Clair Halliday made her first BASE jump at the age of 16 years old, today at 20 years of age she owns a Skydiving Center, is married and attending college.
Marital Status: Married
Current Location: Cloverdale,CA
Education: Sonoma College
Number of Base jumps: 120
Year of first Jump: 2005
Canopy: Fox 205
Profession: Drop Zone Owner and Videographer, and AFF Instructor
Number of Skydives: 1,200
Base Number: Not Applicable
Nickname: Clair Bear
One only has to converse with Clair Halliday a matter of minutes before realizing you have encountered a powerhouse in a pint sized package. She doesn’t shy away from what some may consider uncomfortable questions, while delving into rumors and innuendo straight on. She will make certain that the one perception of her you leave with is the one she presents of herself. In short, Clair is a no nonsense young woman with a drive and determination that is usually drawn to characterize males on a blacktop playground, not a 5’4, 105lb attractive female. If ever there was an individual who possessed that “will do” spirit, it is Clair Halliday.
Make no mistake about it, Clair is all woman as she discusses her wedding, husband, sewing, fashion design, homemade facials, cooking, plans for a family, and a new home as fluently as she talks about adventure sports, the drop zone, her SV 650 S motorcycle and kicking ass in general. Clair is the second eldest in a family of 9 siblings, she understands what it takes to stand out in a crowd and hold her own against all challengers. The Nicholas’s children were home schooled, with Clair beginning classes at the community college at 14, prior to graduating high school at 16 years of age. Having graduated early presented her endless empty hours filling her days, so she started rock climbing to occupy some of her time, soon her focus was transferred to BASE jumping. Later working as a packer at a drop zone and beginning her skydiving career. She faced a few road blocks along the way due to her desire for independence at such a young age, unable to sign a lease for a place to live near work or open a checking account, were only two of the obstacles. Clair found herself wanting the responsibilities of being adult, but being slowed in her pursuit by “rules and regulations”.
Her one goal of BASE jumping, which laid claim to “no rules or regulations”, was made a reality at the age of 16, she contacted BASE jumper, Jimmy Halliday and afterwards had “the talk” with her mom. “I told her and she responded, “No you’re not”, I then explained “I would be missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime” and she agreed. Clair and her then boyfriend Chris, drove to meet Jimmy Halliday in August of 2005, they met for an hour and a half with Jimmy prior to the day of the jump. On jump day, Jimmy lectured Clair on how the jump would go while he packed her chute. He did a few demos of what it should look like from the doorway and then they headed out to a local antenna. Chris, Jimmy’s girlfriend at the time Melissa and a few others from the Lodi drop zone were attendees at her first jump. The antenna was 480′ and she felt “it didn’t look like it was tall enough”, Jimmy ran through the jump instructions one final time. She went hand held, with a wide open field for her to land, she jokes retelling the story about the few obstacles that were present that day, namely cows, she fear cows like Hank Caylor fears monkey’s.
One year later, after Jimmy had tossed Clair from a few more objects, both were free from prior relationships and Clair decided that there was no one that she would rather grow old with, Jimmy found a woman that shared his passions & dreams. The couple weathered personal adversities along with criticism from outsiders who judged, often casting stones via the internet without ever having met the couple. Together, closing in on 3 years of marriage and a business partnership opening their own drop zone in upstate California traveled the world and now have set their sights on buying a home and starting a family. Clair not wanting to be outdone by her husband’s academic record, returned to college and is studying for her degrees in Chemistry and Fashion Design. Her goal is to pursue her Pharmacists degree & license, to which she exclaims, “it’s a lot of schooling”. I tell her I have a feeling if it’s something she really wants to accomplish, she can do it. Her reply, “Sure will”.
1. Tell me about how you went about finding a teacher to learn BASE jumping.
I contacted a few different people throughout my journey to begin BASE jumping. Some offered advice, such as learning to skydive first, others never responded to my inquires, and still others told me I was stupid and going to die before I was old enough to drink alcohol. I came across one of Jimmy’s videos and his email address was on the back of the package. We spoke many times before he committed to taking me BASE jumping. He stated right from the beginning that he wanted to meet me first and made himself very clear that if I displayed any signs which he did not like; my opportunity to learn from him was over and done with, effective immediately. I liked his attitude towards teaching and his commitment along with his teaching style, it suited me. When Jimmy told me he would not take me to jump if he thought I could not handle the responsibility, it gave me confidence that not only could I do it, but that I found the right person to teach me. I also felt that he was teaching me for the right reasons because I was a talented athlete. Not because he wanted to score with an attractive young girl.
2. What was running through your mind on your first BASE jump?
There was a natural amount of nervousness, but I was never scared. I was standing on the edge holding onto a hand rail and not once did I think that I was not going to do it, but I still held on for awhile taking note of the moment. I remember trying to count a few times to get myself to go ahead and jump, my heart was pounding and when I did countdown 3,2,1 my heart would skip. I remember laughing and thinking “oh my God I almost jumped”. Once I did jump I felt exhilarated and thrilled. When I landed and the guy next time landed behind me, the only thing I could say was, “I have got to do that again”.
