Where Did Bungee Jumping Originate? + Who Invented It & The History

where did bungee jumping originate

There are between 50 and 65 bungee jumping sites the world over, with millions of people having jumped from these commercial operations since the mid-1980s. Whilst this extreme sport became widely popular in the 1990s, it actually has a very rich and interesting heritage that originates from a lot longer ago.

Today I am going to give you a history of bungee jumping, explaining where bungee jumping originated from, who invented it, how it became an extreme sport, and even how the name came about.

Read on for the most comprehensive guide to bungee jumping history and facts anywhere on the Internet!

History of bungee jumping

Bungee jumping in some form or another has been around for thousands of years. As a sport, it only become popular as an extreme sport in the 20 th century, but the origins can be traced back further…

The origins of bungee jumping

Where did bungee jumping originate from? Theory has it that what could be described as the first bungee jumps originated on Pentecost Island in the South Pacific thousands of years ago. The Naghol land diving ritual is the earliest recorded instance of an activity that could be compared to bungee jumping.

Date unknown: the Naghol ritual of land diving

Pentecost Island is located in the South Pacific and is part of the Vanuatu nation. It can lay claim to having what we could describe as being the origins of bungee jumping. And here’s why…

According to local legend, the wife of a native man called Tamalie was fed up with his abuse and decided to run off into the jungle. She scaled a tree to escape his violence whilst he was in hot pursuit.

As Tamalie pursued his wife through the branches, she tied long vines around her ankles, and in fear for her life, leapt into the air. As she fell, the vines broke her fall. The vines had acted like an elastic bungee cord, meaning she was able to make a safe escape. Tamalie wasn’t so lucky. He leapt after his wife (minus the vine bungee cords), crashing into the ground to his death.

This dare devil act by Tamalie’s wife led to a religious event called “Naghol” being organised. It was originally an annual ritual where villagers would construct 75-foot-high wooden towers and the local women would throw themselves off with vines attached to their ankles.

The Naghol ritual continued for centuries eventually evolving into a springtime event during April, May and June. Men ended up taking over the ritual, diving to the ground in order to prove how brave they were.

history of bungee jumping

Bungee jumping is considered to have originated from the ancient ritual of land diving. (By Paul Stein from New Jersey, USA – piv_121, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link)

The idea was that as they jumped and bounced close to the ground, their hair would brush against the ground, which they believed would help fertilize the soil for a bountiful crop.

Naghol is now a hugely popular event that even tourists will attend. It involves a huge party and ceremony on the island each year. The men will stand at the top of tower, raise their arms to silence the dancing crowds, cross their arms in a corpse position, then make the leap.

How Naghol land diving came to inspire modern-day bungee jumping is open to dispute. But there’s no doubt that this is where bungee jumping originated from. You can read more about land diving on Wikipedia.

From what I have researched, I found that the western world didn’t discover Pentecost Island until the 1600s, so we can only speculate when the first ever land dive took place.

But we do know that during World War 2, the Allied military forces used Pentecost Island as a base, and saw the natives taking part in the Naghol land diving ritual. I would imagine that word soon made it back to the UK after seeing these insane jumps and traditions.

It wasn’t until 1960 that the wider western world got to see this early form of bungee jumping. The BBC sent David Attenborough to the island, and he came back with footage of the Naghol ritual taking place. The BBC aired “The People of Paradise” series, with one episode in particular capturing the imagination of future bungee jumpers…

The episode was called “The Land Divers of Pentecost” and showed the natives bungee jumping from their wooden towers. My theory is that David Kirke probably saw this show, which then inspired him to do the first ever recorded bungee jump in the UK, but more about that in moment.

Before we get into the next section on how and where bungee jumping originated, take a look at this old archive clip of land diving which I think was shot in the 1970s.

Where was the world’s first bungee jump?

