Ras Al Khaimah: Emirati Khalifa Alghafri, 33, often referred to as the ‘Batman of the Emirates’, succeeded in jumping from the highest mountain peak in the country — Jebel Jais at Ras Al Khaimah, located at 1,860 metres above sea level, at 8.30 last Sunday morning using the ‘wingsuit’ — to be the first UAE citizen to jump from such a height.
Alghafri is a resident of Ras Al Khaimah, which is adorned with a high mountain range. He decided to first climb to the top of the mountain range, before learning to jump from its peaks. Soon, he came to be known as the ‘Batman of the Emirates’, being the first Emirati to fly in a wingsuit. In 2018, Alghafri made history when he entered the Guinness World Records for hiking in Norway, where 69 participants were in the fray.
The Emirati wingsuit flyer has been able to challenge himself and probably other professionals in extreme sports with his daring attempts.
In an interaction with Gulf News, Alghafri said: “Currently I’m working on a new jumping project, but that’s top-secret for now.” He has appealed to the UAE authorities to support him and provide him with full assistance to help him complete his project successfully.
Alghafri has been able to make a name for himself in the world of BASE jumping with his sights set on global competitions. He has jumped off mountains in Ras Al Khaimah, launched off buildings in Europe and participated in several incredible outdoor adventures.
Jump in six countries
Alghafri, who hails from the Al Ma’amourah area of Ras Al Khaimah, had previously jumped from mountain tops of varying heights in five countries, namely France, Switzerland, Norway, Italy and Turkey, as well as mountains in the UAE.
Alghafri said he started practising this brand of adventure sport in 2014, when he was 27 years old. According to him, ‘Base jump’ and ‘Sky dive’ require specialised courses that take one year on an average to complete. He underwent training for this specialised form of jumping in Italy. “It was not an easy step to go through the experience of jumping and flying in the sky, as it required a lot of training to learn the techniques of jumping and deal with potential dangers and learning how to protect oneself and latch on to any obstacle that might come in the way,” he explained. With several jumping exercises from high mountains and bridges in countries including Italy, Norway and Switzerland, he honed his skills on wearing a winged suit and learned how to safely land in a special parachute.
‘I feel like a bird’
Recounting his first experience, he said: “There were many fears and anxieties in it, but all of them dissipated as soon as I was thrown into the embrace of nature.” He further said: “I was the only Emirati involved with this sport, which I started in 2014, and became the first Emirati to compete in the sport of batsuit jumping, having completed 1,618 jumps so far.” He added: “I cannot give up this sport despite its risks, as it made me look at the world in a positive way. It helped remove my worries and reduce psychological pressure. While practising, I feel like a free bird in space, with no restrictions.”
He said passion, courage, physical fitness, mental health and being free from chronic diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, in addition to undergoing intensive courses in jumping from mobile and fixed platforms, were essential ingredients for ensuring success in this hobby.
Alghafri has also become a certified trainer in hiking and mountaineering after taking courses in Italy, Norway, France and South Korea.
Two citizens, six foreigners
Al Ghafri pointed out that the number of professionals who currently practise this sport in the UAE is only eight. He was the only Emirati among them until recently, before a second Emirati joined them. The rest of the participants are all foreigners from the United States, Australia, South Africa and England. All of them are residents of the UAE.
Alghafri stated that “jumping from fixed and moving sites” is a sport and a hobby fraught with anxiety, excitement and danger. That is why caution and strict adherence to safety rules and security standards are essential in ensuring success and endurance in this sport.
Khalifa Alghafri at a glance:
Emirati adventurer Khalifa Alghafri hails from Al Ma’mourah in Ras Al Khaimah.
In 2018, he took part in a mass base jumping world record from Katthammaren cliff in Norway, which involved 69 professionals.
He was able to reach the peak in one minute 40 seconds.
Paraglider pilot trainer.
He currently has more than 72,000 followers on Instagram. His YouTube and facebook pages are agog with thousands of subscribers as he posts videos and images on social media regularly.