What is Bungee Jumping?
If you want an adrenaline rush like no other, bungee jumping is for you! The story of bungee jumping takes us on a global journey spanning hundreds if not thousands of years, from a tiny island in the South Pacific to Oxford University via the Clifton Suspension Bridge and then on to New Zealand. Read on to find out the answer to ‘what is bungee jumping’ and perhaps most importantly ‘what are bungee jumping cords made of’.
Who first stood on a tall bridge and wondered how great it would be to jump off with not much more than a big rubber band stopping you from slamming into the surface below at breakneck speed? Whoever it was started a craze for bungee jumping that spans the globe.
Here, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about what bungee jumping is, including the amazing facts behind the highest bungee jump in the world as well as finding out what is tandem bungee jump. Strap in for the ride of your life…!
The Fascinating History of Bungee Jumping
Young woman on edge of bungee platform (Photo: Darryl Leniuk via Getty Images)
It all starts on Pentecost Island, one of the 83 islands that make up the nation of the Republic of Vanuatu in the South Pacific. It is 1,750km east of Australia and 540km west of Fiji. It’s remote. Very remote.
The story goes that a local woman who was mistreated by her husband tried and failed many times to run away. One time, she climbed up the tallest banyan tree on the island and tied a vine (known as a liana) tightly around her ankles. Her husband followed her up the tree and she jumped, yet the vine managed to break her fall. Her husband jumped after her, plummeting to his death.
Her exploits evolved into the ritual of land diving, said by some to be the predecessor of bungee jumping, which takes place during the yam harvest season in late spring. The island’s men construct wooden towers up to 30 metres high and tie two vines around their ankles. For the first-timers it is the ascent from boyhood into manhood, while for the more experienced it’s believed that it can ward off evil spirits, cure illnesses and even ensure a bumper yam harvest!
Thousands of miles away, on April 1st 1979, David Kirke and Simon Keeling – members of the Oxford University Dangerous Sports Club – jumped off the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol tied to crude elastic cords and were promptly arrested. A decade later, New Zealander AJ Hackett opened the first commercial bungee jumping site at the Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge on New Zealand’s South Island.
So that’s the potted history of bungee jumping. Now you know how it came to be, but exactly what is bungee jumping?
Bone-Jarring Bungee Jumping
Young couple bungee jumping, and screaming (Photo: Darryl Leniuk via Getty Images)
Put simply, bungee jumping is an activity that involves jumping head first from a high place – a bridge, a building, a dam or crane or even a helicopter or hot-air balloon – while attached to an incredibly strong elastic cord. The cord length, which is calculated exactly depending on your weight, prevents you from hitting the ground and instead allows you to bounce back up into the air. This essentially answers the most basic elements of the question ‘what is bungee jumping’.
Usually, you are attached to two harnesses, one around the ankles and another around the body for additional safety. There are incredibly rigorous guidelines and standards governing bungee jumping and over the years, millions of bungee jumps have taken place all over the world.
While most people do it alone, many ask what is tandem bungee jump? A tandem jump is no different to a solo jump – you have the same harnesses – but the only addition is that they are connected together and you are face to face with your jumping partner.
What are Bungee Jumping Cords Made Of?
Bungee jump cord in action (Photo: mayo5 via Getty Images)
Sometimes known as a shock cord, the cords used for bungee jumping are natural or artificial rubber strands wrapped in heavy-duty woven cotton or polypropylene fabric, a synthetic thermoplastic polymer which is soft and lightweight and also, crucially, incredibly strong.
The rubber strands spring back to their original shape, they have amazing tensile strength and can take very heavy loads without breaking.
So now you know the answers to ‘what are bungee jumping cords made of’ and ‘what is bungee jumping’, how high do you think the highest bungee jump in the world is? You might be shocked at the answer!
How High? No Way!
Taking the leap of faith (Photo: Mayte Torres via Getty Images)
To be the best in the world at anything you need to go to extremes and the highest bungee jump in the world is no different.
The official record books have a number of different highest bungee jump in the world records and unsurprisingly some of them feature AJ Hackett.
