is there anyone want to take me? You know like. Ok. Then I started listening to where these guys were going. And I highly recommend no one who gets into base jumping to not do what I was doing, because how I learned was dumb. I found out where they were doing this base jumping and then I went there with my base jumping rig and I climbed up this like electricity pylon, 470 foot, I just looked over and no one else was around.
STEPHAN: You’ve been to YouTube University.
JAMIE: I was a YouTuber. I was like yeah, cool, I watched it. And I got up there and I did all these checks and I was so paranoid, and in the military you do all these checks and drills and I’m like ok the wind is good, this, I’m using common sense which, I’m not a gamer because I’m up there without any instructions, so whatever, I jumped off, opened the parachute and whoa, that’s it? I landed safely and then I repacked the parachute and went up a second time. And did exactly the same. And then couple weeks went by and I just didn’t tell anyone, I was like I’m not saying anything or I’ll get shunned. And then a friend of mine just got, he was in my battalion, he just got back from a base jumping course. And I was like hey buddy I’ve got two jumps, any chance we can go. He was like Yeah we can go and I can try to regurgitate what I was told. So me and this guy were like, we should not tell anyone that we’re doing this because if anyone in the scene notices us we are going to be shunned from the community. So we just went and did our bit, just jump jump jump.
STEPHAN: It’s one thing for a couple of guys to watch a bunch of video tape and start rolling doing Jiu-Jitsu in their basements because the consequences of really screwing it up are breaking your arm, or maybe tearing your ACL. That’s kind of worst case scenario. Your worst case scenario is instant death or maybe total mangling. I’m not sure which is worse.
JAMIE: I don’t know, maybe the high tempo of what I was doing in the military kind of desensitized myself to what I was, you know –
STEPHAN: Well it’s interesting you know you were saying the base jumping is more of a mental program. Because, and not like not losing your mind and forgetting to pull the cord when you jump off the building or antennae, whereas you had already been exposed to high levels of stress and deconditioned to functioning in a high stress environment.
JAMIE: Base jumping isn’t that complicated. Most people think we are adrenaline junkies and these crazy loose guys. We’re actually some of the nerdiest guys in the world. And if you can do everything – like I learned base jumping in a sense of the way that I learned to do the military. If you do everything exactly right, yeah you have a better chance. Now, there are guys out there who are doing everything exactly wrong and they get themselves in trouble.
STEPHAN: But just doing everything exactly right doesn’t guarantee you’re going to survive, just better chances.
JAMIE: You have better odds. You know.
STEPHAN: Sorry you were saying about guys doing everything wrong, and get into trouble?
JAMIE: They get into trouble. You can do everything right and get into just as equal trouble. So just some back and forth, you know it’s a game you need to decide. You need to pick and choose. For me it’s risk vs. reward. You know. Nowadays I don’t jump off antennas. For me, I’ve been injured. If I ever got injured again I’d look up at this antennae and be like, this is just a sh*** antennae, in the middle of a field. Whereas if I jump off the Chief and get injured, touch wood I don’t, but I look back up and –
STEPHAN: The Chief being this giant sort of El Capitain-ish type of rock.
JAMIE: Yeah, in Squamish, in my town which is iconic. And if I look back up and I’m injured, and I sit there and go actually this one of the most beautiful places in the world. Unfortunately I’m injured, but I’m injured doing something that I really wanted to do. You know I wasn’t just doing it just to get a number, you know an additional jump on my resume as such.
STEPHAN: Well you talk about risk vs. reward, this might seem like a stupid question, we all know what the risk is, what is the reward for you? Jumping off of a really high object but you know, not a plane. So the chances of hitting that object are significantly higher, no time to recover if things go wrong. What is the reward in that for you?
JAMIE: It’s like, accomplishment. You know like, me jumping off the Chief nowadays, it’s not…I go up there and I’m not a big fan of heights.
STEPHAN: I guess it gets your adrenal juices going.
JAMIE: Yeah, and I also have this weird thing about I’m scared to do a lot. Like, compared to a lot of other base jumpers who are a lot more confident, they can walk up to the edge and jump off. You know I get there and I’m scared, and my buzz from the sport is getting up there, looking at my gear, making sure everything is right – it’s like a mission. For me it’s like everything has to fall in line. So I get up early, you know I drive there, I hike up, in the time frame. I use it as a bit of fitness. I then get up there and check all my gear, I put the gear on in the same order every time, I walk to the edge and I’m like oh, crap this is scary. You look down and you spit over the edge, you know just trying to judge what the wind is doing. Then you walk a little bit closer and your heart starts to race and you’re like ok…everything is good, if like the winds are good, I feel good, I can take a deep breath and I just clear everything. And this is where I get the most reward from, managing to clear myself and then stepping up and doing what I’m scared to do and doing it scared, and get to the edge and my favorite part about base jumping is when I’m about to leave the cliff. You know I’m all crunched up ready to explode into the jump but my feet haven’t left the cliff. You know, but at that point I can’t go “oh s**t I don’t want to”, you know I’m past that point of no return.
STEPHAN: You already started tipping over the edge.
JAMIE: I’m tipping over the edge and just about to jump into it but I’m still connected to the cliff and for me it’s a tiny 1/8 of a second but for me, my whole enjoyment is like you now have to give 110% for the rest of this flight because it needs your whole attention. So it doesn’t matter at that point if you had an argument with your friend or your wife or you’re in debt or whatever, you’re like, this is the true moment right now that matters. Because if you f**k up now it doesn’t matter for the rest of your life. So for me it’s a whole moment of I’m truly living in this moment.
STEPHAN: How often do you walk away – do you get up there, you spend all that time hiking up there and you get all your gear ready and you go, no this line is frayed, or the wind just isn’t right, or I just don’t feel right today and go back.
JAMIE: It’s funny, I’m super paranoid and I have a three strike rule. Now this three strikes, some people laugh at me because they’re stupid. If my alarm set at 5:45 and I press snooze and I get up at 5:50, that’s a strike, you know. Like I should have just woken up. You know if I get there and I’m like ah, it’s a bit windy on the ground and I get nervous, that’s another one. Then I hike up, everything’s perfect from then on out ok I’m going to jump. But I’m always looking for an excuse not to jump. I always like this idea of if I can look for excuses why I should not make this base jump, and I’ve eliminated all those factors yet everything is still here then I’m good to go.
JAMIE: And that’s my logic. Not all base jumpers think like this but for me that’s the way that I want to make it happen because then if anything did happen, like I jump and then there’s like a gust or you know anything happens or I get injured. I can be like you know what, I can hold my hands up and say I eliminated any factors I can and this freak thing that happened, just happened.
STEPHAN: Well when you are talking about going through your check lists and almost your rituals, it strikes me as very very similar to tennis players, say, who, and I don’t play tennis but they come up, bounce the ball twice, touch the ball with the racquet, they bounce the ball twice more and then they serve. And they do that every single time, every single match. And it just helps them get into that state of flow, it helps them get, it’s part of their trigger for optimal performance. So I imagine you going through your checklist and having that ritual and setting your alarm for 5:45 are all the triggers that need to line up, to get you into that headspace to do it as safe as possible.
