by Matt Lajeunesse
The first time I ever heard of the ‘Heart of BASE,’ it caught me completely off-guard.
I was at Turkey Boogie 2016. I was standing in front of a room full of about 200 BASE jumpers at The Rio, a dive bar in Moab. The room was overcrowded. The sound system was outmatched by the volume of 200 BASE jumpers.
A number of people had asked to make small presentations that year. About midway through the chaos that is the Turkey Boogie fundraiser, I invited Crystal Sparkles Unicorn Diaz to the front of the room to present, as she had requested. I thought it was going to be my opportunity to catch my breath, sip my beer, and figure out how many more prizes I had to battle to give away.
Crystal took the microphone and stood in front of the crowd. As I stepped off stage, my mind was completely scattered. I tried to show both Crystal and the crowd attention, but was also trying to figure out what I had to do next. But then, just as quickly as I had stepped off the stage, I was asked to step back on.
That is when I received the recognition—and when I first heard the words ‘Heart of BASE.’
I did not completely understand the award that I had been given. Maybe that’s because the room was so noisy, or my mind was too distracted, or because I have the attention span of a puppy in a room full of tennis balls. At any rate, I had to catch up with Crystal later to find out the details of what would become something super special to me.
She explained that the ‘Heart of BASE’ award is the brainchild of Sean Chuma. It has its origins at the closing banquet of Bridge Day 2016, when he presented the award to Crystal. He conceived The Heart of BASE as his way of recognizing the people that pour energy into the BASE family. This recognition is a tip-of-the-hat to those jumpers who you love bumping into for all the right reasons (myself excluded, of course :). Those people who are always smiling, hugging, and giving to the community. It is not uncommon to see jumpers who seem to expect to be given something from BASE jumping, but there are others who seem to focus on giving.
Crystal was given the award in 2016. When she accepted it, Chuma asked her a question: “What do you love about the BASE jumping community?” She was a bit shocked at the recognition. She only managed to reply, “Because you guys are the best.”
I wholeheartedly agree with her answer. I wish I could say it better. I can’t.
Chuma would later explain that he hoped she would pass on the ‘Heart of BASE’ to someone she saw as a positive member of the BASE family. I was the recipient she chose.
That Turkey Boogie, in front of a room of my BASE family peers, I was asked the same question Chuma asked Crystal. I typically have plenty to say (and that is putting it kindly), but I lost my tongue just as Crystal did.
As I looked across the room full of friends who had traveled from across the globe, I saw so much character. I saw people dressed as dinosaurs and unicorns. I saw people who had supported me during during one of the hardest times of my life. And—of course—I saw some of my closest friends heckling me hard for winning the award. True friendship, right? I couldn’t put my answer into words, but I could see it right there in front of me. And it was beautiful.
I couldn’t verbalize my answer then, so let me try now. Why do I love the BASE community? I love the BASE community because you’re a group of people that says yes to opportunities most of the population would NEVER say yes to. In fact, far beyond a simple no, they would never consider or understand the yesses this community so willingly gives. I love the BASE community because it’s open minded and supportive—all too rare in “the real world.” I love the BASE community because it’s made up of some of the most outsize personalities that I have ever discovered. There’s a saying that some things were meant to be felt, not described; two years later, that’s still how I feel.
In 2017, I passed the recognition on to two other jumpers. At ‘The Moab Sessions’ I passed the honor onward to Pepe Campos. He’s quick to help others out, always smiling, and one of those people I have never heard a bad word spoken about.
At the Turkey Boogie fundraiser in 2017, I attempted to also pass the recognition on to Julie Wentz. She was unable to attend, which is a shame, because she won many other prizes that night too. My guess is that it is because karma is real. Few people have put as much into the community as Julie. And, like Pepe, she’s the owner of an unforgettable smile. Oh: and I would be doing her a disservice if I didn’t mention her dedication to making every dance floor awesome.
Julie and Pepe, from the bottom of my heart, thanks for being a part of this wild community of ours. Crystal, thank you for making me feel as good as you have made so many others.
I am sincerely humbled to be a part of this community. I am often asked why I put so much into the community, and it’s a question that makes me mildly uncomfortable because I genuinely feel like I’m on the receiving end.
Enough about the community. Enough about me. I don’t really know how to end this writing other than to pass on the recognition to send appreciation back to the person that started it: Sean Chuma. On behalf of the entire BASE family, I would like to recognize Sean Chuma. I want to thank Sean Chuma for being a breath of fresh air. I have bumped into him for years and struggle to think of a time I did not see him smiling. I have no idea how many jumpers he has influenced, but am so thankful to know they were influenced by him. Thanks for putting your whole life into this community, Chuma. We are so much better with your presence.
And by the way, Sean: We all look forward to reading what it is that you love about the BASE community. ;)