Where was the first ever bungee jump? The world’s first bungee jump which used elasticated cords was on the 1 st of April 1979. David Kirke bungee jumped from the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol, UK using a rudimentary bungee cord set-up made with harnesses and buckles from a hang-gliding club.

1979: the world’s first bungee jump in Bristol, UK

Sounds scary doesn’t it? And you’d be right, it was. But David Kirke and the other members of the Dangerous Sports Club were used to encouraging each other to always take things one step further. Here’s how the world’s first ever bungee jump (as we would describe it) happened…

It was April Fool’s Day in 1979. David Kirke and two friends from Oxford University had spent the previous evening downing champagne and devising the stunt to end all stunts. The plan was to use gear from their local hang-gliding club and see if they could bungee jump from the 75-meter-high (246 feet) Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol… and survive the fall.

On the morning of the world’s first ever bungee jump, David Kirke decided to go first. At nine thirty in the morning, wearing a smart tuxedo with top hat, and holding a bottle of champagne, he made the leap into the unknown.

People who saw him jump initially thought he was attempting suicide. And rightly so; The Clifton Suspension Bridge records 4 suicides jumps a year on average.

However, the onlookers soon saw the bungee cord trailing from his ankles, as he then stopped before hitting the water and began to bounce back up again – just like a modern-day bungee jumper would do.

David Kirke was then followed by his two friends, who can go down in the history of bungee jumping as being the second and third ever leaps recorded.

The Bristol police were soon on the scene, and found the daring trio hanging upside down. They were promptly arrested and taken to the cells. It’s not known If they were charged or not but reports from the time say that the police were more amused than angry, so I’d like to think they got off without a court summons.

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According to BBC news, David Kirke was quoted in recent years as saying this about the world’s first bungee jump:

“It was an almost beatific moment. All sorts of sensory impressions, a klunk and then you are whooshing up again. It has since made a lot of people who I will never meet happy and given them fun. That is the real reward, the richness of it.”

One of David Kirke’s co-jumpers in the Dangerous Sports Club, a guy called Simon Keeling had this to say when interviewed years later:

“Just as I was looking down over the side of the bridge, I saw out of the corner of my eye that Dave was plummeting down. He had gone. Then he bounced back up so I thought right, it works and if it is OK for him it’s OK for me.”

These two legends along with their un-named co-adventurers are in my mind the people who brought bungee jumping into the public conscious as something that could be done for fun.

Whilst they aren’t responsible for where bungee jumping originated from (I give that credit to the Pentecost Island land-divers), they went onto to inspire the next character in this history lesson who brought the sport to the masses.

You can see amateur video footage of the world’s first bungee jump from the Clifton Suspension Bridge in this YouTube clip below.

Who invented bungee jumping?

Who invented the bungee jump? Bungee jumping as a sport was invented by New Zealander AJ Hackett. He first jumped from the Greenhithe Bridge in Auckland in 1986, and then went on to open the first commercial bungee jumping operations to the public.

1986: the start of commercial bungee jumping

David Kirke and his crew continued their high publicity bungee jumping stunts throughout the 1970s, jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and even from hot air balloons. They made the stunts famous and inspired a young New Zealander by the name of AJ Hackett. Here’s how we went on to invent bungee jumping as we know it today…

In the 1980s, AJ Hackett saw some old TV footage of David Kirke bungee jumping and decided he had to try it out for himself. He could see the commercial opportunity, but first had to test his equipment out before letting the public try it.

He worked with his friend at their struggling ski shop to develop bungee cords that were made from latex rubber, climbing equipment and parachute harnesses. They didn’t have any safety back-ups… so they took their life into their hands with each test.

His friend Chris Lott that jumped with him, said this about these scary days:

“To see who would jump first we drew straws. But we weren’t nervous. The first jump was only 19 meters so it was more about hoping it would work.”

By 1986 he was ready to take his first bungee jump from the Greenhithe Bridge in Auckland. He went on to jump from locations such as the Eiffel Tower in France. By 1988 he was confident enough in the gear he had developed to open up his first public bungee jumping site.

