A leap of faith

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Karina Hollekim is flying. Wingsuit on, and blonde hair tucked beneath her helmet, she is diving towards a deep blue fjord at over a hundred miles an hour. Behind her, a wall of granite threatens to punish any mistake.

This moment, and many like it, is captured in Jens Hoffman’s powerful movie 20 Seconds of Joy (see the trailer here), Following Karina through three years of B.A.S.E (Building, Antenna, Span and Earth) jumping, the film explores the motivations behind participating in a sport such as this and is testament to the dangers of doing so (in 2006 she fractured both legs in an accident in Switzerland after her parachute failed to open properly. Despite doctor’s predictions, Karina went on to walk again.)

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Esquire caught up with her in the altogether safer environment of a suite in the Soho Hotel.

How did it feel seeing yourself on the big screen?

It was strange and it felt like I was getting naked in front of total strangers because it’s  a very personal film. But I m very pleased with it and I’m honoured to be part of such a big project.

What goes through your mind in a B.A.S.E jump?

The first seconds are magical because you’re stepping off into an emptiness and all your fear goes. Your senses are broadened and in a way it’s like being in love. I guess I do it because it forces me to experience such a wide range of emotions at the same time – it’s not the kind of feeling you have in everyday life.

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How did you get involved in extreme sports?

I grew up with it because of my dad. The first time he babysat me when I was two he cut two holes in his backpack and put me in it. With my two legs sticking out the bottom and my head poking out, he went off to the climbing wall with me on his back. I got used to heights very early in my life, dangling 20 metres above ground.

After the accident in Switzerland in 2006 you were told you would not be able to walk again. How did you overcome that?

Early on at hospital my dad told me that we were going think ahead and only focus on the positives. The first time I could stand up on my left leg was six months after the accident and I was like a little baby again learning how to walk. Those moments were victories beyond anything that I had ever imagined before, and bigger than any B.A.S.E jump.

And now?

Right now I’m training to get back on skis for the winter. I can’t B.A.S.E jump again because my leg isn’t strong enough. I learnt in the hospital to not have long term plans, and the reality is I don’t know how my body is going be - I’ve had 20 operations - but I know I will find a different challenge.

You seem utterly fearless. Is there anything that scares you?

I think I’ve always run away from the everyday nine-to-five life with all its structures. I tried it and it made me feel like something inside was dying. It turned me into a person I didn’t want to be. 

For more, see www.20secondsofjoy.com

 

Interview by John Owens