Meet your teachers.

Marta Empinotti

Number of skydives: 1,500+
Number of BASE jumps: 1,600+

All time favorite BASE jumps: Cave of the swallows in Mexico, wingsuit jump off Angel Falls in Venezuela, Superbowl XXXVIII, Petronas Tower in Kuala Lumpur, The King Fisher in the Fisher Towers-UT, El Gigante in Mexico, a hand full of awesome illegal jumps and always my last BASE jump.

Passions outside of BASE and Skydiving: Jimmy and Lua, flying, climbing, snowboarding, SCUBA.

Marta Empinotti was born on December 18th, 1964 in Brazil, the second of four sisters. She grew up in Porto Alegre, the capital of the most southern state in the country.

After traveling extensively in her late teens, Marta fell in love with (and moved permanently to) the United States at the end of 1985. When she arrived, she had just 19 skydives under her belt; since then, she has earned her Master Rigger certification, served as a licensed AFF instructor, instructed for Skydive University and competed in multiple skydiving disciplines.

Since the very beginning of her time in the sport, Marta has been deeply involved with equipment manufacturing and development, test jumping, teaching, event organizing, giving seminars, appearing in numerous television and print venues and performing successful demo jumps and stunts in the U.S. and abroad. BASE has been both her job and her passion for over 20 years.

Marta made her first BASE jump at Bridge Day in 1986. She fell in love with the sport immediately. In those days, BASE was in its babyhood. BASE gear was not available–at the time, modified skydiving gear was being used–and there were no schools teaching new BASE jumpers the ropes. In those days, after all, having 50 BASE jumps was considered a lot–and they were hard to come by.

In 1988 Marta co-founded Vertigo, one of the first BASE gear manufacturers in the world. Along with manufacturing came teaching (albeit via illegal jumps off of local towers at no cost to the student). Once the demand swelled, a more structured teaching schedule was put in place. Later on, Vertigo became Vertigo Base Outfitters. Vertigo was located in Deland, FL until the move to Moab, Utah in the year 2000. In 2010, Marta and Jimmy moved the Apex BASE Moab branch to Boulder, Colorado.

While in Moab, she and Jimmy Pouchert, her husband and co-owner–along with many visiting friends–opened up nearly 100 BASE exits, established new and safer guidelines for cliff jumping in the area, organized and hosted the Turkey Boogie for several years (with the goal of sharing the place with other jumpers). Accompanying this effort, the husband-and-wife team worked extensively with local Moab law enforcement and the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) to keep BASE jumping legal in Moab.

“Most jumpers who come to us have a long-time dream–to BASE jump,” Marta enthuses. “It is an amazing feeling to be able to help them make that dream come true; to be such a big part of it. The emotions that are painted all over their faces after their first BASE jump are unforgettable. This experience is a great gift, and I’m so lucky to be able to share it with them.”

Jimmy Pouchert

Number of Skydives: 4,700+
Number of BASE jumps: 1,500+

All-time favorite BASE jumps: Cave of the swallows in Mexico, Angel Falls in Venezuela, Superbowl XXXVIII, The Titan in the Fisher Towers-UT, wingsuit jump off the mushroom of the Eiger, Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, sunset cliff above Tonsai beach in Thailand, El Cap

Passions outside of BASE and Skydiving: Marta, climbing, snowboarding, SCUBA, canyoneering, flying our powered hang glider, taking the Zodiac inflatable down to Lake Powell for 10-day “no phones, no computers” camping retreats and laughing. (“If you don’t laugh at least once a day, you need help.”)

Jimmy Pouchert has been skydiving for 21 years and BASE jumping for 13. After a few jumps in Sparta, Illinois and Loveland, CO, he started skydiving full-time at a small dropzone in Rifle, Colorado– a weekend Cessna 185 operation. “This was classic small-DZ stuff,” he remembers. “All ten people who were there on any given weekend met at ‘The Bayou’ for beers, food and laughs.”