3. When someone contacts you personally and asks about being taught to BASE jump, what advice do you offer them?
I receive emails every day from a wide variety of people from all age ranges. All of which I offer the same advice, which is to learn how to skydive first and get a some canopy experience under their belt. If they still feel that BASE jumping is for them, then pursue it by taking the next step. I typically get a negative response in reply from these individuals as they came to me thinking I would be the one who would teach them as I entered the sport with no skydiving experience.
4. Have you ever been busted on a jump? If so, how did you handle it?
I was busted once right after I turned 18 years of age. When I look back on it, I am shocked at how calm and collected I was at the time it was happening. I was a little bummed that the cops took my gear but it all worked out in the end. The cops never filed my ticket for the “trespassing” charge and “evading a peace officer”, I received my gear back a year later when the statue of limitations ran out. I currently avoid jumps that have high bust factors as I feel I have a reputation as a business owner, my status at school and I really prefer not being “that jumper” on the news.
5. What did your training entail when you set out to learn the “how’s” of BASE jumping?
As I stated previously I didn’t get much training for my first jump. It was a progression as are all learning situations. My first jump I was taught how the parachute would open and what to expect when I jumped off the object. I was told how to jump, throw my pilot chute and once opened how to unstow my breaks and turn to land. I was super happy that Jimmy did not overwhelm me with a bunch of information that would just confuse me. Throughout my next several jumps, Jimmy taught me more each time adding to my knowledge.
6. How soon after you started BASE jumping did you begin your skydiving career?
I started BASE jumping in August of 05 and had a total of 8 BASE jumps before I did my first tandem skydive in mid-September. I did a second tandem towards the end of September. By the time I took the static line course it was late October and I had already logged 15 BASE jumps.
7. How do you respond to jumpers who claim that you should have never have been taught to BASE jump before learning skydiving?
In some respect I know what people were thinking when they heard what I was doing, but at the same time very few people knew exactly what was going on and how much thought was put into my first few jumps. Most people assumed I was clueless, reckless and they felt the same about Jimmy for teaching me. Everything was carefully planned and thought through by both of us. I did not want to get hurt and no one wanted to get into trouble. I learned to BASE jump in the perfect conditions with wide open landing areas, where I had the least amount of risks to make my jumps safely and successfully.
8. How do you respond to criticism that you were far too young to be “hanging out” with your now husband, fellow jumpers? Or the thought process that females should not be taught by male counterparts where there is a relationship?
I think that most people were or are speaking out of jealously, because no one had the guts to teach me; yet once Jimmy took me under his wing, people started lashing out at us making rude assumptions. After I turned 18 years of age, no one said a word about us being “stupid about it” and suddenly people were voicing support for us as we were then a married couple. When I contacted Jimmy and during the two years that he was teaching me to BASE jump, we weren’t in a relationship, at least not with each other. I would not have trusted Jimmy to teach me or pack my chute or plan my jumps if I felt he wasn’t committed to my safety and success. I don’t think that Jimmy’s friends and fellow jumpers would have agreed to jump with me, if they didn’t believe in me as Jimmy did.
9. As you are aware, a thread on a BASE jumping forum placed your name into play as to you having been taught to BASE jump prior to skydiving. You commented to me in our initial conversation that “the internet gives people a false confidence because they do not have to show their faces”. Given the opportunity to respond here and now, what would you like to say?
People are very judgmental and rude in voicing their opinions when it comes to how I learned to BASE jump. The internet does give people a false confidence. They can say what they want and be protected by their user names in the thread. I have said this from the very beginning, and I have now met a lot of the people who bad mouthed me on the forums about the way I learned.
“Not a single one of them said a word to my face about what they thought”.
I find that insulting, that these people had very strong opinions and had no problem voicing them on the internet, but when confronted in person they acted as though they never said a word. Continuing to act as if they had supported me the whole time as I was learning to BASE jump. Almost every base jumper or skydiver I have met has read what people think about us. If people make assumptions about us before meeting us, then they are not worth knowing.
The talk on those forums shows how little people actually know me or Jimmy personally or our situation. I use to get angry when people seemed to only think that the reason we are together is, “because I am some dumb young girl who is in love with the guy who taught me to jump and that Jimmy is this old dirty man who is taking advantage of my situation”. I think the fact that they all immediately went to assuming it was about sex, shows what is on their minds and where there morals lie, not ours. Such accusations speak more about the one making them, then the one it is being made out to or about. People can think what they want, Jimmy and I know the truth. We are happy together accomplishing our individual goals and family dreams.
10. What has been your family’s reaction to your quest to BASE jump and Skydive?
Their initial reaction was that I was crazy and reckless, but once they became educated in both sports they recognized the risk evaluation and careful planning each jump entails. Now they support me and actually have gone to see me jump. Although nothing I do now surprises them. Each one of my siblings has very different athletic interests which range from none whatsoever, to snow sports and skateboarding. Since I began skydiving I have been able to talk a few of them into trying it. My older brother Harrison and one of my younger sisters Madelyn have jumped now as well as my Mom. They all had a great time, but I do not see skydiving or BASE jumping being one of their top choices as far as sports to pursue. They just don’t share my love for stepping over the edge.