Kawaru Bridge Bungy near Queenstown in New Zealand (see website) opened in November of 1988 and helped to bring the sport to the public’s imagination. From that point onwards, bungee jumping become the popular extreme sport we know and love today.

who invented the bungee jump

AJ Hackett is widely considered to be the person who invented bungee jumping as we know in its modern format.

AJ Hackett went on to open bungee jump sites across the world, and to this day remains one of the most successful bungee operators on the planet. He also holds the world record for the highest ever tandem bungee which he did from a helicopter. Check out this guide to helicopter bungee jumping which includes locations and prices.

According to quotes I found on the Guardian website, AJ Hackett had this to say about being considered the person who invented bungee jumping:

“I used to do a lot of climbing so knew about ropes, but we wanted to figure out if it could be predictable, so that we could go to greater heights. I still recall my first jump. I had the most amazing sensation.”

How did bungee jumping get its name?

But what about the name bungee jumping? Where did it get its name from and why do we call it this? We have to go back to the 1970s for this, and that man David Kirke can take the credit again.

How did bungee jumping get its name? The bungee jumping name was first coined by David Kirke to describe their modern version of land-diving first attempted in 1979. It probably came from the 1938 dictionary record of the phrase “bungy launching” which was used in the gliding world.

Going further back, the word bungee is of old English dialect, originating from the west country part of the UK meaning “anything thick and squat”.

And there you have it; the name for bungee jumping was also invented by the Dangerous Sports Club to describe this newly found craze. According to Wikipedia, the bungee jumping name

Here’s how Wikipedia describe it:

“The name bungee originates from West Country dialect of English language, meaning anything thick and squat, as defined by James Jennings in his book “Observations of Some of the Dialects in The West of England” published 1825. Around 1930, the name became used for a rubber eraser. The Oxford English Dictionary records the use in 1938 of the phrase bungy-launching of gliders using an elasticized cord.”

As we already know the Dangerous Sports Club used a hang gliding club to get their gear ready for the first ever bungee jump, this origin of the name stacks up as being very believable.

Is it bungee jumping or bungy jumping?

You will notice different variations on the spelling. The two are interchangeable and both can be used.

In New Zealand, the term bungy is most commonly used, whereas bungee is more popular around the rest of the world. There is no right or wrong way to spell it.

What country made bungee jumping popular?

But what country made bungee jumping popular? Well, as a commercial sport and activity you can’t look any further than New Zealand.

Due to AJ Hackett’s efforts, bungee jumping took off to unprecedented levels of popularity. His commercial operations brought the sport to the fore, and New Zealand is considered the true birthplace of bungee jumping, and the country which made it popular today.


To wrap up this explainer on the origins of bungee jumping, I wanted to just put your mind at ease. If you’re thinking about doing a jump and are worried about safety, then you shouldn’t be as worried as you might be.

Whilst there are some operators in certain counties where the health and safety can be questioned, the ones in the western world are very safe. In fact, bungee jumping deaths are very rare, with around 1 a year on average.

But now you know where bungee jumping originates and the history of the sport, you can’t help but credit these pioneers for taking their lives into their hands so we can have fun.

Without the guys (and girls) who invented bungee jumping, the world would definitely be a less interesting place.

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How to Bungee Jump

wikiHow is a “wiki,” similar to Wikipedia, which means that many of our articles are co-written by multiple authors. To create this article, 29 people, some anonymous, worked to edit and improve it over time.

There are 11 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

This article has been viewed 130,911 times.

Ever hear people say, “If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you?” Well if you would like to answer yes to that question, then bungee jumping is the answer! Bungee jumping can be an incredible experience and it is important to prepare yourself.

