Noah Bahnson – The Thrill Factor

The adrenaline and buzz people experience from extreme sports can almost become like an addiction. That has evidently been the case for UAE resident Noah Bahnson who attacks every element OF Life with a ‘full-throttle’ mentality. The American has more than 11,000 skydives and 1,100 Wingsuit BASE jumps under his belt. He has completed 900 BASE jumps from more than 80 locations in six countries, and has helped break five world records. Bahnson is notorious for his spectacular aerial cinematography, precision flying, and no-nonsense attitude. He is part of the XDubai team that recently completed a jaw-dropping stunt video with Mercedes in Dubai. Bahnson played his part by being pulled into the air to 131m before breathtakingly freefalling towards the sea next to the Burj Al Arab before opening his parachute at a mere 67m from the ocean. SFME spoke to the thrill-seeker about life on the edge.

SFME: Who was your role model growing up?

Noah Bahnson: Superman of course!

SFME: How do you stay in shape away  when you’re not in the air?

NB: I’ve never been a hardcore gym guy. I’ll go sometimes but it’s anything but a routine so instead I like to look for ways to play with the environment to keep active. If there’s an ocean around, swimming or stand up paddling is awesome. If there’s snow, then snowboarding is a great option. Right now, I’m really digging my mountain bike.

SFME: What’s your background in skydiving and BASE jumping?

NB: I’ve been a professional skydiver/BASE jumper for over the past ten years and have had jobs ranging from parachute packer to skydiving, and wind tunnel instructor to sponsored athlete, and competitor to movie stuntman. I have completed just over 11,000 skydives and around 1,100 base jumps.

SFME: How long have you been jumping?

NB: I started skydiving in 2003 and have never looked back.

SFME: What was the biggest challenge the Burj Khalifa stunt posed for you?

NB: By far the biggest challenge about that jump for me is that I only got one shot at it. It was this big, complex machine at work to get those shots that people saw in the edit. There were Cineflex helicopters flying around, RED cameras scattered all around downtown rooftops and all these people filming jump after jump to get the shots but we were told as camera flyers that we would only have one jump to shoot the air to air. I remember standing on the platform behind the guys in a cloud of their smoke as we waited for the helicopter to give us the green light to jump and all I could think was “don’t screw this up!”. I’ll remember that forever.

SFME: What do you love most about your work?

NB: I’d have to say the perspective that being in the air gives you is what I like the most. I’ve had the opportunity to travel to a lot of different places in my career and while it’s great just to see new places, to see them from altitude is always better.

SFME: Sheikh Hamdan is an avid fan of skydiving, have you ever been in contact with him or seen him in action? If not, is it something that you are planning to do?

NB: Sheikh Hamdan is a very good skydiver. I’ve met him on multiple occasions at Skydive Dubai and have seen video of him jumping but have never been on the same skydive. If the opportunity ever presented itself, I would love to jump with him.

SFME: What is the scariest experience you have ever had?

NB: In 2011, during my second season as a wingsuit base jumper I made a very serious mistake wingsuiting in Italy. It’s a long story but it ends with me flying through a flat canyon with walls on both sides too low to pull and at maximum glide. It was the result of inexperience and overconfidence and it almost killed me.

SFME: When it comes to dieting do you have to change your habits when competing in big events or stunts?

NB: I went through a phase a few years ago of cutting weight before some of the wingsuit races. My idea was that at a lighter weight but the same height, I’d have more range in the suit and I could stay high in the courses, but still have speed. Looking back at those races it didn’t really work well. We are gravity powered and weight is what drives us. Now I don’t cut or gain, I just stay at my comfortable weight and show up rested and ready.

SFME: What’s the next project you’re working on?

NB: There are a couple projects in the works that I’m looking forward to but can’t really discuss unfortunately. I recently earned my private pilot license though and am working towards expanding that skill set. I’m not sure why it took so long to get into powered aviation but I’m having tons of fun with it right now.