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Bungee Jumping History: What were they thinking!

“If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you too?”

Oh yes, I would! And you should too!

Bungee Jumping is one of the most extreme tests of courage. You know you’re not going to die. You’ve got all equipment in place, double and triple checked. But that moment, right before you jump, you always hesitate, if only for a couple of seconds. It’s never easy to just jump off. But the feeling of accomplishment after that is amazing.

Bungee is one of those things that you just look at and wonder, “What the hell were people thinking when they invented it?” A good Yam harvest, that’s what! Here’s the brief, surprising Bungee Jumping History



Bungee jumping has its roots in an ancient, somewhat weird, ritual of Pentecost Island, in the Southern Pacific. Legend has it that Tamalie, a native was abusing his wife. To get away, she climbed up a tree. He followed her up there. In the meanwhile, the said wife had tied vines around her ankles, but Tamalie didn’t know this. She jumped from the tree and was suspended by the vines. Tamalie jumped after her, but obviously hit the ground and died.

Image: Talk Business
Image: Talk Business

Since then, men have taken it upon themselves to practise this ritual of Naghol or Land Diving, to prove their manhood. Every year, at the start of the yam harvest season, men jump from a wooden tower built specifically for this, with elastic vines tied around their ankles. It is also said to help in ensuring a bountiful yam harvest.

David Attenborough, the legendary naturalist, visited Pentecost with a BBC camera crew in 1950. The world then heard about Land diving for the first time.

Clifton Suspension Bridge

bungee jumping history
Image: PressReader

Exactly 29 years later, on the April Fool’s day of 1979, the West saw the first ever Bungee Jump. David Kirke, dressed in a tuxedo, and holding a champagne bottle, jumped off the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol. Onlookers at first thought this was a suicide. But Kirk never hit the water, but slowed right before hitting it and began a re-ascent. His two other friends, all members of the Oxford University Dangerous Sports Club, did the same.

When police arrived, the trio were hanging upside down, from their ropes. They were arrested, fined, and turned into overnight sensations. But they didn’t stop here. They also jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge and the Royal George Bridge (sponsored by the TV show That’s Incredible). Their stunts made Bungee famous, as they took to jumping from cranes and hot air balloons.

AJ Hackett

Image: Talk Business
Image: Talk Business

The sport started its organized growth when AJ Hackett entered the scene. The New Zealander made his first jump from Greenhithe Bridge in Auckland in 1986. He performed several other jumps from structures, including the Eiffel Tower! He opened the World’s first ever commercial Bungee site – the Kawaru Bridge Bungy near Queenstown in New Zealand.

bungee jumping history

Hackett remains one of the largest and most successful commercial operators and has opened up sites in several countries.

Jumpin Heights


Although Bungee was not a completely foreign concept in India, jumps were usually from cranes and in malls, not that much of a thrill. Capt Rahul Nigam wanted to introduce Bungee in India so it could be perceived as ‘serious adventure’ and not ‘entertainment’. In 2006, he set up Jumpin Heights in Rishikesh, where participants jump from a height of 83m, just above the Ganga.

He flew in experts from New Zealand, and to date, the setup has a successful record, with Jumpmasters from New Zealand supervising the process.

Fun Fact

Or strange Fact- In April 2008, 37-year-old Carl Mosca Dionisio, jumped off a 30 m tower attached to a bungee cord. What’s so special about this, you ask?

Image: Metro
Image: Metro

Well, this cord was made entirely condoms- 18500, to be precise (Sigh, some people!)

You don’t have to be that crazy, but trying Bungee with the experienced instructors at Rishikesh, and watching the river below inch closer, is just the right kind of crazy.

Some other reads for those slow afternoons:

  1. History of Slacklining
  2. Origin of various Adventure Sports
  3. Tips for your solo adventures

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