Finding the Location

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  • Many harnesses are attached to your ankles and can exacerbate any ankle or knee problems you may be experiencing.
  • Neck and back injuries can make it difficult to bungee jump because of the pressure being put on them during your jump. Speak to your doctor.

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Make sure you are old enough. Some outfitters will allow jumpers as young as 14, others only allow those 16 years old and above. In many cases, if you are under 18 then your parent or guardian will have to accompany you to sign any waivers the outfitter provides. [2] X Research source

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  • You can jump from bridges, cranes, platforms on buildings, towers, hot air balloons, helicopters or cable cars. Choose whichever location appeals most to you. [4] X Research source

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  • The BERSA (British Elastic Rope Sports Association) Code of Safe Practice is a safety guideline for operators. [6] X Research source It covers three important topics: informed participation (meaning you must understand the risks involved), redundancy (meaning there are back-up systems in place so that if one component fails the whole system will not fail) and competence (meaning that all equipment and personnel must be of sufficient quality to competently perform their function). This code allows you to ensure that your operator is safe. [7] X Research source

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Don’t be afraid to ask questions. This also helps you check up on the outfitter and ensure they know what they are doing. You can ask about their equipment, staff training, operating standards, history and so on. This helps you determine how knowledgeable, friendly and safe they are as an outfitter.

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Look into costs. Look into costs in advance as well- expect to pay up to $100 or more. Many outfitters will charge a deposit when you book which could be around $50 or half of the total cost.

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Book your jump. You might want to book in advance to ensure that when you arrive you are able to jump. Some outfitters require advance booking because you have to take transportation to the location of the jump.

Preparing Yourself

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  • Just because you are afraid of heights does not mean you won’t jump. Bungee jumping is a very different experience and you may not feel the same while jumping- especially because of the adrenaline rush!

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Dress correctly. Wear comfortable clothes and tuck your shirt in so that it does not fly up when you decelerate, showing everyone your stomach. Similarly do not wear a skirt. Your clothes should not be restrictive or too loose. Shoes should be flat-soled and attach securely to your feet. Do not wear boots or shoes that come up high on your ankles or else they can interfere with connecting the ankle harnesses. [9] X Research source

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Tie up your hair. If you have long hair you must tie it up so that it does not get stuck in any of the components or hit you in the face while you are jumping.

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  • A body harness will allow you to move around more easily and complete spins or flips more easily. If you are connected via a body harness you should have at least a sit harness and shoulder harness, or a full body harness. [4] X Research source

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  • Other types of dives include the back dive, railing jump (similar to swallow except you are jumping off a railing on some bridges), bat drop (where you are hanging upside down on the edge of the platform before jumping and then simply drop), elevator (drop feet first but can be very dangerous and break your ankles) and tandem (jumping with two people at one time). [4] X Research source

Image titled Bungee Jump Step 13

Watch others jumping. Take some time to relax and watch other people jump before starting your experience. This can help you ease your mind and nerves.

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Shave your legs. If you are using a leg harness, then they will have to lift your pants to strap it on. If the sight of your unshaven legs embarrasses you, be sure to shave prior to jumping.

Jumping Off

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Sign in with your outfitter. You will pay the balance for your jump if you have not already and sign a few forms and waivers. Although bungee jumping is very safe, they will want to make sure you understand the potential risks. If you have any questions about the waiver, do not hesitate to ask a crew member.

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Be prepared to be weighed. They will weigh you to make sure they are using the correct equipment for you body weight and to make sure you are not over the weight limit of the outfitter.

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Go to the top of the bungee bridge. When you get to the top of the bungee, there will be instructors up there who will prep you. If you can make it to the top, then you should be fine because this is one of the scariest parts!

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Listen to your instructors. Listen to what they have to say, as it will make your jump more enjoyable. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions- that’s what they are there for. The instructors will put padding around your ankles and then attach big elastic bands around them, which will in turn be attached to the actual bungee cord!

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  • Don’t look down before jumping! You will have plenty of time to admire the scenery while jumping. Looking down before you jump might make you change your mind.