JAMIE: Exactly. You know I’m coming into 10 years in this sport now and the little ticks that I have, I’ve had from the beginning. You know. People watch me on an exit point and I’m always touching my handle, the handle with the parachute, because essentially you can have the best wingsuit flight of your life, but if you don’t deploy the parachute, it’s the last. So for me it’s a case of I’m always touching it, I know where it is, I’ve thrown it so many times but every time I get up there I’m like touch touch. Everyone’s like, what…my best friend who I jump with all the time, and he’s like “still in the same place” and I’m like “yeah it is”.
STEPHAN: So how did you become, I had heard of base jumping, I had seen base jumping, I didn’t know there was a competitive circuit for base jumping. How did you get into that and then how did you climb to the top of that. And how can there be competition for something that’s illegal?
JAMIE: It’s not iillegal.
JAMIE: No. Depending on where you are. Like, a lot of places in America, it’s illegal. Like, but they have their own little weird rules sometimes. But base jumping here in Squamish is not illegal.
STEPHAN: Oh, ok.
JAMIE: The most thing that most people get caught on is trespassing.
STEPHAN: OK. “I never gave you permission to enter my building, go to the top and jump off of it.”
JAMIE: Exactly. And different companies have different trespassing rules. Like some places it’s like a criminal offense, others it’s a civil offense which is a slap on the wrist. And other places they’re just like oh yeah well we’ve got no signs saying that you can’t so maybe we’ll put a sign up now. So it’s just depending on where you’re going so that’s why we travel we try and meet base jumpers at that area to try to work out what we can and can’t do and how we can do it.
The actual base jumping circuit, there was at the time, like a few years ago there was loads of different competitions in Turkey and Spain and we could just travel around these circuits in the summer and do these little competitions.
STEPHAN: Is that funded by people who are watching or, who is funding that?
JAMIE: No I think it’s like self-funded. And there wasn’t too much. But these events were out there and people were trying to put, like, how do we –
STEPHAN: How do we get Redbull?
JAMIE: Yeah exactly, and how do we compete in this. In our sport, there’s like two types of people. There’s people who compete and there’s people who have no interest. Like “this is a free spirit sport and I don’t want to compete.” Whatever. But me, personally, I believe that competition is great for growth, in any sport. So in base jumping some people are like yeah I like to compete just to see how I do against other people. And the tournaments that we went into around 2012 was jumping off buildings or bridges and you would have to jump off for two seconds. So in the building you would jump off the building then you are in that position for two seconds, reach out and the two seconds stops when you let go of that pilot chute, which is a small parachute that opens the big one. So you, someone’s there counting the two seconds. So if you get like one and a half seconds, you get deducted points.
STEPHAN: So it’s kind of like a game of chicken with the ground. Because if I wanted to win I’d go three seconds, but I’d hit the ground.
JAMIE: No, if you get three seconds you get disqualified because there’s a bracket, because after three seconds is unsafe, whereas like I think the building at the time you could, the mathematical equation is if you free-fall for 7 seconds you would hit the ground and that would be it. Um, so, two seconds is a decent time. You know, it’s a safe time to be jumping off.
STEPHAN: So you’re falling for two seconds, now you deploy the chute, and how long until the big chute opens?
JAMIE: It’s pretty instantaneous.
STEPHAN: So, pop pop?
JAMIE: Yeah, so you draw it and it’s like pop, pop. The parachute opens.
STEPHAN: So one second open?
JAMIE: And then there’s someone on top of the exit point with this like, there was a big plastic see-through thing that had degrees, so like 5, 10, 15, to like 90 and 180 degrees and then you got disqualified. And they would open it and they would line it over your body and when the parachute opened, you would get deducted points every point that you were slightly off.
STEPHAN: Ok because you were trying to get away from the building obviously.
JAMIE: You’re trying to get away from it.
STEPHAN: Oh, cool.
JAMIE: And then they would judge you how safe you were coming into land. So if you were like juttery around well you don’t really look like you know what you’re doing. And they would fly you around and then we had this big disk and there would be like a little disk in the centre, about a dime size, and it would be like 1 metre, 2 metre, 10 metre, degrees. And you try and land dead centre to that.
STEPHAN: It’s a game of darts with a human body.
JAMIE: And you would come down and you would try to touch it with your foot. When you’re coming to land from a parachute it’s like sometimes stepping off a curb. If you mis-time it a little bit you might have to run. So it’s just a timing factor.
STEPHAN: Oh, cool.
JAMIE: So the first tournament I ever went to I came in 16th. It was in Greece. And these tournaments aren’t like very serious.
STEPHAN: There’s no money.
JAMIE: There’s no real money in this sport. So it’s all just fun against your buddies but for a reason to be able to jump off this building we had to have a competition.
STEPHAN: Oh, I see.
JAMIE: Yeah so it was an excuse, yeah. So wasn’t very serious.
STEPHAN: Best limerick recited between opening your chute and landing on the ground. Extra points for being super dirty.
JAMIE: So yeah we did that. I just jumped around the circuits. Eventually I went to Benidorm, in Spain. Benidorm is for the English people to go on holiday and drink their heads off for the weekend and then go home. It’s like a tiny little town in Spain. We were jumping off this hotel and the landing area was like this ten metre circle and there was a swimming pool, a swimming pool, a bridge, palm trees, walls and basically my mindset was if you don’t land on that target you’re going to get hurt. I was just so adamant like I’m not even thinking, I wasn’t even thinking about competition. Like I would go up there and say I’m ready to go and I would just step off and I was so calm because I wasn’t thinking about trying to land on it. I was, I just need to land on it because it’s the only place it’s safe. And I kept landing and it was like oh, I’m doing it right. And my name was creeping up the scoreboard. And at the end of the thing there was like a final one. So I walked up to the top and the guy that I stood next to on the exit point, it was me and him against eachother in the final and I look over and it was the guy that was on that poster of my friend.
STEPHAN: Oh! So cool.
JAMIE: So I stood there and I was like crazy how in that time from seeing you on a poster I’ve now stood next to you in a final of a little competition in the ass-end nowhere of Spain. And he goes “do you want to go first?” And I was just like “no, you go first” so he went off and two second delay, solid, canopy opened on head and perfect. His canopy was awesome, he lands and it looked like he landed dead centre on the target. And I was like, well, there’s no way I’m going to beat him and everyone was laughing and was like well, it’s still second. So I ran off, I was so relaxed, canopy opened, I flew ready. And as I came in my heel touched dead centre on the target which was 1 centimetre closer, because if I was dead centre, he was 1 centimeter off.
STEPHAN: Oh, my god.
JAMIE: Yeah, he looked at me and he was just like Bro.
STEPHAN: Yeah, meet your heroes and crush their dreams. But, ok so, that’s the good side. I mean you got banged up really really badly, what happened there?
JAMIE: Yeah, so that was 2012. That was also the point in my life when I was a bit of a douchebag. I won that, and I was the British champion in the skydiving discipline and my ego was like huge. I was f*cking 22 or something. I was a paratrooper. I was an a**. You know like I understand why people didn’t like me.
STEPHAN: You’re at that age when young men are invulnerable and they’re going to live forever too.
