Bill Waterson’s Calvin and Hobbes comic strip was introduce to the public in 1985, a year prior Matthew “Calvin” Hecker made his debut on this planet. Now a strong argument can be made that Calvin19, as he is known on the forum, was mistakenly left here by the Mothership and they will be returning soon to claim him. Adding to this argument are fellow BASE jumpers commenting, “That dude does some crazy shit”; a statement that lures you into thinking “this is someone that I have to meet.”
“Live your life for yourself and not based on popular opinion. Individuals can’t be categorized, they are far too diverse to label. Be not an adventurer, daredevil, or sportsman, be an explorer of all things in life”. Calvin is an explorer of life, embracing every moment of every day with every fiber of his being. He will go ten rounds with despair, he aches with desire, and he is filled with passion to swallow life whole before the universe renders him to ash.
When he isn’t doing, creating or directing an adventure, he is capturing it on film. Thousands upon thousands of photographs freezing his friends and family in the moment within a moment of time- preserved to rekindle the flames of imagination. Boulder, Colorado has provided the scenery for his life, this work of art he is living and breathing. “I love this town, young open minded college women, glorious mountains in my backyard, huge towers, 2000 foot high cliffs, rivers, my family and friends”, he exclaims.
This type of living in the moment is reflected in his jump philosophy as well, “everything you do can only be new to you once. My life is a series of moments. I have a soundtrack. Every time I fly I try to live up to that beautiful music in my head and make the visuals worth the time it took my imagination to compose the ideas. You could compare it to movies; I never was a good judge of movies because I could not see the whole thing in its final value. I kept getting lost in every single moment, every feeling that could be taken from the beauty of the visual and audible sensations. Flying does this for me, I can produce the feelings before I feel them, and I have to follow it in flight. Seeing the line in an airplane or a wingsuit and then riding hard for that hole in the sky.”
“I live the way I do, with flight, and risk, and dreams, and reality, just so that maybe I can live up to the musical score in my head. I cannot write music, or paint landscapes, but I can fly. I can move my body with foils as my tools to make the most amazing feelings and transfer these epic visions of grandeur and adventure to whoever may be watching.”
These moments of time weigh heavily on Calvin’s mind. Lost time steals opportunities to scratch off goals fulfilled on his long list. Oh, yes there is a list titled “Things to Do Before I Die” and reads as such:
* 1-Break “the” record. (Classified Information)
* 2-Build a Powered Aircraft
* 3-Build a Submarine.
* 4-Sail south, far away.
A rather ambitious list of goals for anyone, then again, Calvin isn’t just anyone, as proven by his list of activities: Wingsuit pilot, Rope Flying and Jumping, Sewing, BASE jumping, Skiing and Ski Flying, Rigging, Sailing, Rafting, Mountaineering, Speed Flying, U.E., Photography, Travel, Aviation, Granite Surfing, Aerobatics, Paragliding, Hang Gliding, H.A.B. crewing/jumping, Kites, Editing, Cinematography, Scuba Diving, ZAGI racing, Slack Lining, and Red Shifting.
He is currently working on his degree in “Flying Stuff” at Utah Valley University via online courses, allowing him to accelerate the process. He was sail plane flying at 13, hang gliding at 16 and earned his FAA pilot’s license at the age of 18. Only to end up currently grounded due to an accident and consequent refusal of the FAA to clear his medical for another 3 years. Calvin sums the situation as an “epic fail” on the FAA’s part and it doesn’t stop him from “bitching” about it in public.
That being said, he has reconciled that the most boneheaded thing he ever did was “fly a paraglide into a rotor leaving me in a coma with a ¾ of million dollars worth a hospital stay, a painful walk and 6 months of my life unaccounted for.” This in turned allowed the FAA to ground him for the time being due to medical. Although those 6 months can be tallied as time spent in a coma, it was wasted time for a man who has places to go, things to do, people to meet. He has little patience for “lost time”.
Like Calvin, of Calvin and Hobbes fame creating the “transmogrifier”, this Calvin has intentions on being an innovator in all that he undertakes. Having no plans to ever retire from doing the things he feels most passionate about in life. “Flying is part of my life”, he states, “The most important thing you have to understand about me is I do not consider BASE jumping separate from my other activities. I fly using aerodynamic foils in so many ways there is no way for me to separate BASE jumping. I use BASE equipment for a multitude of things besides BASE jumping, as well as a multitude of things that are not BASE equipment for BASE jumping. My goal is to innovate; my fear is that I will never help anything from all that I do.”