After Jimmy managed 200 jumps and a C license, the tiny DZ didn’t have anyone else to teach his friend to skydive on a particular weekend–so Jimmy got promoted to jumpmaster that day. Instead of traditional static-line deployments, the dropzone owner–Joel Zane–devised a system called pilot chute assist, or “PCA.” A PCA entailed the student climbing out on the step, with Jimmy following, holding the student’s pilot chute in his hand. Ironically, this is how students are deployed on their first BASE jump–so Jimmy’s career as a BASE instructor was destiny from the beginning.

When Jimmy started skydiving, BASE was a four letter word around most DZ’s in the country (and around the world, for that matter). In England, if they found out you BASE jumped, they would pull your skydiving license and ban you from the dropzone. BASE was a fringe sport even to “lifer” skydivers–and it was insisted that only idiots with a death wish even tried it.

One day at the DZ, Jimmy walked into the video room to find two jumpmasters hunkered down in front of the TV, watching a VHS tape. They panicked when he entered and quickly shut off the VCR. Jimmy hounded them until they broke down and showed him what they’d been hiding: the first BASE jumping video that he had ever seen. It basically blew his mind.

One day, when Jimmy had 500 skydives, an opportunity presented itself to Jimmy. A friend of a friend knew a guy who had a couple of BASE rigs and was willing to take him to a 2,000 foot tower. Although he knew that he wasn’t ready as far as training went, there really weren’t any “schools” at that time. Jimmy wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass him by. After a very informative five-minute ground school (and watching the instructor pack his rig), Jimmy was ready to tempt fate. “That’s just how it was done in those days,” Jimmy laughs.

After surviving that jump, Jimmy realized two things. First: He was in no way prepared to start BASE jumping. Second: He was hooked. He knew he’d have to invest some serious trade-offs to make it happen, so–after five full years of snowboarding 100 days a year in Colorado–he and his dog Luke moved to a place where there was 7-days-a-week skydiving and absolutely no snow. Everything they owned fit into an S-10 Blazer, and Jimmy drove it straight to “tent city” in Perris, CA. He had (significantly) less than a thousand dollars in his bank account when he got there. He was determined to become a paid skydiver or go home broke, with his tail between his legs.

Jimmy walked out onto the dropzone that day and saw what he was used to: a little crowd of RW people in tight-fitting suits with grippers everywhere. There was something new, though: four freaks in floppy corduroy suits with long hair, piercings and an energy that literally glowed. One of those characters was none other than Eli Thompson: the same guys who had come to the tiny Rifle dropzone with film star Woody Harrelson to make a skydive on a day that Jimmy happened to be in charge of the DZ. What luck! Jimmy was very excited to see someone he actually knew on this big, intimidating dropzone.

“I kinda casually strolled up to Eli and said, ‘So what’s with the suits?,” Jimmy remembers. “The little fish in the big pond found out quickly that freeflying was a new way of jumping that was a bit different than what had been done so far. After seeing the videos of what the Flyboyz and the handful of other freeflyers were up to, I wanted in. I just had to find a way to make a living at it.”

Every day from that point forward, Jimmy would report in to the loft behind Square One and beg a job (having almost completed his rigging ticket). He would then proceed to walk the dropzone, pestering the Flyboyz–and any other freeflyer –about how to stay on your head without imploding, or sitflying without the wings; how to carve, take docks…whatever info they could offer. Then, for the sunset load, Jimmy would dig into his dwindling bank account, get on the plane solo and work out the drills that the Flyboyz had come up with to get started.

Finally, the Flyboyz came at him with an ultimatum. They told Jimmy to buy a discounted block of 100 jump tickets and only do coached dives with one of the Flyboyz. If he did that, they’d make Jimmy the first official sanctioned instructor for the Flyboyz school of freefly. It took him about 1.5 seconds to agree to those hard terms.

After another year of learning and then coaching, Jimmy teamed up with Shaylan Allman and Billy Calhoun IV to become the second sponsored freefly team at Perris Valley: “Perris Valley Structure Fire.” This was the Golden Age of freeflying. Freeflying was entered in the X-Games as a trial event with Skysurfing as the headliners.”Getting an 8-way head down round was a record in these days,” Jimmy laughs.

