Chris “Douggs” McDougall doesn’t let anything stop him from living life his own way.
Douggs has seen a lot in his 16-plus years BASE jumping, skydiving, wingsuiting, surfing, climbing and skating. Just last winter he was washing dishes and only had $600 in his bank account, but now he’s got two BASE jumping web series coming out with new episodes week-to-week. And he is happy. Man, is he happy.
Douggs’ first web series is called BASE dreams, and it’s a compilation of some of his most insane BASE jump adventures across the globe. The second project is called “Planet Douggs,” an EpicTV series that follows Douggs on his new conquests across the world. They’re helping him BASE jump from locales up north in Norway, down south in his native Australia and New Zealand and just about everyone else in between.
We caught Douggs for a Skype session right after he touched down in Norway to do, what else, BASE jumping. He was incredibly engaging and articulate about why he does what he does.
Adrenalist: So tell us about your web-series, BASE Dreams.
Chris “Douggs” McDougall: The BASE Dreams series came about because I signed with Extreme video on the YouTube Channel, and I was sick of editing… and they said, ‘just give us all your old footage and we’ll turn it into a web series.’ So all that footage that’s getting seen is all old, within the last couple years. It’s cool though. They wanted to re-edit it to make it monetize-able, and I just don’t want to edit anymore.
But the Planet Douggs series, which is showing on Epic TV, is everything I’m shooting this year. I’m on episode six right now, I’m just categorizing all the different environments.
A: So the footage on Epic TV is “Planet Douggs” and the other one is just old footage?
D: It looks like they’re using stuff from the last two or three years. Only stuff that’s from the GoPro era, not the old HD and SD stuff. But if you look at my website, I’ve got videos from 1998, but I never did it to get anywhere in life, I just did it to share with my friends and a way to share my experiences with those friends and just try and remember what the f–k I’ve done.
It’s been a loose journey, man.
A: So you’ve got over 10,000 jumps, and nearly 3,000 BASE jumps. But just looking at some of the footage, even the old stuff, we actually talked to a guy that quit his job as a carpenter to BASE jump in Colorado—
D: —Yeah, I’m a carpenter.
A: We know! What is it with BASE jumpers and carpentry? Any ways, tell us a little bit about what first got you involved in the BASE scene and what brought it about?
D: I was surfing and skating and snowboarding a lot, and I was just a classic 20-year-old. I heard about this skydiving stuff, so I just went to do one jump, that was it. So I went to do it again. And it blew me away and changed my life.
It’s a big chain of events that brought me to all the world records and stuff, but basically just the passion, the family, the traveling, you know. Sleeping on uncomfortable floors and eating rice. I’m still doing it! I was only in Norway yesterday in a tent eating pasta.
A: Do you still do the carpentry? How are you affording to go everywhere?
D: Nah, you do whatever it takes. This winter, I was down to $600 bucks washing dishes and then I got a call to go and open up the country of Kuwait to BASE jumping and I got a big paycheck for that. So I went from doing dishes for a living to rock star lifestyle with the Sheiks.
And now, I’m just scrapping by, making just enough with these web series—not the BASE Dreams, but the Planet Douggs one. I’ve got enough money that I can probably do this until September now, so I’m stoked and we’ll see what happens.
A: So you’re just going until it’s done, and then you try to find some work before going out again?
D: If you’re really passionate about something, you do whatever it takes. There’s no pride; I’m happy to wash dishes if I can do whatever.
And then something good comes along, and bang, you’re up and running again. I think most people get too into their comfort zones, and forget that sleeping on an airport bench is OK. And eating pasta is OK, on its own. Once you forget that primal instinct and you have the creature comforts than you’re sorta f–king yourself, I reckon.
I know my time on this earth is finite. I’m just going to make the most of it until my body f–ks up or until I inherit the earth.
A: How do you transition from skydiving to BASE jumping?
D: It’s all about judgement. I’ve learned over 15 years, you learn the heights. It’s all physics and calculations. You also have to trust your parachute system as well, which I have 100 percent trust in. Because I’m so experienced, I just know when to pull and when everything’s right.
A: But how did you gather that experience?
D: Years it takes. The Aussie way is just get scared and wait a second, but the technical way is it comes over time. You learn to judge. You work up to this stuff.
And you never push it too hard. One of the reasons I’m still alive is I know my limits and I know the limits of the earth, the limits of my gear and gravity. The main goal for me is to be able to do this until I’m 80. I’m not on this crazy death wish. I’m not trying to push myself to be the coolest guy in the world or the most hardcore. I sit down to play every ending.
A: Do you get any backlash from friends and family who just get worried about what could happen?
D: Yeah, but it’s a healthy worry, and I wouldn’t say it’s backlash. It’s not from family and friends really. They accepted what I do a long time ago. What I do is potentially dangerous, but it’s not actually dangerous. They understand that this is what makes me happy and this is what my life’s about. And it’s my choice. If someone else wants to go racing cars then that’s their choice; if people want to go and be in the special operations in the army, that’s their choice.
At the end of the day, I always say this: 100 percent of people that drink bottled water, die.
A: [Laughs] Well 100 percent of everybody dies.
D: Well, I don’t know how many people really live. I don’t hassle people that want to live in a city and have a career. Again, I’ve been nearly sixteen years in this sport with no broken bones. I have no money and no possessions, but I’m the happiest man in the world.
A: Do you experience the euphoria of jumps?
D: It’s primal. In today’s society, if you want light, you turn on a switch. If you want water, you turn on a tap. Everything is done for us 100 percent. When you go BASE jumping, especially before you exit, you focus on the now. And when you jump, you’re so hyper sensitive and everything about is like being a caveman chased by a dinosaur.
A: For those who don’t jump out of airplanes and do live in a cubicle, try and explain what you’re talking about in terms of that primal hyper-awareness.
D: I still get out of my comfort zone every week doing something. And not necessarily doing an extreme sport. I had to go to Kuwait this year and wear a suit and talk to some billion dollar people and I was scared s–tless because I was stepping out of my comfort zone. But it just gets your senses going and makes you feel alive again.
And it’s really scary, but if you can achieve that in a healthy way and use that fear in a positive way, then you can do anything. Nothing’s impossible after that. That first step of getting out of your comfort zone is the hardest one to do, and then it just gets easier and easier.
For more Douggs, check out his awesome YouTube channel and Facebook page, and make sure to catch his new episodes on his channel and EpicTV.