Calvin lists Damian Doucette, Chris Pope, Jesse Hall, Shane McConkey, JT Holmes, Miles Daisher, Nicholas Kaminski, Max Kuszaj, Kenyon Salo, Mike Steen, Blake, and Brendon as the jumpers he admires. He prepares himself mentally for a jump by, “thinking mostly about what I am about to do and what I am going to do if something goes against what I have planned. Mostly this is just doing a final quick gear check, but the entire climb, hike, or ride beforehand I search for whatever information is available to me. Mostly I am looking for wind and air characteristics. People need to understand that the beauty of BASE jumping and sports similar to it, there is no way to adequately prepare for every jump. Every time you leave an object the conditions are different. My final thoughts are of what I want to accomplish on the jump.” As for the biggest mistakes he believes new jumpers make, “becoming over confident and being ignorant, but this is one of the hopeless things about BASE jumping.”
I pushed him further to explain why he considers BASE jumping to be “hopeless”. “In saying its Hopeless; don’t think that I mean don’t pay attention. I mean that there is no way to please everyone, there is so many different viewpoints it will be impossible to make everyone happy. The important thing to remember is that there are always things to learn, no matter what. Even if what you are learning is how not to act, or what not to do. Thinking about things is a very important part, but you need to get outside perspectives from experienced jumpers to couple with your own thinking.”
Calvin began skydiving in order to get into BASE jumping. He fell in love with all kinds of free falling and flying, but hates the dropzones and skydiver clique’s and clichés At age 19, he was BASE jumping and earned his BASE number in 5 jumps. He was attracted to BASE jumping at the age of 13 years old while watching television with his friend Alex Gilmer. He recounts the day they both discovered BASE, “it was a regular jump from Tombstone, “3…2…1…exit!” Only a 2 second delay, slider down. I remember watching the replay over and over. I looked at Alex and said, “I am going to do that”. We both did not more than 8 years later.”
In talking with Adam Foster, a longtime friend and fellow jumper of Calvin’s, he recounted this story as one of his most memorable “Heckerisms”.
It was Christmas Eve (’04 I think). There was a little bit of a tailwind and I told Matt that it was his decision (as conditions weren’t great, but not horrible either). I was going to PCA him and freefall after. We got everything ready and I set Matt up for his PCA, he exited and opened fine. Upon landing he flared, hit the ground, and did a wonderful PLF followed by his canopy covering him (we were landing downwind). At this time all I could think was, “I think it might be a little too windy for a downwind landing”. I couldn’t morally send Matt off on his first building jump and not follow after watching his less than optimal landing, so I jumped and crashed just the same. All in all it was an awesome night and an eventful one for Matt, as he obtained his BASE number that. Oh, did I mention it was his fifth BASE jump? Matt is probably one of the more amazing people I have ever met. With all he has been through he has still become one of the more talented BASE jumpers (among other things) I am friends with. I could also elaborate on the time he did his first cliff gainer off of the sketchiest cliff I have ever jumped.
Calvin enjoys the “therapy” of a solo jump, sometimes giving him hours of preparation time allowing him to think about what he is doing without interruptions. However, he is more “satisfied” and in a “better” mood when he partakes in a group jump sharing the experience with others. The jump that stands out in his mind, “my illegal big wall jump with my best friend Jesse Hall, the magic of epic relative motion and the sound of vast. Jesse is pretty much the coolest dude out there, Pro Skier, the most naturally skilled BASE jumper I have ever seen. He brought me to the big illegal wall when I had just turned 20.”
His describes his favorite jump object in this manner: “She is sexy, tall with the perfect dark complexion, very wet at the bottom and perfect in size.” Before you go accusing him of taking up writing erotica, take note of what a romantic he is about flight, “the hopeless feeling of leaving an exit point, followed by the hope filled sensation of aerodynamic control in freefall as speed is reached, the fear is replaced by the feeling of control. BASE to me is a challenge; a therapy in an exercise of emotions, reactions and achieving “awe”. How many people get ‘awe’ more than twice a year on vacation? Not many. I get it every day almost.” That sexy, tall, perfectly sized object is “the illegal big wall in Colorado” that he spoke of earlier.
