According to those who have done it, there is no thrill to match the feeling of free falling from a high structure and then bouncing up and down on an elastic band attached to your ankles. Bungee jumping used to be something which was only done by gap year students traveling in places like New Zealand, but it’s growing in popularity with extreme sports fans of all ages and doing a bungee jump is a popular way of raising money for a worthy cause too.
Bungee jumping is a relatively modern invention, and the first jumps took place on the Clifton Suspension Bridge near Bristol. Leaping off bridges with a bungee cord attached isn’t exactly legal, so it’s no shock that the first jumpers were promptly arrested by the Police. This didn’t stop them trying again, on the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco, and the Eiffel Tower. The public gradually started to take notice of these daredevil feats, and through the 1980s and 1990s bungee jumping became almost a rite of passage for backpackers.
The most important item of equipment is of course the bungee cord itself. The cord is basically a length of super stretchy rubber, covered in braided cord. This makes it stretchy yet strong at the same time. The jumper’s feet are secured using a special harness and then the cord is fastened on. Jumpers do not require any other safety clothing, but most reputable organisers will insist that the jumper wears some sort of helmet, especially if the jump is designed to bring them low enough to touch water. Some will attach gadgets like GoPro helmet cameras so that the jump can be filmed and the participant has a permanent record of an experience which is over in a flash.
Is it Safe?
There have been accidents while bungee jumping and the very nature of the sport means that any accident has serious consequences. Eyesight can be damaged because of the pressure around the eyes and brain, but the vast majority of bungee jumps are safe and pass without incident. People thinking about bungee jumping should bear in mind though that safety standards in the developing world are not always the same as here in the UK, so if jumping when overseas make sure you are happy about the equipment and expertise of the staff before attaching the cord.
Where’s Best to Do It?
Bungee jumping is mostly associated with New Zealand, and this country has amazing countryside and gorges which are perfect for jumping. The highest jump of all is at the Royal Gorge Bridge in Colorado, USA, where the jumper launches themselves off a platform over 1,000 feet above the ground. Closer to home you have the chance to replicate the jump done by James Bond at the start of the Goldeneye movie by going to Verzasca Dam in Switzerland, or if you’re heading off to Greece this summer check out the jump site over the Corith Canal, which although lower at 260 feet is equally spectacular.
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