Highest Bungee Jump From A Building In December 2006, AJ Hackett jumped off a 233 metre high platform at the Macau Tower in Macau, China and bungeed 199 metres.
Longest Unstretched Bungee Jump Cord German Jochen Schweitzer used a 284 metre bungee cord jumping from an SA 365 Dauphine helicopter hovering 2,500 metres over the town of Reichelsheim in southwest Germany.
Longest Stretched Bungee Jump Cord This record belongs to Frenchman Gregory Riffi whose 249.9 metre bungee cord stretched to an amazing 610 metres when he jumped out of a helicopter over the Loire Valley in France in 1992.
Highest Tandem Bungee Jump This world record belongs to AJ Hackett and Australian TV presenter Grant Denyer who jumped from a helicopter hovering 300 metres above Australia’s famous Bondi Beach in New South Wales in November 2005. The cord stretched to 250 metres.
So now we’ve answered the question ‘what is bungee jumping’, are you ready to take the plunge?
Bungee Leap of Faith
A video does not show the world’s first “wireless” bungee jumper. It’s a promotion for the Ikea furniture chain’s wireless chargers.
Published Nov 6, 2015
[green-label]Claim:[/green-label] A video shows the world’s first wireless bungee jump.
[green-label]Example:[/green-label] [green-small][Collected via e-mail, October 2015][/green-small]
Is this video real? For a magnet to function in this fashion, it would have to be “Supercooled” with Helium as used in Magnetic Resonance Imaging. The ground magnets in this video don’t even appear to be locked onto the ground, so why don’t they move away from the jumper as he approaches them.
How does the jumper finally get down on the ground? If the magnetic was just switched off, he would fall quite a distance from what the is seen on the video.
[green-label]Origins:[/green-label] A video purportedly showing the world’s first “wireless” bungee jump has been circulating online since June 2015, when it was first uploaded to YouTube by Ikea Belgium:
The video was widely circulated on social media sites, and it’s possible that many of the people who encountered the above-displayed footage did so somewhere other than via Ikea’s official YouTube account. This may have contributed to the notion that the “World’s First Wireless Bungee Jump” was real, but if those viewers had watched the entire 3-minute video to its end, they would have encountered the following message from the Ikea furniture chain describing the phenomenon of wireless bungee jumping as something that might be a reality someday (in contrast to Ikea’s wireless chargers, which are available now):
In other words, while Ikea is now offering wireless chargers, the company has not yet developed the technology that would allow for wireless bungee jumping.
Bungee Jumping Equipment List
Bungee jumping is an activity that has drawn the bravest and boldest of participants; those who seek to test their courage or get a thrill of adrenaline. As death defying as it seems, the bungee cords, harnesses, and rigging systems are perfectly safe in professional hands.
Table of Contents
Bungee jumping is a sport where you’re up against your own fear. Those who take the dive get to test their courage and enjoy breathtaking scenes of nature with a bird’s eye view of the world. It is a daunting but rewarding activity which attracts the boldest and most daring of participants.
A lot of care and calculated science goes into the setup of bungee cords, harnesses, and rigging systems to ensure the jumper’s utmost safety. All the essential equipment for bungee jumping will be provided by your professional trainers and hosting establishment. Unless you are a trained professional with knowledge and access to reliable resources, you should never attempt to assemble and test your own bungee jump setup. Failsafe equipment and an instructor’s guidance are absolutely crucial for your safety during a bungee jump.
Make sure to research your establishment before you sign up! You should consider what kind of scene you want to (quite literally) dive into, whether it be off a bridge, over a body of water, a crane or tower, or a famous landmark. The environment you choose is part of the experience. Safety regulations for bungee jumping are in place both in the US and overseas, but you want to make sure your host keeps up to code and properly follows safety procedures. Bungee jumping is safe when done correctly, but can be fatal in the wrong hands.
Bungee Body Harness
The body harness is the padded, securely strapped gear that connects you to the bungee cord and helps you absorb the drop’s shock. There are different types of body harnesses to choose from, and whichever you select may call for a different kind of dive.