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  • After the jump, a guy in a boat might come and unhook you from the cords or they will lift you back up to the bridge or wherever you jumped from.

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Community Q&A

I would recommend speaking with your doctor before going bungee jumping to ensure it won’t further damage your back.

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You should talk to your doctor to determine if bungee jumping will be harmful with your heart condition.

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No, rubber bands are not meant to hold the weight of a human. You need something that is safer and stronger.

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Read Post  A Complete Guide To Bungee Jumping

As a small thank you, we’d like to offer you a $30 gift card (valid at GoNift.com). Use it to try out great new products and services nationwide without paying full price—wine, food delivery, clothing and more. Enjoy!

As a small thank you, we’d like to offer you a $30 gift card (valid at GoNift.com). Use it to try out great new products and services nationwide without paying full price—wine, food delivery, clothing and more. Enjoy!

As a small thank you, we’d like to offer you a $30 gift card (valid at GoNift.com). Use it to try out great new products and services nationwide without paying full price—wine, food delivery, clothing and more. Enjoy!

As a small thank you, we’d like to offer you a $30 gift card (valid at GoNift.com). Use it to try out great new products and services nationwide without paying full price—wine, food delivery, clothing and more. Enjoy!

As a small thank you, we’d like to offer you a $30 gift card (valid at GoNift.com). Use it to try out great new products and services nationwide without paying full price—wine, food delivery, clothing and more. Enjoy!

As a small thank you, we’d like to offer you a $30 gift card (valid at GoNift.com). Use it to try out great new products and services nationwide without paying full price—wine, food delivery, clothing and more. Enjoy!

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  1. ↑https://www.acsh.org/news/2016/08/19/bungee-jumping-and-the-art-of-risk-assessment
  2. ↑http://www.ukbungee.co.uk/faqs/3/health-age-restrictions
  3. ↑https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/worlds-15-best-bungee-jumping-sites/index.html
  4. ↑
  5. ↑http://www.cnn.com/2011/09/23/travel/adventure-travel/
  6. ↑http://www.bungeezone.com/orgs/bersa.shtml
  7. ↑http://www.ukbungee.co.uk/content/14/safety-information
  8. ↑https://www.forbes.com/sites/rebeccanewton/2016/06/28/six-ways-to-overcome-your-nervousness-gremlin/
  9. ↑https://www.traveldudes.org/travel-tips/10-practical-tips-first-time-bungee-jumpers/139688
  1. ↑http://www.bungeezone.com/equip/harness.shtml
  2. ↑ www.bungeezone.com/types/
  3. ↑https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/smashing-the-brainblocks/201511/7-things-you-need-know-about-fear

About This Article

wikiHow is a “wiki,” similar to Wikipedia, which means that many of our articles are co-written by multiple authors. To create this article, 29 people, some anonymous, worked to edit and improve it over time. This article has been viewed 130,911 times.

Before you bungee jump, make sure to put on correct clothes, like flat shoes attached securely to your feet and t-shirts and pants that don’t restrict your movement. If you’re feeling nervous beforehand, take some time to watch others jump so you can see how it’s done. When you’re ready to jump, fill in the forms provided by the operator and get weighed to determine what equipment you need. Then, go up to the top of the bungee bridge and follow the instructions given by the staff. Finally, jump when a staff member yells “Go!”. For tips on whether to jump backwards or forwards, and how to check the bungee outfitters’ safety record, read on!

A.J. Hackett and the history of bungee jumping

Today, bungee jumping is a common extreme sport that can be found in almost every country around the world. But it must have taken some nerve to be the first person to attempt to jump from a bridge with nothing but an oversized elastic band strapped to your ankles.

New Zealander A.J. Hackett is often credited as being the originator of the bungee jump, but while he certainly popularised it and set up the first commercial jump, the history of bungee goes back a long way – probably further than you think.