What does a man who loves flying; adventure and exploring the possibilities take time to stop and watch outside his realm of activities? “I enjoy viewing The Red Bull Air races a lot. I do not have the money or skill to participate. These pilots are the best of the best flying the best of the best. There is no argument.” As for the Red Bull Air Force which some consider a detriment to BASE, he boldly made clear in his opinion, “there is nothing wrong with the actions of the Red Bull Air Force. They are all my heroes. They do amazing things and I wish I was a part of their team. They are athletes that have promoted themselves, their skills and are able to have someone else to pay the bill for the things they love to do. I consider them innovators and explorers.”
“Shane, the Red Bull team and the other amazing athletes out there, are pushing the envelope, they watch it bend every time they fly. After reading posts by Shane and JT, (their blogs) I think they enjoy life, jumping and being in amazing places just as old school jumpers did being bandit jumpers back in the day. Miles and Shane explore places that have never been jumped and opened them for all of us to see and follow. They enjoy and take in everything about the place and people when they jump.”
“The (Anti-Red Bull oldies) always say ‘we are jumping on the shoulders of giants’, referring to the people who started the sport. These days, when I jump with Jesse Hall, when I ski-BASE, I am jumping alongside these modern era giants. These guys are the giants of today, pushing the envelope farther and faster.”
“Shane is a hero of mine. Shane is a Giant. Period.”
For Calvin “jumping” is how he grew up. It didn’t teach him about death, but made him think about it a lot. “It made my mind wander to things that I am afraid of, but not ignorant of. Base jumping ‘redlined’ every emotion a human can have for me.” Growing up jumping has added an interesting dynamic to his responsibilities and relationships with his family. In particular his sisters, whom he constantly jib jabs on their Facebook pages with comments, much like in his childhood, often chasing Anne with a mouthful of spit threatening to launch it in her direction.
“I jump because I want too. Anything my family can think or say to me is of no matter. This is not unique to BASE jumping. I feel that if a loved one is slowing down or stopping someone from doing something they love, then they are not loved ones and being selfish. They say BASE is a selfish sport and it is. I have no delusions of that; I don’t know anyone who does. The only thing more selfish is telling someone not to do it. It is not an addiction to drugs or alcohol. I love BASE jumping. Drug addicts or alcoholics don’t enjoy being addicted; they need it and are being delusional. I love BASE and flying, so I fly and jump. Anyone standing in my way of this is selfish. Anyone with my ‘best interests in mind’ would ground crew for me and takes photos. Not tell me I am being reckless.”
Enter Annibal…a student at Colorado University in BFA Film Production. Anne enjoys many hobbies all in the medium of art and media, “drawing, writing, photography, movies, television, and reading”. In the past she has designed artwork for the Bridge Day and claims this as her final thoughts prior to a jump, “Camera on? Check. Lens cap off? Check. Framing? Check. Focus? Check. Oh shit, it’s in video mode. Okay, now…fuck! There they go. Oops.” She is upbeat about life, listing winning academy awards, traveling the world and being the first human on Pluto as her future goals. If Calvin is the “romantic” of the family, then Anne is the “jester”, the pepper to his salt. Today Anne has her brother, Calvin’s “best interests” at heart despite the indifference they might have shared in their childhood.
“I ran into a tree”, says Anne when relaying her most bonehead move to date. “Matt will love me for telling this. I was outside our home up in Evergreen, just wasting time the way an 11 year olds does. Then Matt came out of the house. This was during those years where Matt was more likely to spit on me or hit me than anything else, so at the first sign of him building up phlegm I took off in a dead sprint. Which, looking back was pretty retarded, especially since I was looking back at the time, at Matt, instead of forward , and well, trees aren’t quite as fluffy as one would hope. I ended up sprawled out on the ground, dazed and in pain, with Matt standing over me laughing his ass off. He went back inside, just left me there. Such a great brother, I think I just lay there for a good ten minutes before I could move. The whole side of my face was bleeding and I had this great big face-scab for weeks.”
She contributes his “being a tyrant and abusive little shit” to her in their youth to making her stronger, “I can take a lot of pain with no complaint”. Which she points out also made her “weaker, because I never ask for help in anything that matters”.
During this interview Calvin/Matt did comment how awful he now felt at the way he treated his sister in their younger days. As well he should, Anne, being the President of the Matthew “Calvin” Hecker fan club, with youngest sister Emily serving as Vice-President. In reversing the question regarding “family responsibilities”, Anne she spoke candidly about her brother’s BASE jumping.
“When I think about how dangerous it is, or how I might get that call. You know the call I’ve gotten in the past. ‘Your brother’s been in an accident.’ The other day Matt went to jump an ‘A’ a few hours away. It’s kind of gotten to the point where I worry all the time. Whenever the phone rings I have an instinctual reaction to think the worst has happened.”
