Ben Lowe stood untethered on top of a 900-foot antenna at 11 p.m. on a humid Massachusetts’ night.
It was at that moment that he knew he had fallen in love with BASE jumping.
“There was no fear. The feeling I got… I thought to myself, ‘this is why I do this,’” Lowe said.
He made a decision to start BASE jumping in March 2005. Up to that point he had not even jumped out of an airplane. Yet, he set a goal and pursued it with a vengeance.
BASE jumping is an activity where participants jump from fixed objects and use a parachute to break their fall. “BASE” is an acronym that stands for four categories of fixed objects from which one can jump: buildings, antennas, spans (bridges), and earth (cliffs).
Learning to skydive was the first step. Within nine months he had jumped out an airplane 200 times.
By 2007 he gave up his salary as a computer hardware engineer and a lifestyle of flying around the country in private jets and driving a company BMW. Instead he chose to live out of a tent and work for free at drop site to learn the trade from one of the world’s top BASE jumping instructor’s, Bram Clement.
Lowe has now skydived over 6,000 times and base jumped over 500.
Melissa Nelson, Lowe’s fiancé and business partner, started a bit younger.
She did her first jump tandem jump with her father at age five and her first solo jump at 15.
She’s the third generation of a family of skydivers, which started with her grandfather’s World War II service in the 82nd Airborne.
“My dad taught me to skydive. He was a well-known drug smuggler back in the 1980s and laundered a lot of the money into skydiving,” Nelson said.
She hopes to publish “Sugar Alpha”, a book on her father’s life.
“That money made some of the biggest skydiving events of the time. He wanted to make the sport more professional.”
Nelson now has six BASE-jumps under her belt and over 10,100 skydives.
So what happens when two people like this decide to open a business? You get Moab’s brand new BASE jumping pro shop, Over the Edge Moab.
When Apex BASE left Moab for Boulder, Colo., several years ago, they left something of a gap in the adrenaline sports community, said Mick Knurbin, a German base-jumper with more than 1,000 jumps who now lives in Moab.
“They left a void,” he said. “There was no longer easy access to base equipment.”
Lowe and Nelson saw the niche and have decided to fill it.
“We contracted and are now dealers for five of the six major BASE jumping companies,” Lowe said. “They all wanted to be (in Moab). We are a BASE jumping Mecca.”
With hundreds of BASE jumpers coming to Moab every year, Over the Edge Moab aims to become their go-to shop, selling everything from safety gear, to replacement parts, to full rigs, in retail and in consignment. Lowe, who is certified to do and teach just about everything that can be done in BASE jumping and skydiving, will also offer custom repairs.
“Ben is one of the most qualified people in the skydiving world, as far as being both a teacher and an examiner,” Knurbin said.
And though full BASE jumping courses will be offered through Over the Edge Moab, those classes will not take place in Moab. Jump sites here are considered too advanced for beginners.
“We will offer four-day BASE jump courses once a month in Twin Falls, Idaho that will include everything you need to know to start BASE jumping,” Lowe said.
To attend these courses you must have completed at least 150 skydives.
Nelson and Lowe don’t just want Over the Edge Moab to be a business; they also want it to be a hub for the BASE jumping community.
“People can also come here to pack their shoots and charge their GoPros,” Nelson said. “We want to be a hang-out spot for the base crowd.”
You don’t have to be an adrenaline junkie to walk into Over the Edge Moab. They also plan to open themselves up to the broader community by joining the Moab Art Walk, using their space to display photos and art relating to skydiving and BASE jumping.
There may be one special wedding photo on display after October’s Moab Art Walk.
If Lowe gets his way, he and Nelson will BASE jump immediately after he kisses the bride at their ceremony.