The bride, done up in a white satin ensemble, strolled down the
aisle with a twinkle in her eye. The groom, waiting next to the
minister, wore a black tuxedo and a wide smile. Typical
stuff--until the moment after Brenda and Dennis McGlynn said their
I do's on June 23, 1998, when they took a leap of faith like no
other. Cautiously stepping onto the top railing of a catwalk on
the 750-foot-high Foresthill Bridge outside Auburn, Calif., they
dived headfirst into uncertainty. For five long,
oh-my-God-they're-really-doing-it seconds, the McGlynns fell
hand-in-hand through the warm summer air. As their wedding guests
peered over the railing, a loud snapping sound rang out as the
McGlynns' chutes--hers white, his black--finally opened. For 30
more seconds love was in the air as the couple floated to terra
firma, landing on the banks of the American River. "Nobody had
ever done a BASE jump at a wedding," says Brenda, 41. "We got
together because of the sport, and it's such a big part of our
lives that we wanted to incorporate it into our wedding."
The McGlynns, who live in Truckee, Calif., are one of the few
husband-and-wife combos in BASE jumping, a sport with more than
2,000 participants worldwide. Captivated by the dream of human
flight, the McGlynns have made more than 1,500 jumps, and their
odyssey to find a bigger, bolder jump has been a never-ending
search. In 1995 they leaped from the top of the world's highest
waterfall, Venezuela's Angel Falls, and when the calendar flipped
from 2000 to 2001, they were free-falling off the 88-story
Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
"You really get in touch with yourself when you do a BASE jump,"
says Dennis, 38, who, with Brenda, owns Gravity Sports Ltd., a
company that designs BASE jumping equipment. "If something goes
wrong, you have to fix the problem. You're reliant on yourself,
and doing this helps me keep my sanity. I'm not worrying about my
mortgage when I'm jumping."
Safety is the sport's biggest issue. Since 1980, when BASE
jumping became popular, about 45 people have been killed making
jumps. BASE jumping is legal on the 264 million acres of land in
the western U.S. overseen by the Bureau of Land Management, but
jumping off a cliff or structure in a national park is against
the law. This poses significant potential for conflict because
the best jump locations, like 3,000-foot El Capitan in Yosemite
National Park, are in areas where BASE jumping is prohibited.
"We've had to learn how to jump from lower cliffs," says Dennis.
"If we want to stay within the law, we have to jump off the 400-
to 600-foot cliffs."
October 14, 2001
Staying within the law is the sport's second biggest issue. In
1994 McGlynn was arrested for taking part in an illegal group
jump off a sandstone cliff above Lake Powell in Arizona. During
the jump one of McGlynn's friends, Paul Thompson, hit a cliff and
was fatally injured. McGlynn was charged with a Class B
misdemeanor for "unauthorized air delivery" and "operating a
commercial venture in a national park without a permit." He could
have negotiated a lesser penalty, but McGlynn maintained his
innocence. He eventually lost the case and his conviction was
upheld in the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. He
was sentenced to 90 days in jail, plus five years probation. He
was also ordered to pay $7,224.88 in fines and investigation
While serving time, McGlynn received more than 500 letters of
support from BASE jumpers, some with money stuffed inside. "It
was great to know that BASE jumpers around the globe were with
me," he says. "Lake Powell is a designated landing strip, so we
felt it was a legal spot to do a jump."
The worst part of being in jail, McGlynn says, was being
separated from Brenda. The McGlynns first met in 1986 at a
popular skydiving drop zone, Phoenix Z-Hills, in Zephyrhills,
Fla. Dennis sewed skydiving suits for Air Time
Designs/TonySuits; Brenda designed outfits for the same company.
Brenda ground-crewed for some of Dennis's early BASE jumps. "I
basically drove the getaway car," says Brenda. "Back then most
sky divers looked down on BASE jumping. We had to be pretty
secretive about it."
Fifteen years later Brenda and Dennis remain as infatuated with
BASE jumping as they are with each other, even though they've had
their share of close calls. In 1992 Brenda broke her back when
she landed on a rock during a jump off a bridge in northern
California. (She won't divulge the exact location because it's an
illegal BASE hot spot.) Brenda was jumping again 12 months after
the accident, the allure of the action, the thrill of the jump,
too powerful to resist.
"We'll do this for as long as we're able," says Dennis. "It's a
part of who we are."