I love that Matt’s a jumper. He is very dashing as a wool pullover. No, seriously, I love it. He’s always so happy when he’s about to jump, jumping or has just jumped. After flying a plane that’s where I see him the most happy. So, would I ever try to make him stop or wish he would stop just to end my personal worry, giving up a vital part of himself? Hell no. I always wonder about jumpers being deemed selfish by others. But how is it less selfish to try to get the jumper to conform to what you want? If I told Matt to stop jumping because he might die, would I really be worried he would die or am I worried that I would have to deal with his death? Furthermore, one of the reasons I involve myself with jumping, jumpers and the community is to avoid the call. I don’t want Matt to die jumping; I don’t want Matt to die, period. But if he does die jumping, I want to be there with him if possible. I don’t want to get the phone call. I don’t want to have the unanswered questions and second hand stories. That’s my view on the matter. All of which is secondary to how cool it looks and how fun it is to be there, but that is reasoning for me.”
Anne has never BASE jumped but she has one tandem skydive and in 2007 she completed a FRASCA rope jump. She does credit being around her brother and his fellow jumpers with contributing to her personal growth. “Well, it had a direct hand in my decision to transfer from a life of lameness as an English major at Colorado State to a life of a movie maker, which is exactly where I want to be. It brought me from a life of dissatisfaction and boredom at 19 to excitement and personal happiness at 21. I actually thought while watching Continuum, these guys, at least in theory, live as though they might not see tomorrow. They do what they love, they understand mortality. Do I want to live life thinking, “I’ll do that tomorrow?” when the thing I’m putting off is my own happiness, my dreams, my life? So I transferred. I’m now doing what I love. My personal growth comes in the form of a reduction in personal lameness.”
In regards to whether BASE jumping is a sport versus stunt in her unique point of view, “In BASE, you just have your own weakness or fears to conquer. You have an apathetic environment to compete with but it isn’t competing back. Now, yourself, your instincts, your mind, your logic, your heart and everything, they’re fighting all the time. To be able to bring your entire body of logical reasoning, your physical body, and place your fears in check as to leap from some immense height into the open atmosphere? That’s not a stunt or sport, that’s art.”
Anne’s contribution to BASE comes in the way that she advocates to non-jumpers’ on the issues of trespassing or how little of an impact jumpers would have on National Parks in comparison to rock climbers and hikers. “Don’t rescue workers get paid? Don’t fucking hikers get lost all the time? I just don’t get the logic in banning jumpers”, she laments. Another contribution is the documentation she does of her brother and fellow jumpers on film, in photos and her artwork. She considers her involvement with the community as a self-serving one. “I want to know these people; I want to be part of it. If I ever contribute something to community of BASE, it’s because I can and it happens, not because I seek it nor need any recognition for it. I’m a taker. Any giving is purely incidental.”
Not to be outdone by her brother she can be just as romantic about describing what she likes best about BASE jumping. “I enjoy the camaraderie. I also enjoy the psychology, the aesthetic, the fashion, the struggle, and the human flight. The vitality of it all. The way it brings me closer to the feeling that there really is a reason to be alive and we are more than just randomly firing synapses and cells struck together to form a little fleshy pod of goo.”
When it comes to posting on the forum Anne doesn’t let the overtone of “what-the-fuck-are-you-doing-here?” stop her. “I like to think that I contribute something in maybe just a fresh opinion here and there, maybe an outsider’s perspective on things.” As for changes to BASE jumper.com, “I could say I would make people nicer, but I don’t believe in censorship and I feel that even though no one has to post there, limiting by any large degree what people can post is just that. There are members that are annoyingly abrasive, but at the same time, as a non-jumper, I feel like I am overstepping bounds by posting a comment to them. So much of the time, I keep my thoughts to myself.”
She adds, “thank you, BASE jumping community, for letting a band-aid such as I sit on the fringe and pretend to belong. And let me take photos and be weird and awkward.”
“Oh, the awkward”, she jests. Whatever awkwardness she may feel, her brother doesn’t see it. “Anne is brilliant and always creating. I love both my sisters to death”.
If Anne is the pepper to Calvin’s salt, then the 4′ 10″ ball of energy their parents named Emily is the spice in their lives. Emily, a 19 year old, attending University of Colorado, Colorado Springs majoring in Psychology is “retarded happy” as Calvin describes her. He is quick to point out that “Emily is awesome and can fly without wings”, referring to her gymnastic abilities.
