In March you did your first wingsuit jump over a major city, Rio de Janeiro. Please tell us a bit about that stunt!
Rio was a very special experience for us. We did the jump 15 minutes before the city’s regular air traffic began for the day, when normal airline passengers land and take off. We had to do it sort of illegally, which made it even more interesting. We used a tiny, engine-powered trike to fly. The view of Rio was amazing; the morning felt mystical, a bit cloudy. The hardest part was not the actual jump, but rather opening the parachute at the right moment. We used a bigger parachute, so it would open faster.
We measured the speed, and at the end we were falling at around 60 meters per second. We jumped right into downtown Rio and flew between skyscrapers. It was epic.
How did your interest in BASE jumping and wingsuit flying develop?
My passion goes back to childhood. I always dreamt of one day flying. As a teenager I started riding motocross and had my own freestyle park. When I was about 20 years old a friend called me and asked if I want to join him for a skydiving course. I was totally hooked, sold all my bikes and went to California to get all the jumps needed to start BASE jumping. I did 250 jumps in two months.
I had many different jobs to make an actual living. For example, I worked as a ski and snowboard instructor. Later along the way, I started wingsuit flying, and now I’m still pretty amazed that I was able to turn it into a profession.
What does your average day look like, and can you describe how you make a living from the sport?
I travel about 200 days per year – last year even more. I have sponsors and do stunts for films. Usually producers and companies find me over the Internet. The wingsuit flyer scene is pretty small, and so my name is always among the top three hits in a “wingsuit flying” search on Google.
When I’m not working, I like to surf and snowboard. If I’m doing my own production, I set up the entire thing ¬– from finding the location to renting the helicopter. But otherwise – and most of the time – it’s the production companies that take care of these things; I just come and do the jump.
What are the most impressive spots you’ve visited? And which other cities would you like to see from above?
I really like Chamonix, and many areas in Switzerland. The landscape there is breathtaking. I’d like to fly any place with massive skyscrapers: Taiwan, Dubai, Shanghai. We’ll see where the future takes me.
You chose a pretty dangerous profession. What do your parents think about it?
My parents are my biggest fans. They didn’t like it when I first started, but now they see that I’m living my dream. I would prefer to have a shorter life full of adventures and fun. Everything that I experience while taking these risks would take a normal person three lifetimes to achieve, and I’m a very happy person.
I love our planet. It’s so unique! Isn’t it amazing how nature creates waves for us to play on? And the best thing is: you don’t even need much money to experience the beauty of this world.
How do you prepare yourself for a flight?
I do some practical preparations. For example, I plan my lines on Google Earth. It’s a very useful tool. I don’t just relax. In fact, I have to overcome a lot of fear. The most bizarre thing is that I’m afraid of heights. But I don’t do any mental training. I listen to music while hiking up the mountain I want to jump from. I’m visualizing the line and imagining the jump. I’m usually stoked once I get up there and jump after just ten minutes. In summer, this is my daily practice.
The weather plays an important role; the wind needs to be smooth. Through all of my experience, I can now say that I can feel the weather. Also, if we explore a new spot, we throw rocks down the mountain and count how many seconds they take to hit the ground. In this way we can approximate the altitude. If the stones take five seconds or more, we are fine.
Where are you based? What does city life mean to you?
Officially, I still live in Oslo. But aside from winter, when you can go snowboarding, there isn’t much to do there. I used to constantly be dating and partying.
I have a vacation place in Lisbon, which is great. I can surf nine hours a day there. I always want to be close to an urban environment. I need some city life. The seaside and city lifestyles make the best combination.
What projects can we expect from you next?
I just returned from China. We wanted to do a stunt into Singapore, unfortunately it got shut down by the government a few days before it was supposed to happen. I would like to do jumps in other cities with big skyscrapers, Shanghai, Taipei, Abu Dhabi… Many projects are in the pipeline.
Together with my cameraman and friend, Ludovic Woerth, I make a web series called Dream Lines. There will be more episodes coming out this year.
Thank you for the interview and good luck!
Enjoy Jokke Sommer’s Rio jump here. For more information about him visit his website.