Catching up with Zak Tessier
BY: Matt Gerdes
Zak Tessier is a bit of an odd duck – if you have hung out much in Lodi, CA, or Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland, then you’ve probably met him – living out of a van, living to jump – and you probably sensed his intense dedication to our sport, and for pushing himself to a higher level each day. His raw, frothy passion for BASE is almost freakish, and can make a normally passionate jumper feel somewhat lame and part-time by comparison.
“Zak Tessier – the multitool, the swiss army knife of the sky. Not only versatile with the skills of wingsuiting, BASE jumping, aerial photography, and canopy piloting, Zak is also our engineer. If we can think it, he can build it and rig it.” – Harry Parker
If you’re seeing him for the first time in this whacky video, then there are a couple of things you need to know: First, Zak has built these tricks on a foundation of fifteen years of freeflying experience and 8,681 skydives. He has 1,568 BASE jumps. Just this year alone he has completed almost 800 BASE jumps in the US and Europe, the vast majority of them being wingsuit BASE jumps in the Alps. He is at a level of practice, currency, and dedication that very few people on planet earth have ever achieved in wingsuit BASE jumping.
So you spent all summer jumping your ass off in the Alps… where do you live in the winter?
Honestly, I shed a tear when I think about this. I’m not willing to share, because the USA is not a free land, and wing suit mountaineering is considered illegal from nearly all the ideal mountains.
You seem incredibly comfortable in a wingsuit, any wingsuit. How did you get to this point?
Jumping lots of different suits over the years, everything I could get my hands on, that fit me. Playing hard in the sky, carving around tandems on my back head low, lots of XRW, aerials in everything even if it didn’t work at first.
Is BASE jumping still exciting for you after all of these years?
Absolutely, flying my Aura is what I get out of bed for at this time in my life. BASE has many aspects; I did four hundred slider-down jumps in my first year of BASE jumping because that’s what was nearby. Now I move with the seasons so that I can fly mountains daily.
Are these maneuvers just the natural progression of you needing to be challenged and excited by BASE?
Yes, I tell myself the challenge is to be better than I was yesterday at everything in life.
If we assume that some idiots are likely to see this video and then try it themselves before they are ready to, then do you think that you are putting some idiots in danger by doing this?
No. If someone chooses to try something because they saw it on video and then dies, we can give them a Darwin Award. What you see me doing took some practice. Ask yourself, “Can I do xyz maneuver into a pool?” Then do it a lot, then do it in the sky if you can, then slider down if it’ll go that way, then maybe in your track suit, then 1,000 times in your mind… that’s how I think of it.
Ok, fair enough. One selfish question: Why did you choose to fly the Aura?
I love how it flies, for me it starts better than anything else which allows me to be higher and dive more on everything. That makes me feel safer, I like that feeling when I’m flying.