JAMIE: Exactly. And you know, unfortunately like any injury or thing that happens in base jumping usually is human error. And unfortunately for me was human error, ego, a lot of s**t combined with some bit of unluckiness. I think some of that probably treated me and humbled me a lot more over the years. But as I was jumping out of this little microlite, like a little aircraft with an engine on the back. And I jumped out in my wingsuit, I was like I’m going to open high and just –
STEPHAN: So this is not base jumping now, this is wingsuiting? Which is Jeb Corliss Grinding the Crack kind of stuff.
JAMIE: Yeah it, wingsuit base jumping is a subdivide to base jump. So base jump is an acronym for building, antennae, span and earth. Yeah so you can jump off of those four objects. We try and categorize what we do so if you’re jumping downtown, you’re jumping a building. The Chief in Squamish, is Earth. And then a Span is a bridge, and antennae is antennae. So under those you can jump, if it’s high enough, you can jump off a wingsuit off any of those objects if you can do it. And that’s wingsuit base jumping. Wingsuit skydiving you’ll have a main parachute and a reserve. So it gets a bit…base jumping is jumping off a fixed object. But you can wingsuit base jump, it’s the same thing. I was jumping out of this microlite with a base jumping parachute in my, with my wingsuit. So that’s a weird area because it’s an aircraft, it’s not a base jump, it’s, whatever. And I ended up flying above this Turkish countryside and I threw my parachute out and it opened, was like oh ok cool. I look down and my predetermined landing area and was like ooh, I’m not getting there. I looked at a couple of other places but they were too far, and I’m trying to like, what am I going to do.
STEPHAN: So you’re above a town here?
JAMIE: No, no, countryside. Turkish countryside. So a rugged desert kind of thing.
STEPHAN: So rocks, a few trees?
JAMIE: Rocks, a few trees, you know…
JAMIE: Yeah exactly. There was a goat there on the farm. I was looking down and was like well, I can land there. F**k I just won that competition where I landed on a disk, I can land anywhere. So I was like ok, so bring it down and was like this is going to be tight but I can do it. And as I came in to land my foot went in between, it slipped in between two rocks and then I fell within the minute with the parachute because I timed it just wrong. So as I mentioned earlier where you can either step off a curb or you can run it out, I timed it wrong where I had to run it out. So as my ankle was stuck between two rocks, the momentum of the parachute where I should have been running kept going. So the ankle broke straight away, the wrist broke, the femur broke, the elbow dislocated.
STEPHAN: Oh, no.
JAMIE: I broke my shoulder, tore the rotator cuff and then I smashed my head pretty bad.
STEPHAN: Oh my god.
JAMIE: And I was lying there and I’m like, I think, I don’t remember any of it. But my video was me just screaming like, Help, help. You know, but no one’s around because people were waiting for me in the parking lot. So I’m now lying there and I’m like s**t.
STEPHAN: The guy in the microlite isn’t following, isn’t looking to see what happened to the guy who just jumped out of the plane?
JAMIE: He was like, he’s 3000 feet in the sky. So he’s now trying to, like you can’t see people from 3000 feet.
STEPHAN: Ok fair enough.
JAMIE: And the camera guy who was on the ground was like well where’s Jamie? And the other guy is like well where is he? And now they’re like ok what’s going on. And I was just lying there in so much pain, I was in and out of this weird state and I was like assessing myself because I’m a medic as well. So I’m reaching down looking at myself like ok, I broke my arm, broke my leg, um and then I’m like feeling here and like oh, broke my pelvis. And you can internally bleed and die from that. And I was like well –
STEPHAN: Had you broken your pelvis or was it just the snapped femur?
JAMIE: It was the snapped femur.
STEPHAN: JUST the snapped femur.
JAMIE: Just the snapped femur, hahaha.
STEPHAN: Was it compound, was it sticking out, or?
JAMIE: No it wasn’t sticking out.
STEPHAN: Ok, well that’s…small blessings.
JAMIE: Yeah, it was a lot of something like, ok, cool. So I’m like assessing myself, counting my breaths, my pulse.
STEPHAN: Oh, this is what going into shock feels like.
JAMIE: It was like, I’ll tell you, while going in and out of shock while trying to assess yourself is insane. One thing did shock me though was, I was like well I need to crawl. I remember there’s a road over here, so I need to like…so I reached down to my leg and I pulled it out of the rock and I watched my ankle just….
JAMIE: It was one of the most disturbing things I’ve seen. And I started to crawl and I crawled like, shimmied my body then moved my arm, moved my leg. And I was just in agony and I had the parachute on and it was still like, I don’t know how far I crawled it probably was not that far. But my mind was, you need to do something. If I had just laid there I would have just…
STEPHAN: Just died.
JAMIE: Died. So I was like, keep moving, keep moving.
STEPHAN: Is the parachute still attached to you?
JAMIE: Yep, it’s still attached to me, it’s draped over a tree. And I’m like, there’s no way I can get it off. So I’m just like, I’ll just keep crawling. My mind was like, I’m in survival mode. And eventually a guy, just some random Turkish guy found me and I was like just shouting the mayor’s name at him. And the mayor spoke English so he called up the mayor, the paramedics came up and they all scooped me up on this stretcher.
STEPHAN: An hour after!
JAMIE: Yeah it was like 35 minutes. Say 35 minutes on my own. Internally it gives you like plenty of time to rework your life. I laid there and was like, I had a moment where I was like you might die here. If you think this is a pelvis…I looked at my watch and it was like 10am, and I’m thinking at 11:00 I could be dead. It’s a weird way of thinking about what I am doing. So, I laid there for a while and you know what, I was brought up Roman Catholic so was like ok you better say something to God in case there is a God. And I started like Psalm 23, you know, as you walk through the valley in the shadow of death. But I couldn’t remember it. So I broke into the Coolio song, you know “as you walk through the valley in the shadow of death, you realize…” I sang the whole song.
STEPHAN: hahaha. Better than nothing I suppose!
JAMIE: So I say now, every time I hear that song I’m like, oohhh. And then the paramedics found me –
STEPHAN: So, you’re nowhere near a major trauma hospital at this point?
JAMIE: Absolutely not. It was like a four and half hour ambulance ride.
STEPHAN: On a smooth road I am sure.
JAMIE: Oh yeah, up and down mountains, like on a logging road.
STEPHAN: Bump bump bump. Like a washboard. Sorry about that bump!
JAMIE: I’m in the back of the ambulance. I’m like “I need Entonox, I need Morphine, I need this.” You know, and they’re like, take it, we don’t speak English. I’m like “ENTONOX”.
STEPHAN: Did they have it? Entonox is pain medication?
JAMIE: They did. They had this like, they must have had a contraindication of what they can and can’t give at that time. Which I think is a bit dated, I think they were like oh you’ve got a head injury, whatever. I’m like I need some pain meds of some sort. I was in the back of the ambulance and in there was a girl I was seeing at the time, and an interpreter. And I said to him like, ok, you see that blue bottle there, I talked him through. He managed to hook up the forcep, the bite switch, everything. And one of the paramedics looked around and was like “ARGH”, slammed on the breaks, jumped out and like took the Entonox in the front of the ambulance and was like no no no. I’m lying there like how far is the hospital??
STEPHAN: That was a good five seconds of Entonox.
