Lonnie, an elite extreme athlete from Canada, is one of the world’s most prolific BASE jumpers. Highly respected and admired by his peers and community at large, Lonnie was injured July 2004 while attempting a quadruple gainer on his 1100th BASE jump off a 486 foot bridge. The lines of his parachute tangled around his foot, not allowing his parachute to fully open during the fall. He crashed into the river at a speed of about 70 miles per hour severely breaking several bones in his body, neck and spine, and suffering a spinal-cord injury which left him paralyzed. Lucky to have survived that accident, he was told by his doctor he would never jump again.
Unhindered by the effects of the spinal cord injury, Lonnie was back flying in the sky within twelve months post-accident. He then made his rounds and jumped off all four objects in B.A.S.E (Buildings, Antennae, Span, Earth) again, thereby earning himself the distinction of being the world’s first ever paraplegic BASE jumper to have jumped from all four of the objects. Lonnie Bissonnette is Para-BASE #1, and is currently the only paraplegic BASE jumper in the world to have jumped off of all four objects.
He is also a World Champion in the Para-Bobsleigh, and is hopeful about competing in the 2022 Paralympic Games in Beijing, China. Currently, he is training in Calgary for the 2017-18 Para-Bobsleigh World Cup season, and 2018 World Championships.
We are so inspired by your journey; from suffering a spinal cord injury from a BASE jump that left you paralyzed with doctors telling you that you will never jump again, to becoming the world’s first paraplegic BASE jumper to jump off all four objects, you certainly have shown the world an amazing example of never giving up! What made you want to pursue jumping after the accident?
I had always felt I knew the risks involved in BASE jumping, and I needed to do one more jump to prove to myself that I didn’t give up. After doing that first jump, I knew I needed to continue to pursue my passion for the sport.
What is it about BASE jumping and skydiving that constantly bring you back to the sports?
These sports became a true passion for me. I love the camaraderie, and the beautiful places around the world these sports have taken me. There a very special bond you make when you jump with people. I’ve made my closest friendships with the people I’ve had the honor to jump with.
How would you describe the difference between the two to those who have never jumped?
Skydiving is jumping from an airplane, where as BASE jumping is jumping with a parachute from fixed objects. BASE is an acronym that stands for Building, Antenna, Span, and Earth. These are the four main objects we jump off. We use different gear for BASE jumping that is specially designed for BASE.
What would our advice be to new jumpers who aspire to get involved in BASE jumping?
I think the best advice for new jumpers would be to take your time! Don’t rush into BASE jumping. The minimum skydives you need is 200 but, waiting until you have 400-500 is obviously better. I see people now going out and rushing to get the 200 minimum just so they can start BASE jumping. They are missing out on the beauty of skydiving because they’re just trying to build up their numbers to 200. The longer you’re in the sport of skydiving the better your odds of becoming a good, safe BASE jumper are. Learn all aspects of skydiving, ie Crew Jumping, Formation Skydiving, Accuracy, and Rigging.
How do you prepare for a jump?
Follow his adventures on Instagram: @lonniebase
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