Originally posted on www.marksolper.com on Saturday, August 24, 2013
Jari Kuosma Talks About The New BIRDMAN
I am very honored and excited to have had the chance to interview Jari Kuosma, one of the fathers of modern sport wingsuiting and the founder of BIRDMAN.
There have been quite a few wingsuit companies over the short history of our sport but one of them stands out perhaps a little more than the others. BIRDMAN was the first to commercially produce wingsuits for sport use and has recently re-launched with new wingsuit designs and apparel for those who like to open their wings and fly for fun. Now with record holding wingsuit pilot Shin Ito as a partner, BIRDMAN is back to work testing new wingsuit designs and crafting some very stand out watches.
BIRDMAN is back and I am looking forward to what they will contribute and offer! Check out their new website www.bird-man.com
Jari Kuosma talks about his life of flight and the new BIRDMAN.
1) What motivated you to start parachuting?
My father was a private pilot and he took me flying when I was less than 1 years old. From there on I suppose I had this dream of flying and seeing the skydivers at the airport where my father mostly operated from, I think I got this idea that I wanted to become a skydiver. In fact, my mother has saved one essay that I wrote when I was 9 years old stating that I will become a professional skydiver when I grow up. Ironically, I signed up for my first jump course right after my father had died in -91. I always remember him when I go to my old DZ, the place where he flew and where I started jumping.
2) Now that you have been jumping for a while, what do you love most about skydiving? What keeps you ticking in the sport?
Well, to put it quite simply, jumping and flying just makes me so damn happy! When I jump I feel a kind of ultimate happiness, I see beauty in life and in nature and I get energized for days. I also think that skydiving is a sport where one truly has an opportunity to challenge oneself mentally and physically to the limit. Once your legs leave the object whether that's fixed or moving means the ultimate freedom and responsibility and that gives me something that nothing else does.
3) Explain what your thoughts were when you first noticed wingsuiting. Have those thoughts and feelings changed? How so?
Excellent question. When I first noticed the concept it felt like the ultimate way to express oneself in the sky but not being so limited with spotting and landing areas. I was thinking purely in the terms of performance, angles, distance flown and measurable things like that. What totally took me by a surprise, after my first flight and the flights ever since, was the feeling it created in me as opposed to measurements. I must say the pleasure of flight, the joy and feeling associated with it far surpassed those numbers that impressed the others.
4) What is your favorite part about wingsuiting?
5) Most people in the wingsuit world are consumers, leaving the designing and engineering to someone else. Tell us about your inspiration to start and operate BIRDMAN International. What caused you to take it to such a elevated level and how did it impact your desire to fly?
I have always been a kind of person who has hard time of accepting no's, ban's and prohibitions so if there is something that you want but it is not available then you just create everything you need and make it happen the best you can. Better the resources better the outcome of course, and thus I had very limited resources I had to learn to be the conductor who gets the best of what he has. Having said that, it is at the same time very frustrating because you have all these ideas that you know would be possible to do but you just don't have the resources. It also took me to the situation where I ended up working more and playing less, which in turn thought me what is important in life and what is not. Now I fly more and work less.
6) By checking out the BIRDMAN website, it is obvious that YOUR BACK! BIRDMAN has been re-opened for business. Tell us about the re-launch and what we can expect in the way of new suits and products.
Yes we are! :-) I can now admit that we had a nightmare to deal with when we had the manufacturing in Europe. Due to the huge problems with the manufacturer it just didn't work out at all for us so I was the most happy man after I decided to stop making wingsuits back in 2010. They stole our patterns and everything we had at stock there but I was so happy to leave them behind that I didn't care. I thought I would never make wingsuits again until I met Shin Ito in Japan. I am grateful to Shin because now I can focus on what I do the best. Japanese people restored my faith in business and intelligent human beings again so It's been a real pleasure to work with such professionals.
You have to remember that this is actually two totally different ventures under one brand name. Two totally different kind of product lines, multiple designs and different sales strategies all under an idea, ideal and the brand image, that BIRDMAN represents to people. That makes it very challenging and interesting.
Product vise, we have now two wingsuits out there and we are now testing our next suit, KATANA, that has some interesting aerodynamical features that have not been on wingsuits before. It is our most ambitious new WS design to date so that's also fun again. We are not entirely sure of the outcome so it will be hard to say to what category this suit fits but since we are not under any pressure it's just fun to develop whatever you want, fly it, and see what it's worth. I hope we can introduce it this fall.
Then we have the hard stuff as well, the first watch collection is now out there and the second one is on works. Something very different and exciting, at least if you happen to be a bit of a watch freak, like me.
7) Lately it seems that the overwhelming trend in wingsuiting is bigger and more rigid suits. Compared to just a few years ago, suits are radically different and so much bigger. How do you feel about that trend and how do your feelings regarding that trend impact the new BIRDMAN?
As far as the performance of the suits go, the trend is totally right, it is still going to it's logical direction; faster, longer, higher. Safety vise one could argue that the suits are getting much more to handle than we expect from some pilots and that may, if it hasn't already, cause some trouble for those pilots and everybody around them so therefore it's more important than ever to watch out for each other.
As far as the design and technology goes we understand that trend very well, in fact, we understood that years ago but we just didn't have means of manufacturing when we needed something new, it was pathetic.
Of course we have some catching up to do, learn a few new things and tricks in some areas but we also have some strengths that I believe even the battle.
8) What are your thoughts about wingsuit BASE jumping? Do you wingsuit BASE jump?
I have 76 BASE jumps, a few with wingsuits and it's been years since my last but my feelings towards B.A.S.E. jumping are as strong as ever, just more clear now that time has passed. WS BASE is the superman stuff we all dream of, ultimate zone.
9) What advice can you offer for current skydivers who want to start wingsuit flying?
Find your sensei, always understand why and how, if you don't, think until you do and have fun.
10) What advice can you offer to wingsuit pilots who wish to start wingsuit BASE jumping?
I suppose the above goes for this one as well? :-)