[Editor’s Note: We’re sure many of you are familiar with Burning Man, but what you may or may not know is the event actually attracts a fair number of aviators and–believe it or not–skydivers. For those of you who jump out of airplanes, I can imagine skydiving over Burning Man might be a pinnacle of some sort. Read on!]

Known as an “experiment in community and art,” Burning Man is an annual event governed by concepts such as self-expression, community, and being responsible by leaving no trace of your presence once the event has come to a close. First held on Baker Beach in San Francisco, Burning Man will celebrate its thirtieth anniversary in 2016 from the last Sunday in August to the first Monday in September.

At this temporary city which erects in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada each year, attendees explore various forms of…well, expression. It’s very safe to say many are more expressive than others.

Skydive Naked!
Skydive Naked! (Photo courtesy of Thomas)

Burning man has become a growing attraction for aviators, with many attendees flying into Black Rock City Airport (88NV). In addition to the general aviation aircraft, Burning Man is now known to be a destination for skydivers as well. A friend of ours, Thomas, is one such skydiver, and we took some time to ask him a few questions about his experience flying (falling?) into Burning Man:

1) What makes Burning Man a big attraction for Skydivers?

Skydiving is very much about the people you share jumps with and the environment that you jump in. SkyDiving at Burning Man has such an allure because of how visually stimulating the ring can be. This compiled with the excitement of landing next to humans that have little to no idea of skydiving or the efforts it takes to facilitate skydiving in the desert makes for literally a mind-blowing experience.

2) How many jumps, on average, would a skydiver make at the event?

We pre-pay the jumps before hand, and camp burning sky requires you to purchase a minimum number of jumps before heading out there. I would say the average jumper jumps 2-3 times out there unless the sky addiction has got them antsy for more.

3) Is it all single canopies, or is there any CRW done during the event?

CRW stands for canopy relative work (flying your canopy near or touching others canopies) Everyone out there is required to jump a skydive system with a main and a reserve chute as opposed to a BASE jumping system that is a single parachute system. That being said, I have never seen anyone jump and do CRW with their friends, but I’m sure its happened before. I deploy my main parachute every time and only use a single parachute. I don’t think I would want to use more than one.

4) What are some of the challenges a skydiver would face at Burning Man?

Dust, Wind, hippies wandering in your landing area, Packing your parachute in a controlled environment, Making sure your equipment is safe enough to jump every time and last but not least, coordinating with your friends where and when you will be landing to “get the shot”

Photo courtesy of Thomas.
A pair of jumpers leaving the drop zone. (Photo courtesy of Thomas)

5) Are there plans to make Burning Man a larger attraction to the skydiving community?

I don’t think there are any marketing or advertised plans to grow, but camp burning sky always increases its number of jumpers from year to year. I believe they had a record of 160 registered skydivers this year. it is all word of mouth and kick ass photos videos that help spread the awareness.

6) How did you get involved in skydiving?

My roommate Eric ‘Gonzo’ Gonzales graduated college and pursued skydiving with no delay. After I was done with school a semester later, I saw his epic vides and knew I wanted to pursue it myself. Having gone to burning man 3 years prior and seeing the jumpers there had a pretty large influence on me. It is crazy to me that in a few short years, it has come full circle and I am now the one up in the air over the ring.

7) When was your first jump at Burning Man?

My first jumps at Burning Man were in 2013 Cargo Cult. It was a Wednesday and I was just barely at my 100 jump mark which is the minimum to jump out there. I was a bit nervous, but that was all trumped by my excitement to see the view from the top.

Thomas' log book.
Thomas’ log book.

8) How has the experience changed you, or has it?

I don’t think one single jump has changed my perspective, but collectively Jumping at burning man has put me into a very select niche of people. Participating with this niche has allowed me to step back and realize how fortunate and lucky I actually am to A) be able to go to Burning Man B) Skydive at burning man and C) tell stories and share experiences to potentially motivate interested individuals towards a pseudo path of ‘my own version of enlightenment’ …after answering this question how i just did, I guess I have already changed my mind. I actually think skydiving at burning man has gotten me closer to God or enlightenment. These short 1 minute experiences have allowed me to see the world in such a unique perspective. I feel humbled and proud to have accomplished these tasks and almost feel obligated to fuel peoples stoke whenever they ask about skydiving and Burning Man.

9) Is it a certified drop zone?

I know its 100% legit and legal to jump there, but I have no idea the hoops camp burning sky had to jump through to get the permission and credibility to do this out there. I don’t ask questions when it comes to me being able to jump out there 😉 I just sign the necessary papers and be ready to go when they ask me.

10) Anything else you think folks would want to know about skydiving at Burning Man?
I would like to take this opportunity to debunk the misnomer that skydivers jump into burning man with no ticket and we cheat the system. This may have been the case 15 years ago when private airplanes could fly over and make a drop, but now a days is a lot different. All the skydivers at burning man have legitimate burning man tickets. The plane is brought in from Davis California and makes about 10-20 plane loads a day (weather permitting) We all have a very specific wrist band that allows us to leave the gates at the Black Rock City airport and re-enter Burning Man if we land out. We have even been briefed as skydivers to keep your burning man ticket on your person while skydiving just in case you have to prove yourself. We are not the scumbags you think we are…kinda.
Photo courtesy of Thomas.
Photo courtesy of Thomas.