About the same time, canopy swooping events were just coming into fruition. So–after the X-Games decided that freeflying just was too confusing for the general population–the teams started splitting their time coaching freeflying and coaching swooping. Touring the World swooping and freeflying while making rent and food by rigging became Jimmy’s life.

Although he had yet to make his second BASE jump, Jimmy did about 300 CRW jumps and had gotten a full-time slot rigging at the Square One loft on the Perris DZ. He pursued his BASE education through a good friend–Marty Tilley–and some local jumpers (“The Ghost Riders”) who did a lot of CRW and BASE. During this time, Jimmy learned the BASE pack job, how to react to malfunctions, the huge differences between skydiving gear and BASE gear, and a whole bunch of what to do (and, especially, what not to do).

Jimmy met Marta Empinotti in Hawaii at a boogie in 1998. He was there to do a freefly seminar with his team–which was now Shaylan and the Mack Daddy Clint Clawson–and Marta was manifesting. Marta and Jimmy became friends, as most skydivers do, horsing around and playing practical jokes. A few months later, Marta was walking on the Perris dropzone with Mad Dog McGuire, and Jimmy found out she was moving to Perris. Suffice it to say: Jimmy was stoked.

Jimmy commenced to beg Marta to teach him. “I had done so much homework,” he said, “And Marta finally relented. She took me back to Deland to build my own rig and start jumping in earnest.” After a few weeks of intense training and working in the shop, Jimmy finally got to make his second BASE jump. The pair did about 30 jumps down Florida and returned to Perris–starting to realize that they were quite compatible. After six years together at the Perris dropzone, Marta and Jimmy decided to move Marta’s company, Vertigo–along with her right-hand man, Mario Richard–from Florida to Moab. There, the cliffs are legal–and were virtually untouched.

“In the year 2000, there were maybe five exit points that had been established in the Moab area,” Jimmy explains. “BASE jumpers would come into town and just not have the time it takes to search out new exit points. So they would do some or all of the five, with Tombstone being the first. [Tombstone is still the cliff that Apex takes students to jump for their first Moab cliff.] So our little crew that lived there–me, Marta and Mario, along with “Cactus Jack” Gaudet–were like kids in a candy story. We rented a house and would build rigs, risers, pilot chutes, toggles and everything else. We’d wander ten minutes in any direction and open up a new cliff after work.”

In 2000, a half-dozen friends from Colorado and California came out to visit for Thanksgiving and opened up a few new jumps. The experience was so magical that Jimmy and Marta decided to invite anyone with enough jumps to come out for Thanksgiving every year to experience the best exits that had been opened up in the past year. The Turkey Boogie was born.

As all this was unfolding, Jimmy was in the process of cementing his identity as one of the sport’s most trusted instructors. “It’s one thing to be a good jumper,” he sais, “But it’s entirely another thing to be a good instructor. I had been teaching skydivers how to freefly for about six years–and teaching non-skydivers how to skydive for the five years before that–so it was a fairly natural progression to teach BASE jumping.” Over the years, Jimmy and Marta have taught more students how to BASE jump than any other instructors in the world, thanks to their absolute passion in teaching this amazing sport.

“I’ve always loved to teach people how to do things they thought they could never do,” Jimmy explains. “From freeflying to BASE jumping, getting to meet a total stranger and then going through this intense experience with them is something most people just don’t get the opportunity to do. We’ve gotten so lucky with the students that we’ve had the opportunity to teach over the years.Some jumpers take the course, have a great time, but decide that BASE just isn’t for them. Some jumpers go on to make hundreds of jumps and get to the point where we can invite them on our trips to Angel Falls, or to the Go Fast Games, or go on to wingsuit BASE. It’s the best feeling in the world knowing that we helped them get their start. We hear from so many people after their first day of jumping that this has been the best day of their entire lives! Imaging getting to be a part of that. That’s what keeps us amped up for each course after all these years.”