Going Places: Thrill-seekers take the plunge


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Thrill-seekers take the plunge with bungy-jumping

Jumpers’ ankles are attached to a
cord with webbing and a carabiner

To bungy-jump is to laugh in the face of something we all know inherently to be true: People can’t fly.

“We’re going to do a countdown and then you’re going to jump,” one of the attendants explained.

They were so nonchalant, while I had a hundred questions. I wanted to make sure I did everything right.

“What do I do? How do I jump? How long will I fall? Will I hit the water?”

To bungy-jump is to laugh in the face of something we all know inherently to be true: People can’t fly.

They suggested I simply fall like a tree — “Tim-ber!” — with my arms spread out. Aside from that there really were no guidelines. Gravity would take care of the rest. Looking around and down for the first time since climbing the steps to the bridge, I was struck suddenly by the kind of panic that renders all movement impossible. I could barely raise a hand
to wave to the video camera below.

1.2 meg video clip
(AVI or Quicktime)

In an instant I was transported to that clear spring day in May 1980 when I climbed out the third-floor window of a friend’s house to see the Mount St. Helens ash cloud — and when it was time to go back inside I was frozen to the roof with terror, unable to take the small leap of faith to get back to the window.

Seventeen years later, it felt as though my shoes were nailed to the floor once again. I decided that jumping off a bridge was just too real. After all, I had just walked from the solid ground below that now seemed so far away. I didn’t have the will to fling myself off a bridge. I tried to back away from the edge, to return to the safety of the rope-up area. I took a step
back — directly into the jump-monitor, who firmly held his ground behind me.

After their leaps of faith, jumpers
are lowered into a rubber raft

Bungy jumping has its origins in an ancient tradition of the tiny island of Pentecost in the South Pacific. For hundreds of years, the men of this small agricultural community have been flinging themselves off 115-foot towers as a rite of passage, with nothing but a vine attached to their feet. Making the jump is a sign of manhood and fertility. It’s also thought to
bring a good yam harvest.

As for my jump, I don’t have any yams to show for it, but I can say it was the most exhilarating experience of my life. After plummeting from the bridge (and getting
my head dunked in the Nanaimo River), I sprinted to the top of the stairs, ready for another free-fall.

Jennifer DuBois is Outside Online‘s managing editor. She says she can’t wait for her next jump.

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