The Flying Pastor
Tim Mangan is the pastor at New Life Church in Grand Haven, Michigan. A native of Sydney, Australia, he knew he wanted to go into the ministry by the time he was 16 years old. Now in his late twenties, he’s married with two kids and a congregation that he is responsible for. Clean cut and squared away, he’s not the person who first comes to mind when I think of extreme sports like BASE.
BASE is an acronym which stands for Building, Antenna, Span and Earth. These four categories relate to the types of exit points most typically used by base jumpers, the term was originally coined by the infamous Carl Boenish, often seen as the father of BASE jumping. In the late 1970s, Carl began filming jumps that were made from El Capitan - these jumps were made using ram-air parachutes and would essentially set the building blocks for what was to come for BASE jumping.1
Contrary to popular belief, BASE is not a spur of the moment, throw yourself off a cliff activity. As with most extreme sports, BASE jumping takes a lot of skill, knowledge, and practice. It’s generally accepted that after a person gets formal skydiving training and 200 jumps under their belt, they are ready to find a mentor and BEGIN the process of learning BASE.
With over 30 BASE jumps on his resume, Pastor Mangan is just getting started pursuing his passion. He agreed to answer a few questions about his sport and balancing the risk with rest of his life’s responsibilities.
Let’s start from the beginning: Did you grow up seeking out the adrenaline-filled activities? Have you always felt yourself pushing in that direction?
Growing up I always leaned towards individual sports as opposed to team sports, and I actually spent a lot of my younger years skate boarding, my goal in life was to be a professional skateboarder. Even though I stuck with skateboarding for quite a long time, typically I only ever really last about 12months in any one sport before I move on to the next, whether it was spear fishing, surfing amateur kickboxing, rock climbing, or hunting I always wanted to try new things and learn how to do them.
When it comes to BASE jumping, I remember reading articles in the newspaper about people getting caught or injured, and in all of the articles BASE jumping was depicted as “Death defying”, some would even go as far to call it “the most dangerous sport on earth”, and as I read these articles, and saw pictures of people mid-air, I knew it was something I had to do. Ever since then I began saving up for skydiving lessons, I sought out BASE jumpers I could ask questions to about the sport, and the journey towards BASE had begun.
You have said that you don’t like skydiving that much and that it was a means to get to BASE jumping, could you elaborate on that? What are the main differences that you see between skydiving and BASE?
It's not that I don't like skydiving; I would recommend everyone does it at least once, I just never loved skydiving. To be honest, I didn't know a whole lot of people at the drop zone so I missed out on the social side of it a bit, because I didn't absolutely love it, I didn't connect with others who didn't want to do anything but skydive, so for me a lot of weekends were spent jumping by myself, away from my friends, away from my wife, so I never really looked forward to jumping.
There are a lot of differences between skydiving and BASE jumping, and a lot of it comes down to what you’re after. A lot of the jumpers at my skydiving dropzone loved the freefall, so the thought of a 2-4 second delay wasn't that appealing. Others enjoyed different flying styles that just weren't that possible BASE jumping in Australia. Others really did love the adrenaline that BASE has to offer so preferred that. I wouldn’t say that one is better than the other by any means, but for me personally, skydiving was something that I had to do if I was going to stay alive in BASE.
What do you love about BASE jumping? Talk about the experience, what makes it such an amazing way to interact with the world, with nature, with yourself? What do you learn from jumping?
One of the great things about BASE is just how much of the world you get to see, things that most people never would. The long hikes through the bush to an exit point, flying over the tree tops and landslides and terrain, the frame of a cell tower rushing past you, it's incredible how much you get to see.
But I would have to say what I love the most is the feeling just before you leave the edge. Where you know you have packed your chute well, you know where the landing zones and outs are, but all of a sudden everything comes in to question, and you start to wonder if you even have your chute connected to your container, and there are 1million reasons you shouldn’t jump, 1million reasons you should stay on two feet, but you trust your work, your trust your friends that double check your gear and you commit to the jump, and for those few seconds of freefall, nothing in the world matters. Not the bills that are due, not the deadlines at work, not the argument you had with a mate, nothing in the world matters at all. and just as that feeling of bliss kicks in, CRACK, the chute opens, the adrenalin kicks in, and you prepare to land. There's honestly nothing like it in the world.
I would say I have learnt a lot through BASE, I have learnt a lot about risk management, I have learnt to trust in myself even when I have doubts. And more than anything, I have learnt that I have what it takes to overcome my fears and jump even when everything inside me just wants to walk away.
Talk about how you approach BASE and the risks associated with it. There are those that would call this type of recreation “reckless”. What would you say to them (or have said to them?)
BASE isn't a reckless sport, it can be, don't get me wrong, and if it is approached recklessly there can be devastating consequences. But more than reckless, I would say it is a meticulous sport. Always making sure the pack job is perfect, always double and triple checking gear, only jumping when the conditions are right, knowing where alternate landing zones are if something was to go wrong, rehearsing malfunctions and how to address them. A lot goes into a single jump, and each jump can be as dangerous as you want it to be, but at the end of the day, if you want to keep jumping, you jump in a way that favors that option.
More from the Flying Pastor on Page 2