There’s a freedom in falling, but what is it? The moment when your feet leave the ground and you’re enveloped in nothingness, at once movement and static. As a child, it manifests in those acts of bravery that seem almost other worldly at the time, like diving from the highest diving board at the local swimming pool to experience that short burst of weightlessness before crashing through the water and feeling your body once again adhere to the laws of gravity. But for those few seconds, as a gravity defying renegade, you escape the constraints of your own body and get to see what life is like when the rules of the world don’t apply to you. There is a freedom in falling then, because it’s not really falling at all, it’s flying.
It’s with that same adult sense of adventure and bravado, a perhaps socially masochistic streak if you will, that drives people to conquer one of the most primal fears and experience the most soaring joy. I speak of course, about Bungee Jumping.
I’ll throw this out in the universe right now and let opinions land where they may – I believe bungee jumping to be far more difficult and challenging than sky diving. I’d like to think I have grounds for an opinion as I’ve done both and to me the difference is a simple one.
You get pushed out of a plane when you sky dive, but you must make the leap yourself from the height of the bungee platform back to terra firma. And yes, there’s certainly an argument that it’s only during tandem sky diving where you find yourself pushed from a plane but for most first timer’s that will be the initial experience.
But back to Bungee. To stand on the edge of a precipice, whether on the world first commercial bungee site at the Kawarau Bridge in New Zealand as I first did, or indeed anywhere else in the world, is to face yourself on the most basic of levels and ask the question, “do you have what it takes?”
As a species, we hold an innate fear of falling. Toddlers having never been exposed to the dangers of height will avoid going near large drops in what is known as the ‘cliff-edge phenomenon’.
“The will to live is naturally more powerful than the risk of dying. That is what makes the bungee the ultimate experience it is.”
To peer down at the ground where once you stood and ignore every biological urge not to jump. It is truly the most liberating and exhilarating release. For some an out of body experience, for others, out of their mind.
Having been lucky enough to test my own mettle at the end of the rope in both New Zealand and Bali I offer these as some guidelines to keep in mind should you next find yourself with the chance to jump.
It seems insane of course. What rational person would pay upwards of hundreds of dollars to be strapped at the ankles and filmed leaping from the height of a 13-story building?
If you’re at that stage of questioning then you need to relax and accept it for what it is, not a chance at ending your own life, but a way of opening it up.
I can vividly recall going up the lift in Bali, Indonesia raised atop a crane, and feeling my heart beat out of my chest. It would have been easy to return to the ground the same way, but at what personal cost? It’s a psychological reality that the only way past fear, is through it.
To recognise the symptoms of your body as it desperately seeks to turn you around – a beating heart, beads of sweat, the tightness in your chest, and to push past them, will do wonders for both your confidence now and going forward in life.
We’d all like to think that those moments that define us will come around often, in reality they are placed sparsely in your life which only adds to their importance. You probably won’t find yourself jumping very often, my two times seem worlds apart in my personal history, and it’s important to acknowledge this at the time. This means dressing appropriately, in my case I opted for a dress shirt and pants with a classy belt and nice shoes to match.
I thought it would look cool in photos, what transpired was my shirt becoming untucked leaving me with a range of photos swinging from the Kawarau bridge with my shirt wrapped around my head. If the option arises for you to wear a costume provided on site or to be dunked in any form of water, take it every time.
Yes, Bungee jumping is expensive, but so are movie tickets these days or going to the zoo. And you will be hard pressed to feel the life changing effects of either of those two options, even if it’s a particularly good movie or an excellent zoo.
“You don’t have to consider yourself a spontaneous person or even a particularly risky person to bungee jump.”
Just drop the cash, potentially drop your guts in the bathroom, then drop your body from a beautiful height. You can’t put a price on the most memorable moments of your life. You will never regret it a single day that you live.
In the immortal words of Aristotle, a man who never Bungee jumped, but would have been an adrenaline junkie for sure when he said “Courage is the first of human virtues because it makes all others possible”. Keep these words close to your heart. In life, if it scares you, it’s worth it. And when it comes to Bungee Jumping, you think you’ll be falling, but trust me when I say you will fly.
Words by Alexander PorterLast updated on Dec 9, 2019