MOAB, Utah — Hundreds of BASE jumpers and slackliners have descended on Moab, Utah, this week for holiday events to where they’ll walk across webbing stretched between red rock crevices or jump from fixed points like sandstone mesas.
A slackline event called GGBY kicked off Tuesday outside Moab at a part of Mineral Canyon known as the Fruit Bowl, where slacklines can be strung closely together and participants walk across them, balancing like a tightrope walk.
“It’s as close to a church as a lot of us have,” said Sonya Iverson, a slackliner from Moab who is helping to organize the event. “There is something special about that location.”
The Salt Lake Tribune reports the event started 10 years ago but 2017 marks the first time participants will have to adhere to federal land rules on parking, camping and bathroom use on participants at the desert gathering.
GGBY has been an informal gathering in past years, but U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials have worried that as the event has grown, some measures need to be put in place to keep the event safe and protect the desert.
Kiley Miller, a rock climber in Moab, said extreme sports gatherings like GGBY, fueled by those filming their stunts and sharing videos on YouTube, compound a “circus atmosphere” at the red rock playgrounds around Moab.
“They have a large impact out there,” Miller said.
Iverson said she wants to help address those concerns about the slackline event and organizers are trying to be better caretakers of the natural spaces they use.
“We are trying to shake off this reputation of being stoner idiots out there doing death-defying stunts,” Iverson said. “We are actually an organized and careful community in terms of rigging and safety.”
While the slacklining event is introducing rules to ease concerns of government land managers, other extreme sport-enthusiasts are using their event to raise money for those taking care of the public lands.
BASE jumpers celebrating the fifth annual Turkey Boogie will raise money for public lands managers and search and rescue teams who operate in the area, according to the Deseret News .
BASE is an acronym for building, antenna, span, and earth, the four types of objects that adrenaline-junkies will jump from while wearing parachutes or wingsuits.
Organizers hope the 60 to 70 BASE jumpers will raise $12,000 for the Grand County Search and Rescue, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service.
“A lot of people formulate opinions of the activity or the community without really knowing much. It can be very taboo or scary or polarizing,” Turkey Boogie organizer Matt Laj said. “Moab embraces it, and in fact most of Utah allows us to BASE jump, and it’s kind of our way . of giving back and maintaining positive relationships with a community that is good to us.”
Laj said small groups of jumpers will be diving into the air from spaces around Moab and will include jumpers from all over the world.
GGBY wraps up Saturday and the Turkey Boogie runs through Sunday.