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Douggs: Still scared, after all these years

Originally published on the blog A Winning Personality by Merike Tahl.  Republished with permission. Original post here

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Professional BASE jumper Chris “Douggs” McDougall, with a record of over 2800 jumps in 40 countries reveals to AWP that he was always very scared when he jumped or did anything that involves risk-taking. How does he manage to do a sport that is statistically proven to be the most dangerous extreme sport, on a daily basis? What is his key to success?

You will find out in his honest and funny answers in the following interview. Perhaps you will also get some tips on risk taking, and find his suggestions on which extreme sports are “less dangerous” useful. Chris is also an author – read more about the everyday life of a BASE jumper in “Confessions of An Idiot”.

You are a professional base jumper, which means that a big part of your job is risk-taking and risk control. Do you overcome the fear easily? Are you ever afraid of jumping or don’t you have any fear at all?
I wouldn’t say I overcome fear easily, it is always a challenge but I have learnt how to control it in certain situations. I am always very scared when I jump or do anything that involves risk taking. Fear is what keeps you safe and stops you doing unnecessary craziness.

Obviously, a BASE jump has to be made under calculated risk. How do you calculate your risks and risk rewards?
There are many factors in calculating risk and I could write an essay about it, but in short: You look at the height of the object, the condition of the landing area, the distance to the landing area, the type of object as far as difficulty goes, the micro weather climate, your own personal skill set and mind-set on the day, and overall, and if you are `feeling the love` or not. It is all risk vs reward so if the risk out-weighs the reward then you walk away. That is the key to survival.

I am always very scared when I jump or do anything that involves risk taking. Fear is what keeps you safe and stops you doing unnecessary craziness.

Are you addicted to the risk? Could you imagine your life without daily risk?
I have never really thought about it like that, but I guess I am, to a certain extent. I do enjoy sports with consequences. It really makes you concentrate and you get to choose your own limits unlike ball sports or track and field, etc. I have always hated people telling me what I can and can’t do, and so with risk taking sports you can be your own law enforcement, which is great. But I think that daily life in general is a risk, it is just that most people are so blinded to their daily routines that they don’t see it. Once you have your eyes opened to high risk activities, your senses become a lot more heightened all the time and you see and feel a lot more around you. It is an amazing gift to have and it takes a lot of work to get it to this point.

What are you thinking the second before you jump?
“Oh shit!” Hee-hee-hee. No, just kidding. Before the jumps I am very nervous, but a few seconds before I take three deep breaths to calm myself down and focus. So the second before I jump I am very calm. I am content with my decision and I am content with my life. So when I step off into the unknown I am very calm and focused and hyper aware of my surroundings; sounds and feelings.

It is about decreasing the risk. I have more respect for people walking away than people jumping for the wrong reasons.

Have you sometimes turned back and refused to jump?
Oh, yes, for sure, hundreds of times. Maybe even more. What I do in life is potentially very dangerous so if I ignore any warning signs like weather, etc. Then I am drastically increasing the risk of what I am doing and that’s not what it is about. It is about decreasing the risk. I have more respect for people walking away than people jumping for the wrong reasons. It is my choice to jump or not jump and just one wrong choice can be fatal, and that is not why I do this sport. It is because I love living!

Do you take risks easily in other areas of life? Like driving a car very fast?
Hell no! As I said, life is dangerous, and I know myself very well. Driving crazy will only get you hurt or killed. The good thing with extreme sports is that you only have to worry about yourself. But with everyday living you are constantly in danger from other people which is a factor that you can’t control. Most people have no spatial awareness and that is very dangerous. I keep my risk taking for things I have control over.

What would you suggest to “normal people” who need to take risks, for example, in order to succeed in their career?
Make sure it is a calculated risk but if that risk is too great then don’t take it. A career is nothing if you are dead so make smart choices and make sure you enjoy yourself along the way. Risk vs. reward!

I would stick with bungee jumping and roller coasters. They are great ways of totally shitting your pants in a very low risk environment.

What would you suggest to people who like the thrill of extreme sports, but have never done anything crazy, but would like to? What is the safest extreme sport to do as a hobby?
I would stick with bungee jumping and roller coasters. They are great ways of totally shitting your pants in a very low-risk environment. Life is dangerous, so if you want to get into extreme sports you have to go full on! Although surfing in small waves is pretty safe as well, unless you get eaten by a shark :)

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