by James Moore
Bungee jumping caught on in America decades ago, which is why some don’t even see it as all that ‘extreme’ anymore. But, let’s be honest, jumping from walls, bridges, or tall buildings with just an elastic cord around your ankle in order to ‘get a rush’ is still up there in the category of: WHAT are you thinking??
Perhaps bungee jumpers felt a little neglected when all of a sudden ‘extreme sports’ like slacklining hit the news. Remember that guy who decided to bounce around on a slackline far, far, FAR above the Vegas Strip? Well, bungee jumpers are now showing people that they can literally jump anywhere – even if the ground down below is covered in crocodiles or other animals just waiting to have lunch.
For those who do not keep up with ‘extreme sports,’ or close their eyes and leave the room when it comes on television, bungee jumping can be done from a fixed object – like a building or bridge; but can also be done out of a moving object, like a helicopter.
Being able to feel the free-fall, see the ground below just waiting there to end your life right before the elastic cord does its job (hopefully), and pulls you back up out of harm’s way – that’s the thrill of it all.
The very first bungee jumpers were members of the Oxford University ‘Dangerous’ Sports Club. Apparently, horseback riding in Britain became more than a bit boring for them. They dropped their cups of tea, traveled to the 250-foot Clifton Suspension Bridge located in Bristol, and took their lives in their own hands as they made the jump that brought this sport into the public eye. Yes, they were arrested. But these club members were not about to stop, as they jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge and then the Royal Gorge Bridge, which was shown on American T.V.
As with anything else, it didn’t take long for the Americans to ‘jump’ on board with this sport. By the 1980s people were moving from bridges to mobile cranes to hot air balloons, just to add a little extra fun and danger into their day.
Being arrested was no longer a problem when commercial bungee jumping began. A New Zealander, A J Hackett, went straight to the headlines in 1986 when he jumped from the Greenhithe Bridge in Auckland. He didn’t stop there, however; he moved on to jump from actual sites, including the Eiffel Tower. Because of his constant press, a permanent commercial bungee site was created.
Is this safe? Well…about as safe as any ‘extreme sport’ can be, I suppose. Although, bungee jumping can claim millions of successful jumps with no problems and no deaths occurring. Bungee operators have guidelines and double-check everything before the jump happens. But, yes, deaths have been a part of the bungee-jumping past. The biggest issue comes when the bungee cord being used is far too long to bring the jumper back up before they hit the ground.
But the sport remains strong and the actual locations bungee jumpers are choosing are becoming more and more frightening. The sport was accepted by Africa back in the 80s and 90s, with the result being Bloukrans Bridge Bungy, which is a commercial bungee spot being operated since 1997.
2008 brought another man into the spotlight when he made bungee history by jumping off a tower with a bungee cord that was made of…well, not the usual stuff. (You can look up exactly what this is anywhere on the Internet).
The Royal Gorge Bridge in Colorado is the highest place to bungee jump from a fixed structure. But…none of this seems to be enough for the ‘extremist’ who wants to do more, see more, and claim those records that must be claimed.
Switching to bungee jumping over crocodiles, however, is definitely a way to compete, and tell those slackliners: “In Your Face!” Just try not to plant your face into the crocodile’s mouth. After all, he doesn’t care about your record – he only cares about lunch.