JAMIE: I ended up stopping –
STEPHAN: I had a much less worse mountain biking accident near Squamish, where you’re living now. Crashed, ruptured part of my kidney the way I fell, was bleeding internally, and just I remember that long long long, for me it was like 40 minutes down a logging road to the Squamish hospital. And coaching my then girlfriend ok when I get to the hospital tell them I can’t breathe. Because I know there are various things that the hospital looks for. If you tell them ok I think I broke something, ok you’ll go in that line. You’ll go over here and you’ll wait. But if you can’t breathe or are having chest pain, you get a lot more attention – just gaming the system out as much as I could to.
JAMIE: How was that forty minute ride?
STEPHAN: Horrendous. Horrendous. It was like this really hurts. And then not being able to breathe as you start hyperventilating. Sorry, you’re, were you heading for where? Istanbul? Where?
JAMIE: No we were heading for a place called Malatya.
STEPHAN: Ok. Never heard of it, never been.
JAMIE: Yeah, there’s not much there.
STEPHAN: A hospital?
JAMIE: A hospital, pretty much it, yeah. It was like a four and a half hour ride and I remember the ambulance stopped. I am like “why are we stopped??” I’m getting angry now, I’m like, I’m in and out of shock the entire time and I’m like we need to get going, we need to get going. And they were like, they opened the back door and the ambulance drivers stopped for lunch.
JAMIE: I was so pissed.
STEPHAN: If I had a rocket launcher….
JAMIE: I just laid there I’m like what are you doing? They are like we need some food. I said all right then well don’t get me anything. And I was like so pissed. They came back and were like “oh, ok” and they ran back and they got me a bottle of Fanta and a packet of chips. And I was like ok great. I needed something, I was sipping on Fanta. I can’t stand Fanta now. I got to the hospital and honestly the doctor that walked up to me was just this like, do you know the Simpsons? “Hello everybody?” The doctor looked like him, sounded like him, yeah. And I was like oh shoot we’re in the Simpsons.
STEPHAN: Did they do all the surgeries and stuff there or was their job just to stabilize you until you got back to England?
JAMIE: Yeah they stabilized me and there was things like my ankle, needed stabilizing or I’d have lost it.
STEPHAN: Sure, so they just splinted you?
JAMIE: No they operated, they put a screw in the ankle to get it stable for me to get back to England. I think they did my femur, they were like you need surgery there.
STEPHAN: They plated that?
JAMIE: They put a rod into the bone. Um, and then my shoulder they put a plate and screws in there. The rest of it they just like taped me up and put me on a stretcher and got me on a plane to Istanbul and then Istanbul to London.
STEPHAN: How long were you in the first hospital?
JAMIE: Oh, seven days? And it was, I can only describe it as a prison cell. It was so hot, there was no air conditioning, and you know I was trying to get someone to buy me a fan. There was nothing, it was just scorching hot. I was just lying there and no one was coming in and washing me or anything. I asked someone like, how will you get a bed bath or something. Like I stink, and I’m in hospital. They said well your family is meant to come and do this. I said well my family aren’t going to be here. So I ended up paying, I was like well can I pay a nurse to do it. They were like no no, no women can touch you because it’s a Muslim area. I was like well can I get a male nurse? They said well we have 2 janitors and they can clean you. I was like, OK.
STEPHAN: Back to your mop.
JAMIE: Yeah so we paid these janitors like $10. I tell you what they saw me, came in and washed me down and whatever else, helped me.
STEPHAN: Should have gone to a Turkish steambath. If you hadn’t been condemned to a hospital and unable to move.
JAMIE: Exactly. And these guys were super nice, one of them had a kid so we ended up giving her a teddy bear. You know. These guys are like what are we doing. It was a little bit different culturally. Eventually they managed to get me into a private hospital in Istanbul and that was a little bit more of what we know of a hospital in the Western World. Then back to England and had more surgeries and realignments of bones and stuff like that.
STEPHAN: So then you never jumped again. Right?
JAMIE: Oh, yeah yeah, never never. Hahaha.
STEPHAN: Not this morning.
JAMIE: Not that day.
STEPHAN: How long did it take you to jump again?
JAMIE: Seven months I believe? I did my first one after the accident.
STEPHAN: And what was that like?
JAMIE: It was crazy. It was nuts. We ended up making a film called Back to Basics, it’s on a thing called Epic TV, and I wanted to show my recovery. And what it was all about. And the right steps because as I mentioned earlier I got into base jumping the completely wrong way. The most stupidest way you could do it. So I wanted to press the reset button. I had just been humbled. Like, you now need to have a new outlook on how you’re going to do this sport. And this for me was my reset button. So I was like ok, I’m an experienced jumper at this point but I’m going to start again. I’m going to do it properly. So I started again. Went into the wind tunnel, you know the tubes where you can jump in, so I could see how my body adjusted. And I got back into skydiving and decided to have a different outlook on different things and skydiving, and then I went base jumping again and then eventually my first major wingsuit lowjump again was into demo.
STEPHAN: What’s a demo?
JAMIE: A demo is, you’ve seen a stadium with like a thousand people in before a football game or rugby game. And you see these guys parachuting in and land with a board or whatever else. So my first lowjump out of an aircraft with a base rig and a wingsuit was pretty much I believe exactly a year to the date of me having the accident. And standing there being like this is identical. You know. It was a bit of a mind blown thing like ok this is really scary. But you know we did it and it just, an intense.
STEPHAN: With an audience there, with a crowd?
JAMIE: Yeah I don’t know how many thousands of people but there was thousands of people watching.
STEPHAN: Ok. Did they know the story? That you…
STEPHAN: Ok. You’re just some crazy guy.
JAMIE: Just some guy jumping in Syria. You know. For me it was a whole, like this whole experience was like a reset into this sport. And then I started to jump with a different mindset on, rather being just gung ho and jumping anything, I started thinking about ok I’m going to be doing quality jumps over quantity, I’m not chasing jump numbers, I want to go and do one jump off the Chief in the morning and have a good time hiking up talking, flying together. I open and land and then go and have some cesars or beers after and really enjoy what we were doing.
STEPHAN: Ok so I guess I should have asked you this earlier. How did you fund this lifestyle? Because it seems like kind of a nice lifestyle to travel Greece, Spain, Turkey, to Jump. I’m sure these base jumping rigs aren’t cheap, I’m sure wingspan suits aren’t cheap, I’m sure hiring planes to jump out of isn’t cheap. I’m sure a year of surgeries isn’t cheap. Well although you have the British health care.
JAMIE: British health care system which is like a godsend. I’m pretty glad I wasn’t American at that point because I’m pretty sure I’d be dead for the rest of my life.
STEPHAN: Have to go to Home Depot to get you the bargain hinge for your elbow. Well you’re not covered so it looks like stainless steel it is.
JAMIE: Initially I was in the army so I had a decent paycheque. Even if I spent all my paycheque when I was in the army, I still had a place to live and three meals a day.
JAMIE: Yeah, like that was my backup. And we used to call it million dollar weekend. Like people would go and spend their entire paychque in one weekend and be like oh, I’ve got no money. No, initially it started when I was in the army and I was like skydiving. And skydiving is like, once you’ve got all the gear, isn’t that expensive. You know, you’re paying your – you know they try and ram a plane full of like 10 or 12 people, each paying 21£ or $30-40 a piece. And you can go up and do repetitive and that’s how you would initially start. And the base jumping, I was funding myself. So when I left the army initially I got into Close Protection or Maritime Close Protection. So I was going on ships around the coast of Somalia, the Indian Ocean, Red Sea.
