If you’re familiar with ski-BASE jumping, then you’ve probably heard of the Utah local, professional free-skier and BASE jumper Suz Graham. Suz’s list of disciplines -including freeskiing, windsuiting, and ski-BASE jumping- is lengthy and unquestionably make Suz Graham one of the most innovative and versatile contemporary women athletes. A winner of the 2010 Red Bull Cold Rush, and a feature athlete on the cover of Freeskier Magazine November 2009, Suz is constantly pressing the boundaries, looking for what’s next in action sports.
Suz shared with me her thoughts on what it’s like to live a real action lifestyle:
Alec Ross: Was your passion for action sports cultivated at a young age?
Suz Graham: Yes, definitely so. I was lucky to grow up in the mountains of Utah with my family. I remember when we would go skiing over the weekend as a family. I think I was three years old when I first skiied. My two brothers and I all got into biking pretty young. But I’ve been in love with skiing ever since I could remember, even in elementary school. And my family, with their love for the outdoors, definitely fueled my passion.
AR: You do many action sports… among them, what is your favorite?
SG: Skiing, definitely. Both of my parents love to ski growing up. It was something that I did so much. My friends would play basketball, but I would ski. Despite me and my brothers love for biking, I grew up admiring skidiving. I played soccer as a kid, but gave it up to focus on skiing. But it was through skiing that I got into base jumping. I found out that people were skiing off of cliffs, so I thought to myself, “I ski off cliffs anyways”. So I decided to give jumping a try.
AR: You’re one the only females in the world currently performing ski BASE jumps -must be nice to have that status- describe the experience of ski base jumping.
SG: I became so drawn to base jumping. That is what really made it turn into something that I was actually doing. But being one of the only girls to base jump is great. I want to inspire other people. I’m frequently asked, “Do you want other girls to start base jumping?” Honestly, I’m excited to show other women out there what we are capable of, and that they can push the boundaries.
The feeling of base jumping is fantastic! It’s the wildest feeling in the world to stand about to drop in on it. You can see the edge of the world. When you exit the jump, everything drops out from under you, you feel that everything has fallen from you. It’s the most exilerating thing. Base jumping focuses you, like a meditation, your brain is focused in on one single point. When you take that jump, nothing else is going through your head. There is nothing in life that makes me feel so present. I’ve heard the same thing from other surfers, skiiers, and jumpers. You are 100 percent in the moment. Nothing else matters. That’s what makes it so worth it.
AR: Action sports is more than just the fastest, highest, or sickest. What are your thoughts on personal style and it’s importance in the action sports landscape?
SG: I’ve learned that alot in the past few years. It’s an art. We’re all artists. I’ve realized that it’s not as significant to go the biggest, or be the most extreme. It’s an outreach of myself and my personality. It’s different than typical team-oriented sports. For instance, in free-skiing, you know exactly what you have to do: the person who wins crosses the finish line at first. Action sports is about style, it’s about painting that picture of yourself. You get to follow your instincts and your heart. That’s really cool. It’s a huge testiment to who you are. Showing everyone that it’s not just about winning.
AR: What do you do to unwind from your constantly active lifestyle?
SG: I really like this question. I need a balanced life. Ya know? If i’m jumping everyday, or skiing hard every day, I can’t handle it. That applies to work, school, or whatever. I need that balance. Maybe my balance is a bit more extreme, but I need the down time. Many people don’t know this, but I’m actually a yoga instructor. Those moments where I’m by myself are the most important to me.
It’s extremely important. But like i said, its all about balance. For instance, I took a summer off a couple summers ago, I needed to take some time to myself. I went to Costa Rica and surfered, laid on the beach, and did yoga. It was fantastic. But I started craving jumping and skiing again. That’s when I knew it was time to leave. Now, I’ve just realized that if I don’t have balance, I’ll snap. I think that can be said for every athlete. You can’t just go go go. You definitely gotta have that chance to step away and relax.
Suz Graham’s lifestyle is certainly real action. This non-stop, on-the-go way of life is something that Suz and all of us aspiring outdoorsmen share. But as Suz said, taking time to relax and chill out is crucial to any thrill-seeker.
So learn from the best, and remember the downtime. So that you can more effectively do what you love.