The most common is the full body harness, which is worn around the chest, shoulders, waist, and thighs. It is comprised of two pieces, a leg or seat harness which protects your lower half, and a chest harness which protects your back, shoulders and chest. The proper jump for the full body harness is to jump out horizontally with your head tilted downwards in a swooping position, sometimes called the bat drop or the Superman dive. You can also take a backwards plunge, which means falling backwards with your head tilting towards the ground.
The other kind of harness is an ankle harness, which is somewhat less popular. The ankle harness is wrapped around both your ankles and accompanied by a leg harness wrapping around your thighs. The ankle harness is meant to leave you dangling by your feet after the jump, so your dive has to be more starkly nose-down. Instead of a swoop it should be more akin to a swimmer’s dive, a head-first plunge. As one might expect, ankle harnesses are not for the faint of heart.
Never, ever forget your bungee cord. Sometimes called a shock cord, your bungee cord is the key piece of equipment to every bungee jump. It attaches to the jumper via the harness and connects them to their jumping point. It puts the crucial stopper to your free dive, bouncing you up and down once you reach the bottom of your fall. The elasticity of the cord is crucial for softening the blow and ensuring a gentle as possible bounceback; if you were to jump attached to a chain or regular stiff rope, the blunt shock at the end of the fall would cause you great harm, or the rope could snap.
There are a few different styles of bungee cords, but they are all essentially made with a rubber core and a nylon or cotton cloth covering on the outside. Your average bungee cord can elongate anywhere from 100 to 300 percent, but its starting length varies with the altitude you choose to jump from. Cords usually last for 500 to 1,000 jumps before they are replaced. It is very important to make sure your bungee cord has proper elasticity.
Carabiners are the D-shaped metal junctions that connect the cords to the harness. They are made of pure steel and can withstand up to 14,000 pounds worth of stress, an essential feature of a high-impact sport like bungee jumping. They’re also used for rock climbing.
The main dress code requirement for bungee jumping is to make sure you’re comfortable and dressed for the weather. You can bungee jump in athletic wear, jeans, shorts, a ski jacket, or a wet suit if you’re by the water. Skirts, dresses, and anything too loose fitting should all be avoided, especially if they might interfere with the security of the body harness. You shouldn’t wear accessories like jewelry, glasses, or a watch because you’re likely to lose them in the fall. Hard eye contacts are also not recommended, but soft contacts are fine.
Bungee Jumping Helmet
A helmet isn’t absolutely necessary for bungee jumping, but most organizations and instructors encourage jumpers to wear one as a precaution. A well secured body harness is usually sufficient for safety equipment, as daunting as the dive might seem. However, an instructor will always insist on a helmet only in cases where a jumper wants to get close to the ground or touch the water they’re jumping towards. In recent years it’s increasingly popular for participants to attach GoPro or camera devices to their helmets, capturing their jump to watch back later.
The platform is the metal plank you jump from. Trainers advise you never to look down from the platform right before you jump, as it might cause last-minute nervousness which affects your ability to dive. It’s important to jump with as much calmness and clarity as possible so that you can make the proper head-first diving position and ensure your dive is clean. If you jump or step off the platform reluctantly, the improper position will likely put you through some needless whiplash during your jump.
The view from the platform can be daunting, but instructors will encourage you not to overthink it when you make the leap of faith. The highest raised platform in the world is currently the AJ Hackett Macau Tower bungee jump in Macau, China, which is a staggering 764 feet above ground.
Bungee Jumping Rigging System
The rigging system is the connection of pulleys and reels, ropes and metal connecting devices called carabiners that pull a jumper back onto the platform after the jump is completed. In some instances a jumper can be lowered to the ground and get off there, but more often than not a bungee setup will require a jumper to be returned to the jumping platform. In locations like bridges, towers, or platforms raised over a body of water, the rigging system is necessary to pull you back up.
Comfortable, securely tied sneakers are ideal for a bungee jump. Boots, heels, or anything with straps up the ankles should be avoided because they could interfere with your harness or cord. Sandals, flip flops, or anything too loose are also not recommended because you’ll likely lose them in the fall. You can also jump barefoot, which is somewhat common for more tropical jumping locations, but instructors recommend athletic shoes to get a proper grip of the ground for your jump.