Meet the Wingmen — New documentary wingmen follows leading pioneers of wingsuit flying including Jokke Sommer as they attempt to conquer every jump on the planet.

When Norwegian wingsuit flyer Jokke Sommer first started the extreme sport ignorance was bliss.

There were only a handful of jumpers doing it and things seemed under control. He had worked his way up safely from ground level, through freefall jumps, to base jumping, to wingsuit flying. Those early days of wingsuit flying were safer due to extra caution and a lower, more cautious, number of participators and jumps. Now, due to increased participation, there are bad habits in the sport and bad habits lead to bad things.

Two days before I head to see the new Xtreme channel flick Wingmen, a friend of Jokke and ‘the safest guy around’, Jhonathan Florez dies. He’s not the only death from the sport. Jokke states that 30 of his friends have being killed flying and in the movie filmer Ludo Woerth passes away. “I now only jump in perfect blue skies,” states Jokke. But with the stakes as high as they are why do it all? Is a brief moment of adrenaline really worth the risk? We were lucky enough to speak to Jokee to try and understand the mindset behind one of the most dangerous sports in the world.

How did you get into flying?
I always had fun doing whatever would give me a good feeling. I was riding motorcross before base jumping. Then when I got into base I wanted to go into it safely. My idea was to go back to a normal life, and quit that, but it never happened. It took away all my attention for other things. All I could think of was how can I make it possible to work as little as possible and jump as much as possible. That was that.

Why do you think you became addicted to the sport?
I think it was the freedom. The feeling of being free, of nature, away from stress of work. That is the biggest relief. You find so much more balance, that’s why I fell for that straight away and wanted to do anything I could to keep jumping as much as possible. It led me in a direction that made my life better.

What is your proudest achievement so far?
I’m proud of the fact that I dared to live my dream. I didn’t care what other people said, even though other people thought I should have been dead many years ago. But I am still here, and I am grateful for that. Especially when we have so many accidents. I’m just trying to do my best to push the sport in a good direction. I want to try and change some of the bad habits that have been growing in this sport and ruining it rather than making it fun. I hope I will be here for another thirty or forty years.

What do you mean by bad habits?
The bad habits are to do with a lot of people that are coming in to the sport, wanting to fly and be extreme. They think they can just do it after a year of training. A lot of people come in and do it without the knowledge so it leads to more accidents. It’s a dangerous sport, and the more people that come in, the more accidents you are going to have. It’s cool people want to start, but it would be better if they dedicated their time to it. A lot of people are afraid of quitting their job, so they go on holiday and they jump, and then they die – which means they have quit their job anyway.

What were those early days like at the beginning of your flying?
In the beginning we were not afraid, we were having fun, then people started dying. It suddenly became a lot more serious; we took it a lot more serious how we approached our jumps. You have to have the mentality that it’s dangerous and that every tiny mistake can have a big consequence. Analyse every single aspect of the jump, and try to be even safer.

Have you ever had close calls?
I had two times I nearly killed myself, which have been important for my career. It was in the beginning when I was still flying super tight to everything, as tight as I could for some reason. One time I pulled my arm in a little bit as I thought I was going to hit a rock with my hand, and of course that sent me towards a wall. From the time I made the mistake to the ledge it was 1.15 seconds but for some reason it worked out, everything slowed down. I tried my best to fix the situation and managed to by a few centimetres. Every single frame of that moment sticks in your head. It made me make better choices. Thanks to that incident I am still here today, and have managed to become a more professional jumper.

What would be your advice for people wanting to get into it?
Today I would say, don’t do what we did. When I went into this sport it actually looked a lot better on paper, than it does today. There weren’t many accidents linked to wingsuit flying. So we did the minimum of what is said to be required – 250 jumps etc. If I were to do it all over again, I would say have the focus to be the best from day one. Spend a lot of time in the wind tunnel, do 500 skydives, then get into base – take steps from there. The wind tunnel gives you the training so you fly your body from your bones. When I started wind-tunnel flying I was flying so crap. But now I know how to fly my body in the wing tunnel everything is much more easy. If you learn that in a safe environment, you are going to be able to pull off so much better in an environment that doesn’t give you a second chance. It’s hard when you start jumping, it feels safe, it always feels safe and comfortable. If you manage to keep your patience and learn it properly you have a bigger chance to make it.

How scary is it before you leap?
You start developing a sense of muscle memory and start to feel safe stepping off the cliff. When you take these things and combine them, it doesn’t feel that bad. You sit here now and think it will be scary and I think the same. And when I start a new season I’m like, ‘Wow, here we go again.’ You have that first moment but as soon as you step off you just have to let your fear keep you in control.

Do you feel like you have to push yourself further now then to get a kick?
I get the same feeling from riding a wind tunnel inside where it’s safe. For me it’s more about the experience and what I do as a human, what I can create. The artistic style of it. I want to focus more on the scene without concentrating on the extreme. Extreme is what built my name, but you can’t keep that stamp all your life or you are going to be cut short.

How do you feel about the future?
It has been harder over the years. I have lost over 30 friends since I started jumping. It’s one of those things that you go into asking yourself, ‘Why do I do this?’ I had a friend that died two days ago and he was the safest of them all. You ask yourself, ‘When will it be my turn?’ You have a feeling it might be around the corner. At the same time you look at what makes you happy. Am I going to hide from that fear or am I going to be realistic and see what this life has given me? It’s an amazing journey. All the people I meet – it’s living life in fast forward. You experience a lot of things by the time you are 35, and have done more than you would have in five other lifetimes!

When you grow up you have an empty glass that needs to be filled with experiences, not with money and other things – life experiences. It doesn’t have to be extreme, but whatever it is it’s an experience that gives you a good feeling within yourself. Right now I have been looking at my glasses. I have hundreds of glasses pouring over, full of amazing experiences. And I am 29 years old. Today I use the entire planet to play in, just like in kindergarten. We are so lucky that we can use everything available in this world. That is a much greater feeling and more important way of living my life, rather than being afraid that tomorrow it might be over. I’m not going to feel what’s coming when it’s dark. It’s just when I have my eyes open, and if this is how it is to be alive, then I’m going to stick to doing that. Even if it is scary and it can turn bad any second.

Wingmen is available to purchase exclusively through Vimeo ON DEMAND, July 16 – August 16.