5 reasons why people jump off cliffs for fun

BASE jumping evolution
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Story highlights

  • BASE jumping videos are all the rage on social media
  • Dr. Omer Mei-Dan, who's also a BASE jumper, has studied the sport
  • His study indicates "BASE jumping may be the most dangerous extreme sport"

(CNN)Maybe you've seen some of the thousands of unbelievable videos on YouTube or elsewhere showing BASE jumpers flying like superheroes and you think you want to give it a go.

Before you take that leap, there are some things the experts say you need to know. It takes years and years of training to get to the level of performance you see online.
And it's recommended that you have a minimum of 100 to 200 parachuted sky dives before your first BASE jump. This, the experts say, will get you used to positioning your body in the air, as well as teach you how to handle your canopy and allow you to screw up with thousands of feet to fall to try and fix it.
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You must also consider these very real dangers: death, permanent disability (assuming you are lucky enough to survive) and a felony record (BASE jumping is illegal in most places).
    You may also be ostracized from your friends and family who cannot understand what you are thinking.
    Dr. Omer Mei-Dan, an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Colorado-Denver, is one of the few to actually conduct scientific studies about the sport. Mei-Dan looks at mortality rates and whether there is something mentally different about those who find plummeting like a brick a fun pastime.
    What makes Mei-Dan unique is that he's a BASE jumper, as well, which is kind of mind-blowing since the discipline of medicine seems so far from the perceived craziness of taking a flying leap.
    His investigations underline the danger of the sport. Here's the sobering conclusion of one of his studies:
    • "Almost all active BASE jumpers witnessed the death or severe injury of another BASE jumper. Although direct comparison with other sports is difficult, we believe the results of this study suggest that BASE jumping may be the most dangerous extreme sport."
    Given all that, here are the five top reasons BASE jumpers say they do what they do:

    5. It's cheaper than skydiving

    You don't need a plane and since you have no emergency chute, you save money on your rig. (That being said, the training required to become a BASE jumper is not cheap).

    4. Great friends and awesome parties!

    BASE jumpers are a small, tight-knit group like no other. It's a "here today, gone tomorrow" thing, enhancing the friendships and, of course, the parties. There is an unwritten rule that a BASE jumper's couch is always open to another BASE jumper.

    3. You get to fly like Superman

    Utilizing what's called a ram-air design and Bernoulli's principle, most wingsuits are designed to create lift, slowing the BASE jumper's downward plummet to 30 mph but creating forward speeds of 300 mph or faster. That's a fancy way of saying they allow you to fly like Superman.
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    2. A different way of thinking

    Scientific studies have found BASE jumpers score much lower on the HA scale (harm avoidance) -- a feature that prevents most of us from jumping off a cliff.
    ....And the No. 1 reason BASE jumpers say they go over the edge...

    1. It's so darn peaceful!

    That first step off the edge is a doozie -- but it's also almost completely silent. Marta Empinotti -- one of the world's pre-eminent BASE jumpers -- describes it this way: "Once you step off, nothing in the world matters. I think that is the only time you are 100% free."
    Jump out of a plane and you're instantly blasted by wind and noise. But BASE jumpers say the first few seconds are astoundingly peaceful, describing the overall experience as almost spiritual.
    So after reading this, if you want to add BASE jumping to your bucket list, go ahead. But you might just want to put it last.
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