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Jon Frankel Q&A on Wingsuiter Jeb Corliss

Ep 179 Wingsuit story

HBO

What was your first reaction to seeing Jeb fly?

Jon Frankel

It really didn't matter that I had seen video of Jeb's previous jumps, because watching live and up close is enough to stop time. I didn't know if this was a sport, an activity or a twisted pursuit of death masked in some ridiculous stunt.  When Jeb jumped I lost sight of him for what seemed an eternity. In fact, I heard him before I saw him again. It was only when I heard the wind whipping through the vents in his wing suit that I knew he was flying. And what a sight it was!

But when he did jump, I lost sight of him for what seemed an eternity. In fact I heard him before I saw him again. It was only when I heard the wind whipping through the vents in his suit that I knew he was flying. And what a sight it was! 

HBO

What's Jeb like in the moments right before a jump?

Jon Frankel

Jeb is non-stop energy. As he prepares for a jump he is a little more subdued than usual, but he is still happy to talk you through the game plan. His approach might best be described as nervous energy. He is very careful to monitor the wind, mind you, it is not very scientific. He doesn't use instruments, and just short of wetting his finger and sticking it up to feel the wind, instead he puts his hands out and guesstimates the speed. He says he's been doing this long enough that he knows. But he still has to be wary of the winds gusts. He certainly doesn't want to jump and be blindsided. He also has to be certain that things are not going to significantly change down at the landing site. He acknowledges he is scared. But Jeb is able to block this out, and he says, "there is rational fear and irrational fear". He will give everybody a countdown (friends who are listening on walkie-talkie or camera crews) and then he pushes off.

HBO

How hard was it to film this story at Table Mountain?

Jon Frankel

Try filming a guy who wants to fly, when you don't. It's not easy! Of course today's technology has made things a little easier, thanks GOPRO! Jeb has been very resourceful capturing his flights. He wears a number of small cameras to document his jumps because he likes to study his body position and execution. But he also sells the footage to media outlets like HBO, continuing to fund his 'hobby'.

When it came time to film this incredible feat our producer, Tim Walker, wanted to make sure we had every angle covered and we looked for the best camera locations. This required scouting table mountain from the intended landing area at the bottom and the launch spot up top. But this wasn't as easy as it sounds. We learned quickly it's not just the jump that makes you swallow hard but scrambling down the rocks, with no safety net, is not for the light-hearted or those who fear heights. When we realized that we couldn't get to the ledge where Jeb was going to jump off - we picked the next safest' place. This gave me a pretty good vantage point to continue the interview with Jeb as he prepared for his jump. I was also able to find a little 'seat' on the ledge to use one of our smaller cameras. Our colleague Spencer Wilking used a Canon DSLR camera, and our S professional film crew had the real deal. All in all, I'm not sure how many cameras we had going between those in flight, the one at the landing and those from the top of Table Mountain, but as you can tell, we had it covered.

179: February 21, 2012