102-Year-Old Woman Tandem BASE-Jumps for Birthday

By Maria Nikias

Jun 5, 2013 6:45pm

At 102 years old, Dorothy Custer spends most days on her porch in Twin Falls, Idaho, sewing and playing the harmonica. But her birthday celebration Sunday called for something a bit more dramatic: tandem BASE-jumping.

“I wish I could’ve floated around a little bit longer,” Dorothy Custer told ABC News. “I thought if I did break a leg, it doesn’t matter one way or another. I wasn’t scared at anytime. I thought it was just a wonderful experience.”

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Courtesy Dorothy Custer and Sean Chuma

Tandem BASE-jumping, which stands for Buildings, Antennas, Spans and Earth, is an extreme sport where a person, with an instructor attached, jumps off a platform and glides to the ground via a parachute.

But Custer is no stranger to extreme sports.  She celebrated her 101st birthday last year with a zipline adventure over the Snake River Canyon in southern Idaho. This year her grandson decided to up the ante by bringing up the idea of tandem-BASE jumping.

“I was thinking of doing that, but I wouldn’t jump by myself. I wouldn’t do it unless I was with somebody,” Custer said.

That’s when her grandson approached Sean Chuma, an experienced tandem-BASE jumper in the Twin Falls area.

“[Her grandson] asked, ‘Would you be interested in taking a 102-year-old lady on a tandem base jump?’” Chuma told ABC News.

Chuma met Custer at her home to assess whether she’d be fit for the jump, asking questions regarding her heart and feelings about extreme sports. Chuma, with more than 2,000 jumps under his belt, concluded it was safe and offered to take Custer tandem-BASE jumping, for free.

“She told me, ‘If I break a leg, it’s OK, I want to do this,’” Chuma said. “Who was I to tell her she couldn’t do it? I was more nervous than she was.”

Three days later, he was assisting the petite woman climb over a four-foot handrail to reach the platform. With a “full body of armor” of dirt bike pads, helmet, harness and Chuma strapped in behind her, Custer stood overlooking the Snake River Canyon ready to take her leap of faith.

“We just counted down 3, 2, 1, see ya! And we jumped,” Chuma said. “It had to be the softest landing ever.”

Custer said it was the experience of a lifetime, and one she had never even considered before.

“I wasn’t afraid,” she said. “You sometimes have butterflies in my stomach but, no, I never felt anything. I thought it was just a wonderful experience. Something to do. Something I never thought of doing.”

As for the daredevil’s next adventure, Custer said she has no set plans but some ideas.

“You think I’ll be around for another birthday?” Custer said, chuckling. “I don’t know. There are only two things I might like to do. One is maybe float around in a hot air balloon.”

 

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