STEPHAN: Those crazy pirate-infested areas.
JAMIE: Yeah, where all the pirates are. We would get on the ships and just protect them from…normal container ships, the stuff that we use day to day that have to come from China and come to Canada or North America. And we would board somewhere –
STEPHAN: So these are gigantic ships with 10,000 containers on them?
JAMIE: Yeah exactly container, oil, whatever they have. We don’t really focus on what was in it but we would just make sure that they had safe passage.
STEPHAN: So how many guys is “we”?
JAMIE: Three of us.
STEPHAN: So there are three armed ex-soldiers on the boat?
JAMIE: Exactly, at a time. And you would then just go through the passages and we, at that time we were earning good money. Really good money. And we would go away for 8 weeks at a time, jump on and off different vessels and then at the end of the 8 weeks we would then fly home.
STEPHAN: Oh so you’re just doing the most dangerous, right around the horn, right through the Strait. Is it the Straights of Malacca – no that’s in Indonesia.
JAMIE: No that’s Indonesia. No, the Gulf of Aden. Which is like the top part above Somalia and then we had like the west Socotra, the little tiny island of Somalia is like, round there is quite dangerous. Then the high risk area is also like all the way over to Sri Lanka.
JAMIE: Yeah so we had this huge area we were just, being on the ship. Then when we got out of the high risk area we would jump off, then jump on another boat going the other way.
STEPHAN: So you were on a lot of really crappy container ships. Because I’ve been on some of them and some of them are nice and some are just horrendous.
JAMIE: Really horrendous!
STEPHAN: Some of them look like a dystopian future in movie.
JAMIE: So gross. One morning I woke up and I was like, my alarm went off and my shift. So I jump out of bed and I’m in water. So I switched my light on and it was a Chinese vessel and it was this black sludge and it was regurgitated through the system and it just overflowed on my ….I’m like, this is someone’s s**t. Everyone was like, that’s disgusting. I come back out, went out of my room and realized a couple of the bedroom that had this. That was a moment I realized this is disgusting.
STEPHAN: What am I doing.
JAMIE: And on top of that you’re eating crappy food. Have you ever tried these Chinese eggs, they’re like century eggs?
STEPHAN: Yeah. 100 year old eggs. I’ve never tried them, I’ve tried other crazy stuff.
JAMIE: What have you tried?
STEPHAN: Filipino Balut.
JAMIE: Oh yeah?
STEPHAN: That’s when they take the egg, they fertilize, it’s a fertilized chicken egg. So you break it open and it’s an embryo. I was working at the fire hall with a Filipino guy and it’s like, hey Merv, we should get some Balut for you. It’s like, no f***ing way. My dad eats that, it’s the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen. I’m like no no, we should do it for your cultural heritage. So I go and I spent like two hours driving around town to find the one place that sells Balut. So they’re like normal looking eggs, and on the way to work that night I’m like I should make sure that I can eat this before I bring this in and make this big show, like big tough guy. So I stopped at the side of the road and I cracked it open and it’s just like this goopy baby chicken with this yolk and egg white around it and I eat it, it’s the most horrendous thing I’ve ever eaten. There’s like bits of beak and bits of feather and, I’m picking it out of my teeth. It’s horrendous. I’m like ok I did that once, so I bring it in. Put a nice egg on everyone’s plate, nobody touches it. Of course I have set this all up so I’ve got to eat it again, so I make a big deal out of eating it. And meanwhile some of the guy’s looking it up and going “Hey Steph, you know that’s supposed to be cooked for 30 minutes?” I’m eating raw Balut. I think at this point cooked Balut would be no problem at all. So I have not had the 100 year old egg, but I think in the egg grossness department I think I top you. I think I win there.
JAMIE: You win, yeah.
STEPHAN: You’re on these ships, what are you armed with?
JAMIE: We had brown and longtracks, we had different weapon systems, mainly like semi-automatic, um, you’re not in, you’re in international waters so that’s pretty cow-boyish. Not the securityness, there’s not many rules in international waters. This is why these Somalian pirates can come aboard and they take them back to Somalia and then they ransom them off for thousands and thousands of dollars. So shipping companies started to employ companies from England, from all around the world. Then they would fly us in, we would then spend our time up there and be on…
STEPHAN: Did you ever hear ships trying to defend themselves with fire hoses? Is that old technology?
JAMIE: No that was still going on when I was there, I don’t think it was defending, it’s more a deterrent. Because these guys would have a mother, we called them a mother ship. So they’re like fishing dowels and then on these dowels they would have these like little skiffs, so they would have the –
STEPHAN: These are the pirates?
JAMIE: The pirates. So then what they would do is they would get the mother ship out and then they would get on these skiffs and they would come and attack a boat with these little bamboo sticks they would hook on, call them bamboo sticks. Now –
STEPHAN: Then they’re armed but they want to get on board.
JAMIE: And they’re all armed and they climb on board, like, and these like could be 10 metres to get up. So what they started to do is like put on the side and when they set them out if a skiff was coming in on the side it’s going to make it hard work to come on board. But there was other stuff we would do to deter pirates to come on board like raise a wire, we would have weapons.
STEPHAN: How well armed are the pirates, do they have rocket launchers or just rifles or?
JAMIE: Yeah like for me, I came across two lots of pirates in the few years I did it, I fired one warning shot, the other time I showed them my rifle, waved it above my head, they looked back and they waved to us and we were like what are you going to do now and they just turned away and left. And it’s like a highway, there’s just ships after ships after ships.
STEPHAN: So constrained there that it’s the only way to go.
JAMIE: It’s the only way to go. Then maybe like 6 or 7 hours later, I come back on shift and there’s a mayday call on the radio and every single day we got a ____(29:09) from people in Dubai who would then say there were pirate attacks here, here here and here, watch out. And you try and mark them on the map to try and avoid them. So, yeah, they just look for guys that haven’t got security. Sometime they come, I’ve had a couple of friends who’ve had a bit of a gunfight with them and they’ve left. You know. But you don’t want to have a gunfight and let these pirates get on the ship because if they do that, you’ll never get another job again.
STEPHAN: Right. I also imagine at that point they’ll have a grudge because you’ll probably have shot some of them.
JAMIE: Yeah. And you know, you’re the only three white guys on the ship.
STEPHAN: Pretty easy to find.
JAMIE: Yeah, they’re not going to hold back. So just would fight to keep them off. But luckily for me I never came across anything like that. I fired one warning shot into where their skiff was, I fired it in front of the skiff, the water splashed up and they just turned away and left. So I was like, that was easy.
STEPHAN: Ok. So I assume at that point you’re waking up the other guys on shift.
JAMIE: Yeah the other guys were on shift, so.
STEPHAN: Panic button, or?
JAMIE: We just use a phone, call up and be like hey get up here, we’ve got some suspicious activity. Then we would have like two guys just starting getting everything ready, ready to fight.
STEPHAN: Ok. Interesting. So that funded your jumping.
JAMIE: Yeah at that time it paid really well so we used to work 8 weeks at a time and then come back for like 4 to 6 to 8 weeks. And in that 8 weeks I used to just spend all that money just to go travelling and jump and whatever else.
STEPHAN: So now you’ve transitioned into body guarding or close protection. Is there a difference between body guarding and close protection?
