Sebastián Álvarez is one of those people.
Unsurprisingly, he’s the first person in history to even attempt such a feat and says the accomplishment took a lifetime of preparation.
“It all started because I had the dream of flying,” says lvarez. “Ever since I was a kid I just wanted to fly – and somehow I did.”
Álvarez’s first exposure to the adrenaline rush that would largely shape his career came when he joined the Chilean Air Force, first as a pilot and then learning to jump. in a parachute.
He immediately became addicted and continued to parachute away from the Air Force whenever he could find free time and is now widely recognized as one of the best paratroopers in the world.
Over time, however, this desire to feel an increased rush only grew, leading lvarez to engage in BASE jumping and ultimately wingsuit flight.
For most of his career, Álvarez struggled to pinpoint what had prompted him to attempt these increasingly dangerous feats. Until recently.
“I guess I figured it out a few years ago,” he says. “What was going on in my life that really gives me this happiness and – in fact, it’s always hard to explain – was this feeling of being totally focused and at the same time having an adrenaline rush.
“[It] It also happened to me when I was flying planes because I was really focused on certain things, but at the same time an Air Force pilot is not just sitting down, he is doing tons of missions. . So this mixture between full concentration and a little adrenaline, it amazes me.
“It’s like this is what I was really looking for, and I just knew I liked it, but I didn’t know the explanation. I guess a few years ago I realized: ‘ Oh, that’s it. That’s why. ‘ It’s because I’m focusing on those minutes or seconds where my mind is totally focused on that and I also feel that adrenaline that I love. “
“The devil’s house”
For his latest feat, lvarez knew he wanted to push wingsuit technology as far as he could.
Hailing from Chile, a country with a vast array of breathtaking scenery, the 36-year-old wanted his most daring flight to date to show off the natural wonders of his home country.
Given his thrill-seeking nature, he naturally decided that Villarrica – one of Chile’s most active and dangerous volcanoes and aptly named “the devil’s house” by the Mapuche – would be incorporated into his jump.
Jumping from a helicopter over 3,500 meters (almost 2.2 miles) above sea level, lvarez would attempt to use the suit to reach speeds of over 280 km / h (approximately 176.5 mph), then fly in and out of 200 meters. (656 feet) wide crater of the volcano.
“This is by far the most extreme project I have ever done,” he says. “Sure. Mainly because of all the factors; it was an active volcano, it was high altitude, cold, windy and so there were a lot of things I had to take care of.
“Mentally it was really hard for me because, again, my mind doesn’t want to be there, but you kind of have to force it to get there. I really like doing these projects because I really like it. push the sport a little bit more. “
The feat would largely be achieved by lvarez perfecting a technique called “flaring”, building up enough speed vertically, opening the suit and transferring it to horizontal speed.
The preparation for the jump lasted more than a year. Not only did Álvarez perform around 500 training jumps, but he also had to perform complex calculations using speed, distance, and atmospheric pressure to decide whether or not that would be possible.
However, lvarez says the real preparation for the jump started much earlier.
“Preparing for this has been my whole life, pretty much, it’s been my whole life,” he says. “You have to be a parachutist, a base jumper and if you are a pilot, that’s even better. All paths [I’ve taken] came together.
“Even if you’ve been training for two years but haven’t done skydiving before, that’s never going to be possible. So it was a life of preparation.”
“Being afraid is really positive”
The weather in southern Chile can be harsh, which meant that Ilvarez often had very small windows he could take a leap into.
He says attempts were often called off due to high winds, rain or snow, as well as severe storms that sometimes lasted for up to a week.
“I was really worried that we wouldn’t find a nice big gap to make this happen,” recalls lvarez.
“But I guess me and the volcano, we get along really well,” he adds with a smile. “Or at least he let me do that. So we had good weather and the volcano was not that active that week, and if you ask me, yes I asked the volcano [permission], I had my conversation with this place.
“But let’s talk seriously, it’s a volcano and it’s active and if I fail you know the result. If the volcano doesn’t want me there, it can do whatever it wants, you know, then I asked for permission and then I went here [afterward] and say thank you. “
Sitting on the edge of a helicopter hovering 3,500 meters above the ground, the biting wind hitting his face, Álvarez says nothing else gives him a thrill like attempting a pioneer jump.
“I can’t express how happy it makes me,” he explains. “But it does, you know, and I think that’s the point of life. I mean, you have to do what makes you happy.”
Álvarez certainly seems to live by this philosophy.
The man known as “Ardilla” – “Squirrel” in English – spends much of the interview with a broad smile on his face and begins to gesticulate enthusiastically as he begins to talk about the junkyard feats. neck he completed.
He describes the recent jump as a “roller coaster of emotions” and says it’s “just like a volcano”, his excitement flaring before it is hit by a wave of calm.
Álvarez is known as a meticulous planner. While these feats may seem absurd – and often impossible – from the outside, he approaches them with a calm, rational mind, confident that his skill and detailed calculations will keep him safe.
However, this never leads to the absence of fear.
“I feel nervous and I like it,” says lvarez. “I think feeling nervous is definitely positive, or being scared is really positive and you have to deal with that and turn it into something positive.
“I think if you’re extremely scared it turns into panic and you can’t react. So that’s the little line where it’s like, ‘Okay I’m scared’, but that keeps me going. active, so I am aware of everything.
“Now if I panic it won’t work and you must realize, ‘Okay, I’m panicking.
If you thought that flying in and out of an active volcano with just a little bit of gear between its arms and legs to keep it in the air was as dangerous as it could be for Álvarez, think again.
“I have a really nice waterfall … or maybe more than one. My mind sometimes says, ‘Ahh!'”, He said, wrapping his hands around his head.
“I don’t know if they’re going to work. You never know because I play, again, with nature. I need to organize this because I have a lot of ideas … but I love it. “