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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 11, 2007

Hall's biggest adventure turned into his last

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward O'ahu Writer

Jimmy Hall

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HALE'IWA Adventure filmmaker Jimmy Hall, who had gained fame by swimming with sharks, went to a remote island in northeastern Canada to try to set a record for the longest parachute jump from a stationary object, friends said yesterday.

Hall, 40, was killed Wednesday in a jump from a glacier or cliff, according to his agent.

Agent Micah Johnson said Hall's two partners reached the village of Clyde River on the northeast coast of Baffin Island with Hall's body last night following a 23-hour trek. Police were scheduled to interview them today, said Johnson, of Scottsdale, Ariz.

Friends gathered at Hall's Hale'iwa home yesterday, but no one knew details of what happened to the man they called a capable adventurer, a wild man and an adrenaline junkie.

Hall and two others had gone to Baffin Island, where a 4,000-foot vertical cliff offered the extreme jumper a unique experience of a longer freefall 30 seconds than any other location in the world. Five seconds is a typical freefall in what is called BASE jumping. The acronym stands for jumping from a building, antenna, span (such as a bridge) or earth (such as a cliff).

Peter Michelmore, a longtime friend of Hall's, said Hall was excited about the trip and hoping to set his place in history. Hall had already accomplished other feats, including making a jump from a paraglider and jumping from an airplane using paragliding equipment, he said.

"This was his biggest adventure, and this was to really boost him up in the world of extreme sports," Michelmore said. "This was going to be a big shot for him. If he did this, he would have made a name for himself."

Few details emerged yesterday from the accident site, which is in a remote part of the island inside the Arctic Circle. The camp site is an eight- to 12-hour snowmobile ride to the nearest village, and a snowmobile was needed to recover Hall's body, Michelmore said.

Hall was already well known for swimming with a great white shark, but he also surfed big waves, dove, skydived and sailed. He was the owner of Hawaii Shark Encounters and has made several documentaries on the subject, including one for the Discovery Channel. His photographs appeared in magazines around the world.

Given Hall's willingness to take each sport and adventure to the limit, Michelmore said, he's not surprised that his friend died doing something dangerous, and he knows Hall would have wanted to go this way.

"If you knew Jimmy, it was bound to happen," he said.

Michelmore and others admired Hall's courage and skill. And while he took everything he did to the extreme, he was always in control, said Alex Colby, a paraglider pilot who has known Hall since 1999.

"He seemed like he was immune to the things that would trip up most mortal people, but I guess that's not the case," Colby said.

Even swimming with sharks was calculated to minimize risk, said John Amundson, who's known Hall for 15 years.

Sure, he jumped in the water with 15 tiger sharks that were feasting on a dead whale, but the animals were so sated that they ignored Hall, Amundson and Hall's longtime girlfriend, Stefanie Brendl, as they photographed the sharks, Amundson said.

It was one of many experiences that Hall arranged that included Amundson, he said.

"He inspired me to do things that I might not normally do," Amundson said. "He was fuel for my fire, and visa versa. We'd feed off each other."

Advertiser staff writer Rod Ohira contributed to this report.

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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