Up on the Jungfrau, the 13,600-foot-high peak in the Bernese Alps in Switzerland, Miles Daisher considers his next move.
Puffs and streaks of white clouds dot a deep azure sky. The wind isn’t whipping around up here like it sometimes does. Instead, it purposefully pushes clouds across the sky, while brushing lightly against Daisher and his team, fluttering the fabric that connects their hands to their feet and their feet together. A handful of humans in helmets, they’re dressed like flying squirrels.
Daisher and other members of the Red Bull Air Force team are a group of extreme sport athletes that stretches the limit of sports like parachuting and BASE jumping. Today, they are preparing for a two-minute flight, where they will soar in formation alongside the mountain at speeds of up to 160 miles per hour, until they stick their landing thousands of feet below.
Daisher (Physical Education, ’93) is an elite in the worlds of parachuting and BASE jumping. To the uninitiated, BASE jumping is an acronym that stands for the categories of fixed objects from which these athletes jump: buildings, antennas, spans, and earth. It’s considered more dangerous than parachuting out of a plane because the jumper is much closer to the ground—and whatever they’re jumping from—when they begin their descent, leaving less time for the chute to deploy.
Twenty-five years ago, BASE jumping was in its infancy, reserved only for those with specialized, military-style training and access to the necessary equipment. But through the high visibility of Red Bull, Daisher has made it his mission to expose the sport on a global scale, to make it accessible to everyone.
Born at Warner Robins Air Force Base in Georgia, Daisher lived all around the world even before entering college, as his father, served in the United States Air Force and moved his family to locations ranging from Nebraska and California to Athens and Okinawa. After graduating from Alconbury High School in England, Daisher returned to the states for college at Chico State. Here, his physical gifts and penchant for adventure merged with his physical education professors and classes to help shape his future.
He took full advantage of the opportunities Chico State provided. He wrestled for a year, and worked as Willie the Wildcat for two. He pole vaulted for the Chico State track and field team, and helped coach the Chico State diving team.
He also leveraged his natural gift for body mechanics into an interest in the burgeoning realm of extreme sports (Warning: please don’t attempt this at home), jumping off cliffs at Bear Hole and trying bungee jumping.
“We used to sneak around the old train bridges in Oroville and bungee jump off those in the middle of the night,” he said.
Daisher spent the next two years in Squaw Valley working and networking with others also into extreme sports. Then, on September 6, 1995, he skydived for the first time at Yolo County Airport in Davis, and it changed his life’s trajectory.
“I’ll never forget that first jump,” he said. “After that, it was game on.”
Daisher earned his skydiving license and within two years, he focused solely on taking people on skydives, packing parachutes, and doing anything he could to be around the sport. His social circles became filled with professional extreme sports athletes, and he began getting invited to parties where Red Bull team members were. The more time he spent with these athletes, the more time he spent skydiving.
Then he began BASE jumping, completing a night leap off a bridge in 1997. Later that year, Daisher officially became a Red Bull athlete, carving his own niche into the world of extreme sports when there wasn’t one for him to step into.
“You just make the job. If you want to be something and they don’t have it, if you put your passion behind something you love to do, people will see that,” Daisher said. “It showed enough for the people at Red Bull to get behind me.”
His BASE adventures have taken him around the globe. So far in 2018, Daisher has been to China, France, Amsterdam, Switzerland (twice), and Mexico and Italy (three times each). A week after recently returning from South Africa to scout out new jump sites, he was off to Italy for a few jumps off Mont Blanc’s backside. And while these may be once-in-a-lifetime adventures for most people, this is Daisher’s manifestation of adventure, hard work, and desire.
“I wanted to be a BASE jumper because that was my favorite thing to do in life,” Daisher said.
He’s currently one of only three people on the planet with more than 5,000 BASE jumps and once held the world record for most jumps, while also amassing over 8,500 parachute jumps.
When not falling freely through the air around the world, Daisher lives with his wife and three children in Twin Falls, Idaho, home of the 486-foot-high I.B. Perrine Bridge, one of the world’s most attractive bridges for BASE jumpers thanks to its height, nearby hillside leading back up to the main road, and the town’s BASE jump-friendly attitude. It was here that he chased another world record—the most human-powered BASE jumps in 24 hours. He settled for a tie, completing 64 jumps in 22-and-a-half hours, hiking up the hillside to the bridge between each leap.
“We hiked over 30,000 vertical feet in 22-and-a-half hours, higher than Mount Everest,” Daisher said. “That was a good day.”
Still, this world-record-holding Red Bull athlete has a few bucket-list sites he’d like to launch a BASE jump from.
“How about the Statue of Liberty?” Daisher suggested. “I’d also like to do the St. Louis Arch.”
For more than a year, he and Eiffel Tower officials have been haggling with the French government to approve a jump from the famed monument.
“The tower people want us to jump it, but the government said ‘nay’ to that one,” he said, “so we’re going to try for next year.”
Daisher said he now seeks quality of jumps over quantity, happily trading all-time jump records for new opportunities in extreme sports, including pioneering the sport of “skyaking.” After exiting a plane sitting in a kayak, he deploys a parachute and floats into a river, only to continue paddling on, perhaps over a waterfall.
Daisher continues to make his mark on BASE jumping, pushing the limits for others to appreciate and introducing it to more would-be daredevils around the world. He’s well aware of his role in the sport’s growth and is grateful for how involved he’s been in its development as a worldwide phenomenon.
“I’ve been lucky enough to watch the whole sport start and develop. Right place, right time, at the right age,” Daisher said. “I feel like I’m the most fortunate person on the planet right now. Where I am in life, I’m just loving every minute of it.”