“He may thwart our escape by land or sea, but the sky is surely open to us; we will go that way…….” thus Daedalus and his son Icarus escaped from the hands of King Minos far off from Crete with wings made from hundreds of feathers that were held together with a strong wax. As Ovid further wrote in Book VIII of his Metamorphoses, “These wings will take us away from this place and to freedom”, it reflects the obsession of human being for flying since the beginning of Creation.
This obsession changed to passion and passion gave way to love. Man flew, he soared high up…..he invented many means to fulfill his utmost desire. And so did JARI KUOSMA. A Finnish by birth, Jari did not want to settle for the easiest. He kept searching, went on to explore and expand his knowledge, limits, mind and wisdom; thus ‘BIRDMAN’ was born as a symbol of Jari’s courage and freedom.
Birdman of Jari Kuosma
It was in 1999 when Jari Kuosma, a skydiver by passion, resigned from his telecommunications job and started BIRDMAN® International Ltd., with the very little savings he had. BIRDMAN is the first company ever to design, manufacture and sell wingsuits. But it was a different time compared to now. Wingsuits were non-existent, considered a death trap, banned from drop zones and even illegal to use in some countries, like his home country, Finland. He was even not supported by his family members who maintained a status quo and was afraid of having any change in the system.
“My father was already dead and from the rest of the family I got very mixed messages. They hated change and I was a threat to them. I’ve been a lone wolf all my life.”
Despite this, Jari Kuosma fought against all the odds. He moved to Florida with a great concept and idea. But the man from Finland was a stranger there with no name. He neither knew the language and culture nor the business environment. So he needed the best help for an almost impossible mission. And there stepped Kim Griffin, a journalist who was also a professional skydiver. Kim had competed in US national level and was then teaching new skydivers and writing about the sport. Jari, somehow, convinced Kim to become BIRDMAN’s Business Manager. The hostility and fear against wing suits was sometimes very depressing, but Kim showed amazing faith on Jari. They had a chance to prove people wrong and together they turned the tides.
Today, BIRDMAN, after about 18 years of its inception, is an inspiring and bold lifestyle brand for the brave. Its innovative and unique wingsuits are widely preferred by skydivers, BASE jumpers, aviators and adventurers alike.
“I funded the project from my own savings so my budget for the team was very limited. My project was helped by many individuals who I couldn’t pay a dime. They were amazing individuals who helped and wanted to see us succeed. I never forget all those people.”
Jari Kuosma Rolls Back To His Formative Years
The unhappy days of childhood had left no childhood memories for Jari. He felt a type of tyranny at home where his parents favoured conformist ideas giving no space for individuality. Even at school he was in trouble.
“Public school did not change my perspectives a lot. It was just different type of tyranny. But there was one teacher in particular who was different from the rest. He was my history teacher and he started the first class by writing on the black board: ‘History is written by the winners’. With that he planted a seed of deep wisdom that stayed until this day.”
To break the shackles of his family, Jari Kuosma involved himself in activities and hobbies. He focused on the outside universe and became better at his motoric skills. He was in his 10th year when he first heard of skydivers and wanted to become one. After finishing his high school, he opted for University study but dropped twice. It was skydiving that was always in his mind and he started doing it in 1991.
Jari Kuosma Declares Himself As A Self-trained Skydiver
During 1990s, Finland was going through a severe recession. So Jari Kuosma found it tough to find work and earn money for actual training.
“I had to become creative and I trained a lot on the ground using visual imagination. I never had money to hire any coach, I am self trained.”
As Jari started getting under the skin of skydiving, he understood the fun part involved in it is only 5% of the whole. The other 95% is preparation which is very tough, painful, sometimes boring but eventually challenging. The need for having command over all our six senses is a must for an adventure like this.
“I had to go through physics, chemistry, math, geometry, history etc.- all that I didn’t learn during my schooling years. I knew I need to train discipline in all areas of life. One small mistake in awareness and I will die.”
But he did not do any mistake. Jari Kuosma chose the right career, a career filled with adventure, exploit and quest. The quest that made him jump more than 5000 times from different parts of the Earth. Among these the most challenging remains his acrobatic stunt over Malaysian jungle together with Les Vorosmarthy. He flew in circles around free falling and spiralling acrobatic plane piloted by Les. It was from a low altitude that was above a snake-filled jungle with only one small place to land. Les and Jari landed safely, unscathed and unhurt, pronouncing that the world is for the winners. But all these challenges could not have happened if he had not taken his first jump- a jump that he considers imaginary and taken in his mind.
“I call my first imaginary jump in mind ‘the decision’. Making that decision and playing with it in the mind’s eye can be as challenging as anything. After the decision action is easy. Your muscles do what you say if you are in full charge.”
Jari Kuosma Pens Down His Famous Jumps
Jump -1: The first actual experience was to make it or break it. I noticed that the excitement, adrenaline and hyper-focusing gave me a new high that I could not explain. After the first jump, I fell in love with the sky and sport.
Jump-180: I got a Russian special forces training for a very low altitude jump from 100 meters (we normally jump from 4000 meters and the parachute should be open by 700 meters). Super exciting experience of hyper-focus when every cell in your body screams flight!
Jump-1007: My first BASE jump from a mountain in Norway. Extreme experience especially back in 1997 the whole sport was a taboo so it had to be done in the greatest of secrecy.
Jump-2013: I am the first skydiver in the world to make a stunt of catching a guy flying an open parachute while I am still in freefall. This stunt is only possible using wingsuit, although still many thought the stunt is impossible. I did it twice on the row, proving it was not luck. Now the stunt has it’s own name XRW and it is a sub sport in its own right.
Jump-4001: I have a great pleasure to fly formation with an acrobatic plane in freefall. I jumped out with wingsuit from Cessna 152 from 8000ft., exactly the same time my friend Les, who is piloting his plane EXTRA 300, twists his plane into a downward spiral. I then fly to catch him and fly to the counter direction from him making this stunt we called ‘The TWISTER’. Nobody has done this before or after. Controlled chaos and harmony at the same time.
Jump-5049: A beautiful flight past Mt FUJI in Japan filming a documentary movie for Japanese national TV. The jumps were done from low altitude above the mountain.
Jari Kuosma is happy living in the present. But as he is unknowingly creating a history, a perfect future awaits him too. A future in which he will be writing and publishing a book; in which he will continue to spread the love of flight by developing his brand, BIRDMAN and obviously a future in which he will find new ways of flying.