Emily explains coming to terms with her brother’s sporting activities. “I didn’t think about him dying or getting injured as much before the accident. I guess I always saw him as being indestructible. I always trusted his judgment and his systems. But after his accident it became more clear to me that you can’t be safe doing the things he does just by being smart about it. It scares me a lot knowing I could at anytime get that call from family saying he died paragliding, or jumping, or one of the many things his does. But, I guess what scares me more is the thought of him not doing those things. He is the flier, the jumper, the adventurer, the pilot. I know him not doing these things would make him unhappy. What he does is beautiful, amazing, and I love the fact that he does them. I am not going to lie in saying that it feels cool and I like telling people how awesome my brother is. ‘Yeah, that’s right; he’s a pilot, a BASE jumper, a paraglide pilot, a skier, Matt Hecker, he’s my brother.’ I like that fact. Quite a bit.”
As a young child she idolized her brother. She recounts playing on his first jump system at their father’s home. “It was a lot of fun. There was this incident where something crazy happened while they were letting me play on it and I bounced all the way around the rope. My brother and his friends thought it was awesome, but apparently it was dangerous, so I didn’t get to play on it anymore”. Like Anne, she has jumped from Calvin’s FRASCA rope jump along side with their mother. She hopes to one day paraglide and figures that he brother might think that’s “cool” of his little sister. He has never encouraged her to participate in any of his sports, although his friends have suggested to her that she needs to at least skydive one day.
Although she doesn’t frequent the BASE jumper forum and due to her living a distance from her brother while attending school, she still feels that he and his BASE jumping friends have contributed to her own personal growth through the years.
“I have an absolute love for flight, adventure, and the beauty of this world. I would say that being around my brother and his friends, being jumpers or not, definitely shaped my views on life. I have become very adventurous and my brother is the cause of that. I would see him leave the front door countless times and watch him come back with amazing stories and photos that made me want to do more in life. Mostly he and other BASE jumpers made it so I truly want to live the fullest and best life I can, no matter how I accomplish that. The one thing I admire most about my brother is that he accomplishes whatever he wants, in life or in a day, he doesn’t hesitate, he just does it. Whatever he sets his heart to do, he always does it.”
Whereas many jumpers have trouble reconciling their love of the freefall with keeping the peace in family, Calvin has managed to do so. Calvin in the comic strip has his faithful companion Hobbes; this Calvin has the love and support of his two “ginger” sisters. “I think it has helped my parents come to grips with my life also. Anne in particular loves coming to BASE events and things like it. The ‘support crew’ is awesome and the memories are always better. I had a great childhood compared to a lot of people, but me jumping and doing the things I love doing made me realize the importance of calling my mother, or hugging her, etc.”
I asked Adam if he felt that Calvin would achieve all the goals on his “Things to Do Before I Die” list. “As long as he doesn’t die first, there’s not much that could stop him. He is damn resilient and very motivated. I just hope I can be there for some of the brilliance that he thinks up.” As mentioned earlier, “that dude does some crazy shit” and is someone we all would be fortunate to meet and share in his brilliance.
Calvin19. Win. Period.
5 Random Facts, Habits or Weirdness about Anne
* Annibal, her online persona comes from combining Anne with Hannibal.
* I have great apprehension towards a full scale zombie or alien attack.
* I can’t filter noises like a normal person, so I hear everything within the vicinity.
* I am a pessimist and enjoying be so, as well as a cynic.
* I am scared of heights and am drawn to jump off.
Quick questions with Calvin:
Q: Your greatest achievement in life thus far?
A: Ménage à trios
Q: What type of vehicle do you drive?
A: Subaru Outback
Q: What will your epitaph read?
Q: Favorite Book?
A: Contact by Carl Sagan
Q: What makes you unique to jumping?
A: Nothing I jump off stuff just like everyone else.
Q: Changes you would make to Basejumper.com:
A: “Get rid of all the ginger’s”
Q: What is your biggest weakness in jumping?
A: I only have average air awareness.
Q: What do you feel is your contribution to BASE?
A: I help the willing and capable participant.
Q: Who do you chose as the next interviewee?
A: JT Holmes
* Age: 24
* Marital Status: Single
* Children: 0
* Location: Boulder, Colorado
* Number of Jumps: 1000 total parachute openings and landings
* Year of first Jump: 2002
* Container: Warlock
* Canopy: Blackjack 260
Thank you to Adam Foster and Emily Hecker for their contribution to the article.