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Standing on the Edge

Ski BASE jumper Matthias Giraud on taking risks



Matthias Giraud thrives on being the first to conquer an adventure. His first first was boosting off of Mt. Hood's Mississippi Head. For some, such a feat would be the culmination of a life of daring. For Giraud, it was just the beginning.

"The next thing I knew, I was getting calls from CNN and "Good Morning America," he recalls in a recent interview with the Source, "and I was like, wow, this is pretty cool!"

That's not to say the daring athlete is cavalier about the risks he's taken. Despite the apparent recklessness, his feats are carefully planned out. After all, you have to be able to get back up the mountain in order to BASE jump off of it.

"When you have a life defining moment, you have to prepare yourself accordingly," Giraud explains, noting that he doesn't have a backup chute like skydivers often do. "When you jump off a cliff or whatever, it's the outcome of a long-term preparation."

Though fame followed him like those avalanches he barely escapes, Giraud remains unassuming, unlike many adventure athletes, high on their own bravado. Yes, he might saunter right past you on Bond Street and you'd never notice. But put him on a pair of skis with a chute on his back, and he becomes an animal, then turns into a bird, and back to an animal.

Giraud has made a name for himself as a ski BASE jumper. Essentially, he skis off cliffs and mountains with a parachute on his back, fingers crossed for a safe landing. Since taking that first leap, he has made a name for himself as the first person to ski BASE jump of a multiude of tall, snowy objects, including Engineer Mountain, Aiguille Croche, Ajax Peak, Ingram Peak, the Icelandic volcano Eyafjallajokull, the Matterhorn (also earning him a world record for highest BASE jump), and many more.

Along the way, he also learned a thing or two about marketing, turning that early and continuing media attention into a personal brand. And Giraud will be talking about that off-slope adventure at the upcoming Swivel Conference (formerly Bend Web CAM) as the event's keynote speaker.

On Monday, Oct. 12, Giraud will share his insights with the gathered marketing gurus hoping to garnish at least some enthusiasm, if not knowledge, of how to tie crazy stunts with products through extreme engagement.

But his background isn't just gleaned from promoting his own BASE jumping feats. He did go to business school—in Durango, Colorado—where he learned enough to know how to tie all of his adventures into marketing. Counting the millions of YouTube hits Giraud has garnered for his sponsors, he has been Gangnam-Style successful.

Some might say he has the Sir Edmund Hillary complex—which is an admirable complex to have if you're going to have one—but where Hillary was about first ascent, Giraud is all about wicked descents. And while, as mere mortals, most will never get close to obtaining his skill and expertise in skiing and flight, taking adventure voyeurs along with him on a visually astounding experience is his job.

While the GoPro has become par for the course for adventurous athletes, Giraud takes his shots to the next level. The smoothness of his filming, the accuracy of his angles, and primarily, where the heck he takes it is far beyond most people's dreams. Still, he makes clear that it's about the process, not the product.

"Capturing helps you relive the experience. But when you go out on a great adventure, you don't just do it to capture it. You do it because it's a great adventure," Giraud explains. "A bonus is to be able to capture it in a way that you can share your passion, that you can relive the moment for yourself as well, over and over again."

Giraud's commitment to adventure was cemented through a tragic event when he was 18. Giraud's sister committed suicide.

"I then realized, you only have one chance, right here and right now. And I thought, you know what? You've got to do what drives you and go all out, find the true and powerful meaning of your existence, and for me, I'd already found my path, and that was skiing. I just had to commit my life to it."

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