11. What activities do you enjoy outside the realm of sports?
I am very involved in activities that cannot be classified as a sport, such as my favorites sewing and painting. I have been making clothes for awhile now and love it. Painting is something that I find very calming and relaxes me. I also love riding motorcycles. I have a SV 650 S that is my baby. I am also a student in college. Some days I relax and do my own home spa with clay masks which I make or I enjoy reading a book while swaying in my hammock or taking a nap.12. You wear many different hats these days, “Wife”, “BASE Jumper”, “AFF Instructor”, “Videographer”, “Student”, “Drop Zone Owner”. How do you maintain balance in your life?
It gets difficult juggling my work with my play. It really boils down to being responsible to a certain degree with my business and getting what needs to be done first and then playing. Of course a lot of my work is fun as well, but the office time and paperwork is no fun at all. I always try to take a little time for me to keep my cool and stay refreshed, so that I perform at my best in all parts of my life.
13. Do you foresee yourself continuing to be as active after you add “Mom” to your titles?
Jimmy and I have been talking about having kids for a while now and definitely want to start adding to our family. Now I will not be having 9 kids like in my family, that is a little too big for us, but we do want more than one child.
I do see myself continuing with both BASE and skydiving after children enter our lives. I do think that I will tone it down a little and not take it to the levels that I do now. I will be more likely to be more cautious with the conditions in which I jump.
14. Was there ever a time in your life that you doubted that you would achieve your goals? In achieving your goals would you consider yourself a role model for young girls?
There has never been a time when I thought I wouldn’t achieve my goals. I have had times where it was much harder then I had initially anticipated. I have learned over time is that when I have a goal in mind it doesn’t matter how quick I accomplish it, but that I am constantly taking steps towards it.
I do consider myself to be a role model for young women. I believe that what I have accomplished during a not so easy stage in my life is a huge success. I now have a very valued perspective on what it takes to be successful at a very young age that I can share.
15. Name a woman you most admire and why you do so.
My grandmother. She was a inspiration to me as a woman when I was growing up and continues to this day to be. She spent most of her childhood in an orphanage after her mother gave her up because she could not care for her. She was very independent from a young age and knew what she wanted out of life and worked very hard to get it. She always told me that I could accomplish anything I wanted with a lot of hard work and passion. She married my grandfather at the age of 25 years old and they have been together for almost 60 years now.
1. What quote sums up who Clair Halliday is as a person today?
“Whatever women do, they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good, luckily that is not hard”. ~ Charlotte Witton
2. What is the reasoning for the tattoo on the back of your head?
The tattoo says HIDGAF which stands for Honestly I Don’t Give A Fuck. The saying was thrown around at the drop zone by a lot of friends. When I decided I wanted a tattoo I was at the drop zone and had just dyed my short hair the most insane red pink neon hair color by accident as it was supposed to be a dark black/purple. I wanted to get rid of it and did not want to go back to the store to dye it. Jimmy was standing next to me and said it would be awesome if I let him shave my head. I said that I would let him and he of course, got super excited. Once it was shaved I told him that I thought it would be cool if I got the tattoo on my head, because I did not know how often I would actually shave it.
To be honest I do not remember exactly when I decided to get that specific tattoo as it just popped into my head that night at the tattoo shop.
3. Do you have a fitness regime?
I am a fairly active person with my daily life and work. I have never had an actual fitness routine. I enjoy riding my road bike when the weather permits or walk my two pit bulls when they are not lazy and just want to sleep. I do not drink alcohol, try to maintain a healthy diet and take time each day to relax. I will give myself a home spa day, where I make up the products myself from all natural ingredients.
Question for Jimmy Halliday: What did you see in Clair that made you agree to teach her and then continue to jump with her?
Clair and I had a discussion via a few emails before we ever met. Through those emails she impressed me a great deal. She was able to convince me that although she was only 16, she understood the risks involved in the sport and she was willing to accept those risks in pursuit of her goals.
I remember asking her about her athletic background: what in her history qualified her to learn to BASE jump as such a young age?
She responded: “Last winter I finally landed a back flip on my snow board after landing weird on my neck a bunch of times.”
Keep in mind, very few BASE jumpers have the athleticism to land a back flip on a snow board.
So I agreed to meet her with the disclaimer that if I felt unsure about her ability, I would not take her out to the jump site. In other words, I didn’t make any promises.
When we met, she looked me right in the eyes, shook my hand with absolute confidence, and introduced herself. In that moment, I knew she could pull it off. And obviously, I was right.
My decision to help Clair pursue her dreams led to a very public online discussion about my motivations. I never cared about what people were saying. I am competent to teach BASE jumping and Clair was a more then competent student. Clair is an amazing athlete and just as she was willing to accept the risks involved in the sport, I was willing to accept the risks involved in teaching her. Together, with our determination and willingness to accept risks, I believe we made our mark on the ongoing evolution of the sport of BASE jumping.
You can visit Jimmy and Clair Halliday at NorCal Skydiving. Further information can be found at: http://www.norcalskydiving.com/
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Interview conducted August/2009