JAMIE: Uh, I don’t know, me personally I don’t like the word body guard because it reminds everyone of like an old movie where they’re diving for dirt, it’s like yeah. It’s not. For me close protection is trying to avoid any contact like, if I’m being reactive to the trouble it means that that’s the last ditch attempt. Like we should already have plans in play to get these, the client never to be exposed to that. If it does then we have to react, but if we can plan a route where we drive it’s different every day. Because as humans we set routines. You go to work the same way, you go to the gym the same way. And if you do that all the time, if you have a threat against you…it’s not going to be hard, to follow you a couple of times and you go to the gym that way, you go here. Oh, well I’m just going to plan something on that route. So with us there we just try to take them different ways all the time so it’s a bit sporadic. And when you say “him” who is him?
JAMIE: That’s the question everyone likes to ask, who are you looking after? Yeah, well, I’ve got to keep my job so I can’t really.
STEPHAN: I didn’t seriously expect to get an answer back, that was a trick. Even though it’s just you and me, it’s just a little conversation. So I’ve got to imagine that job is 99% boredom? How do you handle that because you’re such an adrenaline junkie, that’s maybe the wrong word but stimulus seeker?
JAMIE: Yeah, you know, I don’t know. I like it, I enjoy it because you know I’m not this adrenaline junkie. Like what I explained to you earlier, I’m very regimented on how I do things. And I like the plan, and I like working the plan. Playing the game plan, whatever. So for me, its’ like it’s a stimulant. Even though it’s boredom, and boredom is good in our line of work. If it’s boring –
STEPHAN: Means it’s working.
JAMIE: It means it’s working, and that means the plan is working which means then that, I’m there now ready to go. If something happens I can jump in.
JAMIE: But I get a lot of enjoyment out of knowing this guy is being looked after, and he’s safe because I’m there with him making the right decision and being like hey boss, maybe we don’t want to go down this road. Let’s go here. And he’s like ok, let’s go that way.
STEPHAN: We’re beginning to narrow in on who this is because we’ve now determined it’s a “he”.
JAMIE: It changes.
STEPHAN: He changes his gender?
JAMIE: He changes his gender. In today’s society when things are fluid.
STEPHAN: So you mentioned you enjoy making a plan and then working the plan, I think that’s one of the things I really enjoy about Jiu-Jitsu because today, I’ve taken what didn’t work yesterday and I know what I’m going to work today and here are sort of the steps of what I want to do. I’m first going to set it up by doing a whole bunch of, I’m going to pass this guy’s butterfly guard, one minute just playing with his ankles trying to pick him up, put him on his back. And then when he starts overreacting to that I’m going to go to Plan B which is really Plan A all along. So you get to make a plan and then you get to try and pull it off. That’s one of the things I really like about playing Jiu-Jitsu. You did Jiu-Jitsu too.
JAMIE: I did do Jiu-Jitsu but I imagine that your game is you going, I’m going to do this because he’s now going to do this, and then he’s going to do this and then that, and then I’m going to smash him. Me, I’m like what the hell did you just do. I’m still at that level where I feel like I can make one move ahead. I think that’s where I’m at in my Jiu-Jitsu.
STEPHAN: You’re a blue belt?
JAMIE: I’m a blue belt.
STEPHAN: That’s about right. Congratulations.
JAMIE: Thank you.
STEPHAN: I maintain that is the hardest belt to get in Jiu-Jitsu. Because you look at a drop-out, white belt to blue belt is the highest drop-out by far and then you know yes people drop out between blue belt to purple belt, and purple belt to brown belt and so on, but you’ve already passed through the gauntlet that by far, I want to say 70-75% of people who start drop out there.
JAMIE: Yeah what’s that saying when you’re incompetent?
STEPHAN: You’re unconsciously incompetent, you don’t know, you’re not any good, you don’t know what you’re not any good at. So then there’s conscious incompetence –
JAMIE: That’s where I’m at, I know when I’m like, ok, I don’t know this. I feel that that’s the level where I’m stuck. And sometimes I’m stuck and other days it’s like I’m starting to get this. Then it’s like oh, no you don’t get this.
STEPHAN: Don’t worry, that feeling goes on for a long time. I’ve been teaching Jiu-Jitsu for a long fricking time and that still happens on a basis. It might happen on a slightly different level but the same like, I had it yesterday and today it’s all gone for s**t. That’s normal and if you don’t have it, it really means you’re just playing, you’re not pushing yourself at all. Right.
STEPHAN: I’m sure that’s the same for anybody who’s trying to perform at any sport, to do well at any endeavor. But some days they’re pushing themselves, they’re going to be frustrated. So. But, with your travelling around you get to train with a fair number of people.
JAMIE: Yeah that’s the good thing, like I’m travelling around with different clients to different places, and the last –
STEPHAN: So if you’re body guarding me, you’re not going to be with me 24/7, you’re going to have days on and days off.
JAMIE: No, we have days off. So you know like if I have a client here in Vancouver and he wants to go to L.A. or he wants to go to Montreal or he wants to go to you know Texas, or Albuquerque, it’s like great. All these times on my days off I can try and find a gym and try and find somewhere to go and train and get a different outlook on Jiu-jitsu, I’m learning different techniques and I’m not you know, you learn stuff at your gym. And everyone starts learning your game and what you go through, but it’s good to go and test myself against like other blue belts in you know, different gyms around North America and be like ok, I’m better here, but I’m down here with other things. It’s nice to see where I can improve, I guess it’s like going to a tournament.
STEPHAN: Yeah, you don’t know if that guy’s been a blue belt for one day or five years. If he’s been held back, we’re not even going to give you any stripes, we’re just going to keep you at blue belt until you should basically be a black belt so you can win the blue belt world championships. Have you found that, I’m guessing the answer is yes but have you found people fairly welcoming? If you just drop in like “hey guys I’m in Albuquerque for the day, do you mind if I train with you?”
JAMIE: Yeah, most gyms have been welcoming. A couple of gyms I’ve gone to that have like real killers in it, they just like ram packed. And sometimes they’re not as welcoming. And I sort of get it, like the gym is packed. I do have a huge sense of every time I’m in a new gym I’m getting Shark Tanked every day. They’re like ‘who’s this guy, why is he wearing a blue belt.” You’re like ok. Now you have a sense where they’re like ok, go hard and if you go you know, back with them and can handle it they’re like ok cool.
STEPHAN: How does that, does that kind of, what’s the analogy for you in terms of how you feel doing your base jumping, your wing-suiting versus Jiu-Jitsu? Is there any carry-over, does it satisfy different aspects of your personality and different aspects of what you need to feel fulfilled?
JAMIE: It’s all the same, like I’m finding what I’m doing base jumping can relate in Jiu-Jitsu. Do you remember the time when I just told you my favourite part of base jumping is on the exit, past the point of no return. Now for me, it’s exactly the same stepping on a mat, you know when the referee calls you forward, I get that same feeling as I step on. You know, like I don’t know who this guy is, and –
STEPHAN: Committed now!
