Steph Davis’ daily routine is rare, to say the least. Her office is the stunning desert of Moab, and she’s most likely to be found plummeting off a towering rock formation with only a parachute and her expertise standing between her and the ground.
“Yeah, I mean, when you live in Moab, there’s cliffs all around us,” Davis says matter-of-factly. “It’s pretty normal to do a jump every day or every other day at least.”
Davis is a BASE jumping instructor and guide for Moab B.A.S.E. Adventures. The East Coast native first visited Moab on a trip from Colorado State University in 1994 and fell in love. She moved permanently to Utah in 1995. She estimates she jumps 300 times a year after she began BASE jumping seven years ago.
“I like being up in high places, basically,” she said. “Climbing does that and BASE jumping does that.”
Davis is also a pioneer of women’s BASE jumping, offering classes and training specific to female jumpers who often are brought into the BASE jumping world by male partners.
“I just wanted to create an opportunity for women to take control of their own BASE career,” Davis said. “To say, ‘I’m not dependent on this boyfriend or husband or whatever to be my teacher. I can go get my own skills and be an independent jumper.’”
BASE jumping isn’t a one-size-fits-all sport, with varying styles, techniques and approaches, Davis said.
“I see women being really more meticulous and detail-oriented, generally speaking,” she said. “[They’re] very concerned about doing things correctly as opposed to ‘let’s just get off this thing.’”
The minimum training prerequisite for BASE jumping is 100 skydiving jumps. After that, Davis offers a women’s first-jump course at the Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls, Idaho, and a follow-up two-day class in Moab for first cliff jumping after her students are more seasoned. She also offers BASE guiding and tower BASE jumps for experienced jumpers, as well as rock and tower climbing.
While Perrine is a popular destination and a “free-for-all” for jumpers, Davis’ calling card is individualized instruction in Moab.
“I want to be really one-on-one with my students, really focused, so my group size is going to be one to maximum four as opposed to having 10 people,” she said. “I just really want people to learn how to think for themselves, to be careful and to be really detail-oriented.”
Catherine Roy, a Quebec native and recent student of Davis’, had 2,400 skydiving jumps before taking up BASE jumping in October. She started with a four-day group trip to Perrine and took Davis’ class in Moab along with her friend.
Roy said she was “lucky” to learn from Davis, who was “patient, calm and understanding” throughout the Perrine Bridge trip. Her Moab trip inspired another BASE jumping trip to Thailand this week, and she said she plans to return to Utah in April.
“Honestly, every jump in Moab was a magical moment,” Roy said. “This place is so full of good energy and the landscape is just amazing. Of course, Perrine was awesome and a great place to start, but Moab took a little piece of my heart, and I can’t wait to go back.”
Davis said the idea that every BASE jumper is an adrenaline junkie is a misconception. She said the sport can’t be confined to a reputation set forth by YouTube videos.
“[It’s] for the type of person that loves nature, loves adventure, really likes to feel things strongly and figure out how to manage risk,” she said. “To me, that’s what makes it really interesting.”
After scaling and leaping from cliffs, mountains and rock formations in Moab and around the world, BASE jumping always can be summed up for Davis in one word: emotion.
“I think that’s what we’re really after when we do it,” she said. “Just this extraordinary feeling that you can’t get any other way.”
O Participants leap from a fixed object, like buildings, bridges and cliffs, then enjoy the fall before deploying their parachute. Steph Davis said Moab’s B.A.S.E. Adventures requires 100 skydiving jumps but recommends 200 to 1,000 skydives before taking the intro to BASE jumping class. For information on Moab B.A.S.E. Adventures visit: http://moabbaseadventures.com/