Maranda Pleasant: What is it that you do?
Steph Davis: I’m a climber, BASE jumper, and a wingsuit pilot. I’m an author—I have a second book coming out in April, called Learning to Fly.
MP: There’s so much passion. Your sports are so adrenaline-filled. Is that fear or excitement?
SD: I don’t really do stuff in pursuit of adrenaline. That’s not my style. Obviously climbing, BASE jumping—you can do it that way. I do a lot of free soloing (that’s where you don’t have a rope). A lot of the mainstream imagery that you will see of base jumping, that’s kind of what’s being portrayed. It’s kind of like, yeah!
But that’s not my style, that’s not what I’m trying to do. I’m more trying to have very intense experiences, and figure out how to do these things in a way that’s actually enjoyable. Refined, where it’s not just about, oh, I survived it. It’s about, I did it very well and I felt good.
There’s always going to be this play between fear when you’re doing these things, because it’s got high consequences. If you’re doing something very sloppy, adrenaline kind of like, let’s just make this happen and live through it—then there could be a lot of fear happening there. But when you’re trying to be in control of the situation and do things with a certain style, it’s almost more like a feeling of intensity.
For example, you’re standing at the edge of the cliff. Yes, you’re going to feel something. You’re not going to just be like, oh, ho-hum! You’re never going to not feel something.
MP: Do you feel like you have to push yourself off sometimes? Is there still the edge? I skydive but the edge never gets easier for me. Once I’m out, I’m great. But that’s the most frightening—I still cry.
SD: Oh, you do? Do you skydive a lot?
MP: A lot. And I still cry. It doesn’t get better!
SD: That’s awesome! That’s cool, you’re a jumper.
MP: You’re one of the best in the world at what you do.
SD: I’ve been climbing for twenty years, and so I’ve kind of been known as a climber for a long time. I started jumping six years ago, and progressed pretty rapidly because it became my new passion, this thing I was really excited about.
I’ve been starting to combine the BASE jumping with the climbing. Sometimes free soloing with the jumping. There’s not many people doing that—I don’t think there’s other women doing it. So it’s this new direction that I’m pretty intrigued with.
MP: What is it that really drives you?
SD: I think just curiosity! I’m a very curious person and I like learning things. There’s an interesting balance. There’s some people—my husband Mario is actually one of them. He really loves the new. Pioneering, always to be exploring. But then there’s kind of this other side which is refining. So it’s like this constant repetition, kind of like more of a Zen thing, where you keep repeating because you’re always searching for perfection.
To me, what’s interesting about these things is that it mixes that—with climbing and with jumping, there’s a lot of frontiers, doing something you don’t know, that whole experience. But then there’s also this refining. You don’t get sick of that, ever.
And then the places! I like high places. I like to be in the mountains.
MP: Do you have a special connection with nature?
SD: Yeah. Everybody has their landscape that they love. I like to be up high. I like that feeling. Whether it’s in the door of an airplane or on the top of a mountain. Even climbing, rock climbing—I like to go to the crags where you go way up the hill and then you’re overlooking. I like that. To look out and see everything.
MP: What causes are you passionate about?
SD: I’m vegan. At first, it was in a quest for sports nutrition. Once you know, you can’t unknow. So I became vegan. I learned things. I wasn’t looking but I learned. I learned about factory farming, what they do to the animals. I was like, even if I climbed worse through this diet—which I don’t, I climb better—I would still be vegan! Because it’s not okay. I can’t support that. It’s terrible.
The world we live in, you make your vote, you state your preference through where you put your money. That’s our culture, that’s our reality. The strongest way, as a human, that you can voice your opinion, you can make you vote, is by how you spend your money. That’s why I’m vegan—I don’t want to support, with my money, factory farming. That’s the most active way I can cast that vote . I’m pretty passionate about animal rights. I support PETA, ASPCA, Humane Society.
There’s a really cool organization called the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund. The ALDF, they’re lawyers. They take legal action. When they see things being done that aren’t correct, whether on a big scale or on a small scale, they’ll go and they’ll put lawsuits in. That causes a difference. As with consumer choices, legal action makes change in this society. So I love the ALDF. I’m a big supporter of all these groups.
Prana actually did a signature chalk bag with me, and some of the proceeds went to PETA.
Our dog, she was rescued from a reservation as a puppy. I feel very strongly about not buying animals. It’s a tough thing, because you meet people and they’re like, “Oh, I’m so excited, I got this poodle!” I’m like, “You know what? I don’t agree with that. I’m sorry, I’m happy you got a dog, and I’m pleased for you, but there’s a lot of dogs in the shelters right now. And you can get a poodle from a shelter. Absolutely. You can.”
You don’t want to criticize people. It’s a fine line because you don’t want to alienate people. But at the same time, I think it’s very important. I try to lead by example in a nonthreatening way. So I’ll say to people, “Oh, I’m vegan because it makes me climb better, it makes me run better. Look at me! I’m vegan! I’ve done all these amazing things, and that’s why.” And people are like, “Oh, wow, maybe I’ll try it.” Whereas if I go to them and say, “Do you know what they’re doing to those animals?” People get mad. They get mad! Which totally puzzles me. I’m like, how can you be mad? If you’re so mad, do something to stop that. But don’t be mad at me because I’m telling you.
MP: Do you do yoga?
SD: I do yoga every morning. I wake up and do yoga. Just a little. I usually BASE jump every day. I climb mostly every day. I’m really into skate-skiing in the winter. In the summer, trail-running. We actually, our dog, we’ve trained her. There’s a couple BASE jumps we do every day. We’ll bring her to the top and then we jump, and she runs down by herself to meet us. We’re super proud of her.
MP: Is there anything else you’re passionate about?
SD: I really like cooking. Being vegan, that’s a big interest. I’m way into cooking. Into writing, I’ve written two books. I have a Masters in literature, so I’ve always been a writer-reader type person. I love reading. I like taking pictures. I’m pretty into photography. What else? I just kind of dabble in everything—gardening, that sort of stuff.
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