JAMIE: I’m committed now. I can’t just walk off this thing. And you know I now have to give 100% because I don’t want to get hurt. And it’s like base jumping. I can plan everything up to the point of stepping off but as I leave and I start flying I have to be ready for anything. You know like anything can happen between me exiting the cliff and landing on the ground safely. In the same way anything can happen in that Jiu-Jitsu fight, that the guy does something I’ve never seen before. That’s what happened in my last tournament, I got put to sleep. You know, I was looking at the points, I was going around and like wow I’m doing really well, like I was up like 6 points or something. Yeah this is good. I’m like panicking and like I don’t know what to do now, I can’t seem to submit this guy. And he was just defending. And I look up and Thomas Lisboa looks at me and is just like relax. And I just looked up and all the noise that was going around was just like, irrelevant and all I heard was Thomas going just relax, just stay there. I’m like oh yeah. He’s like, you’re winning, relax. I’m like ok. He calmed me down, I was like ok that’s what I do in base jumping. You know I try and relax. I calm down and it doesn’t need to panic because as soon as I start panicking I make mistakes.
STEPHAN: So you said you got put to sleep though?
JAMIE: I did. I made a mistake.
STEPHAN: While you were relaxing?
JAMIE: Yeah. I turned around and then he does something, he opened his guard. He had…
STEPHAN: This sounds like a baseball choke from the bottom.
JAMIE: Exactly. Now he had me in a choke here and I was like, all I heard was Thomas in his thick Brazilian accent shout Pass. Now he wasn’t shouting Pass, he was shouting Don’t Pass.
STEPHAN: Oh, oops.
JAMIE: And I was like oh. So this guy’s legs open up and I was like a bat out of hell and was like yes, turned around and I got him and was like oh s**t and I had my hand in and looked at the clock and like, 30 seconds. You got this.
STEPHAN: Then you remember being flat on your back.
JAMIE: Yeah. Flat on my back. I woke up everyone was yelling, what’s going on. I burst out laughing, it’s like you got me. You know. I had a good time, I learned a lot you know. And that was a fun one. Even though I lost and got put to sleep ,the guy came up to me and was like “I was tired, that was my last ditch attempt on you.” I was like that’s a win in my books.
STEPHAN: It’s amazing the little difference that one word makes. I had a, back when I was doing much more extreme kayaking and canoeing, I had a friend who was paddling in South America and they were going down some really dangerous river that had some major waterfalls on it so they were using big canoes for the day. Like 14 foot canoes, now they use much smaller ones. And the guy said, ok this waterfall, for this waterfall go left, or die. But my friend heard go left and die. He went right. And ended up in the hospital and that was basically the last extreme canoeing he did.
JAMIE: Oh wow.
STEPHAN: But it was probably overdue because this guy had a history of making normal little adventures turn into big horrific adventures which I mean I guess in base jumping you don’t have that many big horrific adventures because you don’t survive. But you know, in paddling, there’s a chance of dying but there are definitely a possibility of more adventures as you’re garage-saling all over the river. And your paddles there on that bag and your boat is snapped in half there, you’re going round and round some hole. So don’t pass, don’t pass!
JAMIE: I think base jumping and Jiu-jitsu has a lot in common and the way that I got into base jumping was through a UFC fighters.
JAMIE: His name is Lando Vannata.
JAMIE: He contacted me once, he was training in Albuquerque with a guy I was in the army with, and wanted to get into jumping so my friend connected us. And we started to like talk, and I had a couple of friends who did Jiu-Jitsu before and said oh you should try it, you should try it you’d be more channeled. And then I got talking to this guy and we had the same outlook in life. And we still do, we’re still good friends. Like I’m going to meet him next week in Los Angeles, he’s just doing his skydive course after his win at the UFC. And he helped me get into the sport, but he’s had struggles in his life and I had struggles in mine and Jiu-Jitsu really managed to channel it. I call myself an athlete in base jumping but in our sport you don’t actually have to be an athlete like you would imagine, we aren’t training three times a day, you know. I would go and do one jump and I would drink copious amounts of beer til I didn’t remember, eat pizza, eat pasta, eat crap. I was 205 pounds at my heaviest.
STEPHAN: Wow. What are you now?
STEPHAN: What was your fighting weight? What was your army weight?
JAMIE: Uh, 160, 165.
STEPHAN: So you’re back down to…
JAMIE: I’m back to my, where I should be.
STEPHAN: Good for you.
JAMIE: So I’m pretty happy with that. But I went through a really bad stage after the accident.
STEPHAN: No doubt.
JAMIE: Mentally, s**t caught up with me. So from the army, losing my friends and whatever else, the accident, it all came to a head. And I got diagnosed with PTSD. And I was like well, makes sense.
STEPHAN: Makes sense.
JAMIE: But I didn’t think, again it was one of those things I was like well, that’s a made up thing right? You know, like it’s not going to happen to me, like I’m a strong dude. But yeah it caught me off guard and I took an overdose back in England. And that’s how I ended up here. I took an overdose in England –
STEPHAN: Overdose of?
JAMIE: Just tablets, like Ibuprophen, Paracetamol, and I don’t know what you call it here, Ancete – what’s the?
STEPHAN: They’re all painkillers?
JAMIE: They’re painkillers, I went to sleep. I woke up a few days later and I was like whoa. That didn’t work.
STEPHAN: Were you trying to kill yourself?
JAMIE: Yeah, I was trying to like finish it. Anyway, it didn’t work.
STEPHAN: This was after your accident?
JAMIE: After my accident, I recovered, s**t was just getting to me and I was like nah, I’m done. You know.
STEPHAN: Well what’s an example of s**t getting to you? Is this getting personal? But, it might actually help people who are going through it.
JAMIE: No, no it’s cool. Yeah it will help people because stuff was getting over, where, you know people were getting on my nerves. Like I’m not a great people person anyway but you know I would get irritated and I’m like, the way you just said that, are you trying to start something funny.
STEPHAN: Dude, I just asked you if you wanted milk in your coffee.
STEPHAN: You had that tone of voice!
JAMIE: Yeah, and I was getting angry. Agitated. Things weren’t…I was pushing people away, I was destroying relationships.
STEPHAN: I’m assuming that girl you were with when you smashed your body was no longer with you?
JAMIE: No, I destroyed that, I was like get the f**k out of my life. I don’t need you. And I was just, I was on a whirlwind, I was drinking heavily and was trying to get out of that and was like this is crazy. Then a doctor was like yeah you’ve got Post Traumatic Stress. And I was like you’re just saying that because I was in the military, you’re full of s**t. And then they’re like here take these tablets. I’m not taking no f***ing tablets. And then eventually like I got pushed down the line of like the pharmaceutical and I think the press and s**t and like yeah, whatever. I started to get a little bit more stable but it wasn’t great. And eventually I decided that I just wanted to get out of the U.K. Because the U.K. was what was, I felt suffocated there. I just needed to get out and just have a little peace.
STEPHAN: I’ll head to the colonies.
JAMIE: I’ll head to colonies. So I booked a flight to New York.
STEPHAN: The former colonies.