Origins in Vanuatu

Bungee jumping was actually inspired by the ritual known as ‘land diving’, which originated hundreds (or perhaps even thousands) of years ago on Pentecost Island – one of the islands that makes up the country on Vanuatu in the South Pacific.

The ritual came about as a part of an ancient story of a local woman who was being mistreated by her husband. The legend says that she often attempted to run away only to be caught and punished. So she came up with a plan and when she ran away she climbed up the tallest banyan tree on the island, tying a vine around her ankle as she made her way to the top. Her husband followed her in an attempt to catch her and bring her back. When she reached the top of the tree, the woman jumped to the floor and the vine broke her fall. She then taunted her husband, saying that he was too cowardly to perform the jump himself. With no vine around his ankle, the husband threw himself after her, only to fall to his death.

The event has been reconstructed ever since as the islanders build a tower and then jump from it as a means of providing their bravery and warding off evil spirits, including that of the husband who plummeted to his demise. It is believed that a successful Yam harvest can only be achieved if the ritual takes place.

Oxford University Dangerous Sports Club


In the 1970s, the first footage of land diving surfaced around the world. A copy of the footage got into the hands of the Oxford University Dangerous Sports Club – a group of people based in Oxford and London. These were some of the early pioneers of extreme sports and in fact they coined the word ‘bungee’ in reference to their first attempts to emulate land diving.

In 1979 members of the club visited the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol where they carried out the first successful bungee jump. However, it was seen very much as a niche activity that the club confined to its own members. The club itself had a policy of dressing in rather aristocratic dress and there was an element of elitism surrounding the group. It wasn’t until bungee jumping made its way to New Zealand that the sport gained notoriety around the world.

A.J. Hackett

While the Oxford University Dangerous Sports Club may have invented the concept of bungee jumping as a pleasurable activity, it was then that A.J. Hackett and some of his friends who took it to the mainstream. Hackett and his cameraman Chris Sigglekow had seen the footage of the land diving in Vanuatu and had learned about the Club’s experimental jumps and they were keen to attempt it themselves.

Creating a stretchy elastic cord they performed their first jump from the Greenhithe Bridge in Auckland in 1986. The jump went exactly as planned and the two enjoyed the rush so much that they vowed to attempt higher jumps. Roping in other friends, they visited several other bridges in New Zealand before heading to Europe.

During this time they moved away from the system of using a parachute harness (which meant they jumped feet first) or an ankle-tie, allowing them to jump head first. A run-in with the authorities in New Zealand led to the police contacting Television New Zealand to put out a story warning people not to jump from bridges. However, this actually acted as publicity for Hackett and got people interested in the idea.


Bungee had captured the imagination of the public and Hackett saw this an opportunity to explore the idea further. He attracted even more media attention when he managed to illegally bungee from the Eiffel Tower.

Hackett opened the world’s first commercial bungee jump site in 1988 in Ohakune, before finally setting up a permanent operation at Kawarau Bridge in Queenstown. Today Queenstown is known as a hub of extreme sports in New Zealand and attracts over 500,000 visitors a year.

Bungee or Bungy?

It is interesting that there is no definitive agreement on whether the correct spelling of the word is ‘bungee’ or ‘bungy’. It is generally considered that Oxford University Dangerous Sports Club first created the term and their spelling was ‘bungee’. But in New Zealand, where the sports was popularised and commercialised, ‘bungy’ is the preferred spelling.

It’s usually considered that both spellings are acceptable, although in the UK and much of the world, ‘bungee’ is the usual way.

By Sara Bryant, independent content writer who consulted UK experience day specialist Into the Blue over some of the information contained

Source https://outdoorasaurus.com/bungee-jumping/bungee-jumping-history-originate/

Source https://www.wikihow.com/Bungee-Jump

Source https://www.talk-business.co.uk/2016/09/22/aj-hackett-history-bungee-jumping/

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