JAMIE: Yeah. I was like I’m going to go across America. I’m going to get in a car, and drive across America. Have my own time I’m going to meet friends I’ve met on the base jumping and sky diving world and just have a good time for the next couple of weeks. Then I’ll get to L.A. and I’ll get a flight back to New York and then I’ll fly back to England and then I can try and get back to a steady state. You know, it was like ok cool. So driving across America, finally get to L.A., had a good time. Got to L.A. and I was like partying with my friends, you know, I’ve never done any drugs in my life. And my buddy came up and was like, you should try some acid. What? I’m like I’m a military dude, I’ve like never done this. I’m like “No, no, I’m scared, like I’ve been diagnosed with this, blah blah blah, like this is..” He’s like, you should try it. I’m like, Ok. Let’s do it. I tried it, I’m like it’s good, but I woke up the next day and I woke up really late. I woke up at 1pm. My flight was leaving New York about 1pm Easter time and I was in L.A.
STEPHAN: OK, that’s not so good.
JAMIE: I was like oh bugger I’ve lost this. But my mind was, I was in this peaceful like place. Like it wasn’t worried, like the plan wasn’t made. I was like s**t, normally I’d be angry, like scrambling around.
STEPHAN: This isn’t on the checklist!
JAMIE: Yeah this isn’t on the checklist, why are we not there. And I’m not, I wasn’t angry. I was just like oh, ok. Well, what should I do? And my buddy’s like, you’ve got Mexico. I’m like no I want to go to Canada. So I rented another car and I drove from L.A. to Canada and I came to Vancouver.
STEPHAN: That’s a cool drive.
JAMIE: it is a really nice drive.
STEPHAN: The Oregon coast and all that, I’m sure you did that. F
JAMIE: It’s beautiful. I stopped off at Yosemite, and loads of places on the way up here. And then I got to Vancouver and I was like whoa, this place is pretty nice. And I just ended up kept coming back here. So when that trip ended I was like well what am I going to do now. But I was in this weird like, no need to go back to England. Like I’ve always rushed to go back there. I’m like why am I going back there, I have no house, I don’t have kids, I don’t have any debt back there. It’s like why am I trying to go there. When all I have is my parents and I love my parents, but you know like it’s that country suffocates me. I don’t like it.
STEPHAN: What is it about it suffocating you? Is it that every street corner is associated with another thing that went bad or is it just that there isn’t the nature there that there is here? Like, when you say suffocation I think I understand what you mean but I don’t understand what triggers it, what triggers that feeling.
JAMIE: I don’t know, maybe I was just, I’m an outdoorsy person and we have our, we’ve got our parks in England. But they’re like…
JAMIE: Yeah exactly, you can go up to the Lake District, but you’re still a stone’s throw. You know. If you walk 50 miles that way you’re going to walk into a housing estate. Whereas here you walk 50 miles into the back country and like you’ve still got 500 to go.
STEPHAN: So it’s not surprising you ended up in Squamish then, which is kind of like the adventure sports capital of Canada really.
JAMIE: Yeah, honestly I’d never heard of Squamish. I’d never heard of that in my life. And I drove up to Vancouver and I fell in love with Vancouver. It’s a small city, it’s a city but it’s small enough for it to have that small town feel compared to cities in England. And then I, you know, came up to Squamish. Someone was like you need to do this base jump so I was like ok. Got up there and yeah, I could live here. But I wasn’t sure because I still needed that city feel and Squamish was too out there at that time.
STEPHAN: Half hour drive, hour drive, on a bad day?
JAMIE: Yeah. And I was like, I’m happy to get up early in the morning, drive to Squamish, do the jump, drive back to the city. And I didn’t have a girlfriend, I didn’t have anything, so I was like I need the city to feel comfortable. And at the same time I needed the hub from Vancouver because I was still doing shoots down in, I did a shoot down in Rio de Janiero, flew past the Christ the Redeemer statue, I was like flying to doing commericals in Italy. I was doing these like TV shows and stuff, I still need to be flown around and sponsored. So they wanted me to, I had commitments as a sponsored athlete to be at certain shows. So I was like ok I need to be near an airport. And then eventually they were saying, we’re flying you back to Vancouver every time, and my parents said to me like you’re not coming back to England like you should stay in Canada. I was like oh yeah. I should. So at that point then I started looking in, went and I got my permanent residency here, I met my wife here you know, we got married in Vegas, that was pretty wild. And I don’t like Vegas yeah, but I tell you what getting married in Vegas is fun.
STEPHAN: OK I’m with you on the not liking Vegas. I am one of the 10% of people who just cannot stand that city. Um, probably because I don’t drink nearly enough or do nearly enough drugs and I can’t stand drunk chicks. But what made your wedding fun, like how did you manage to flip that script there?
JAMIE: We were thinking like it’s only going to be a couple of days, you know where can people fly into that they don’t have to have connections. I’ve got friends from all around the world, and we had friends come from South Africa and Scotland and England.
STEPHAN: And you go direct to Vegas?
JAMIE: And they went direct to Vegas, and –
STEPHAN: They have a few hotel rooms there.
JAMIE: Yeah, just a few. It’s actually really cheap to get married in Vegas, like we spent just over $2000 and we had everything paid for.
STEPHAN: The same Filipino guy for whom I ate the Balut wanted to get married in Vegas and spring a midget Filipino Elvis pastor on his wife for the wedding. So we did talk about it so once in a while you do get useful advice. So you didn’t have a midget Filipino Elvis pastor?
JAMIE: No no, we had this just normal guy but it was weird, it was like a McDonalds wedding. You know like a drive through? We weren’t in a drive-through, we were in a nice little chapel. But when we got there there was already someone in that chapel getting married. Behind us there was the next guys, so we had these like, “Next!” and you moved in there and you get your little 15 minute slot and you get married and then the next one comes through.
JAMIE: It’s pretty –
JAMIE: Yeah. I’m like, that’s perfect. I’m not the sort of guy who wants to stand in a church for an hour while the priest goes on about whatever, I’m like let’s just get this done and have a good time with our friends. And it was a small enough group of friends, we had 30 people come out. I got to spend time with every single one, you know like I watch my friends and family get married and you’re like you guys, you bring people in and you’re paying for their dinners. You’re paying like $100 for their dinner and you just get to speak to them for 30 seconds. What is that, what’s all that about. Why are we getting into this age where it’s so expensive to get married. So going to Vegas in our minds was like, well.
STEPHAN: Have you heard about in Japan, apparently the number of guests you have at your wedding is a status symbol. So you can go rent wedding guests, they come in and they have a job circuit, you know they have a job going to different weddings. You know I guess they learn the bare bones basics about the bride and the groom. Then they go mingle and they’re off to the next wedding. So it’s the opposite, you should have had some in Vegas.
JAMIE: As you’re walking through the strip, like Crystal was in her wedding dress and everyone kept coming up like that’s amazing, you know Congratulations. But we just had a good time.
STEPHAN: Well, good.
JAMIE: For me for Vegas, that changed it. I was like ok it’s not just a Sin City place, it was pretty good fun.
STEPHAN: Awesome. Well, thank you so much, if you are active on Instagram yes?
JAMIE: Yep. jamieflynnbase
STEPHAN: How do you spell all that?
STEPHAN: And that’s focused obviously on your jumping and your flying as opposed to your close protection? Here is me and Mr X.
JAMIE: Mainly my jumping and my skiing and my adventure sports. I focus it on my, I try and tell a story of how my Jiu-jitsu is coming along, how my base jumping and skydiving is coming along.
STEPHAN: Ok, well thank you so much.
JAMIE: Thanks for having me.
STEPHAN: And good luck in all those various disciplines and careers.