Imagine standing/ at the edge/ of a tall bridge. Hundreds of meters/ below you, river water/ rushes by. You take a deep breath/ and jump off the bridge, head first/ into thin air. As a reaction/ to such excitement and fear, the hormone adrenaline/ floods through your body.
There is nothing/ but a long rubber rope/ attached to your ankles, holding on to your very life. Some people/ call it/ crazy. Others say/ it is exciting. Whatever you may think, bungee jumping/ has become a popular extreme sport/ all over the world.
Bungee jumping/ is not a new activity. Men/ on Pentecost Island/ in the South Pacific/ have been doing land jumping/ for hundreds of years. The men/ tie long vines/ from plants/ around their ankles. They spend days/ building tall towers/ out of vines and logs. Then/ they jump off these structures. It takes a great deal of skill/ to jump correctly/ and safely. Land diving/ for them/ is an important cultural activity.
According to their beliefs, the first land diver/ was a woman. She decided to run away/ from her abusive husband. So, she climbed up a tall tree/ and tied some vines/ around her feet. Her husband/ chased after her/ up the tree. He reached out/ to grab her, but the woman/ jumped/ and the man/ followed. The vines/ saved her life, but her husband/ died.
Land diving/ has become a way/ in which these island men/ show their bravery/ in front of the women. People/ of the village/ sing loud songs/ to show their support/ for the brave divers. This tradition/ is also a way/ for the men/ to voice their troubles/ in public. For example, a man/ can discuss his marriage problems/ before he jumps. The villagers - including his wife - must stand/ and listen.
This ancient custom/ caught the interest/ of some students/ at Oxford University/ in England. In the late nineteen seventies, they formed a group/ called the Dangerous Sports Club. They liked to invent risky/ and sometimes crazy activities. They were some of the first people/ to test several/ of what are now called/ extreme sports. They are said/ to have invented modern bungee jumping.
In the spring/ of nineteen seventy-nine, members of the group/ jumped off the Clifton Suspension Bridge/ in Bristol, England. They were attached/ to the bridge/ by a bungee cord, a long elastic rope/ that stretches. They were dressed/ in black and white clothing/ and held bottles/ of Champagne wine. The press/ quickly reported/ on their wild activities. The group/ soon received even more attention/ when they organized a bungee jump/ off the Golden Gate Bridge/ in San Francisco, California.
A man/ named A.J. Hackett/ of New Zealand/ later heard about this group. He decided/ to make the sport/ into a business. Mister Hackett/ worked with his friend/ Henry van Asch/ who was an expert/ at skiing. They started developing bungee ropes/ and materials. Scientists/ at Auckland University/ helped them. The two men knew/ that people/ would find bungee jumping/ exciting and fun. And they knew/ people/ would pay money/ for the experience.
To show the world/ about bungee jumping/ they held a major jump/ in nineteen eighty-seven/ off of the famous Eiffel Tower/ in Paris, France. They later got permission/ to open the first bungee jumping operation/ on the Kawarau Bridge/ in Queenstown, New Zealand.
Many people/ paid seventy-five dollars/ to jump off the bridge/ with a bungee cord/ attached to their ankles. Mister Hackett/ worked hard/ to make sure/ the public knew/ how safe/ his materials/ were. He developed a method/ to guarantee safety/ called the “Bungee Code of Practice.”
Bungee jumping/ might seem frightening. But it is a very safe activity/ if you go to a well-established bungee jump company. People/ who work for bungee operators/ usually have a great deal of training/ and experience. They use very strong and carefully made rubber ropes. They choose a rope/ based on the jumper’s body weight. This is so/ they can manage/ how much the rope/ stretches/ when the person falls.
The rope/ attaches through a harness device/ tied around the jumper’s ankles. Often, operators/ use a body harness/ as well. This is so/ that you have twice the protection/ in case one harness/ breaks. Good bungee operators/ make sure/ all equipment/ is in excellent condition. They should also do several checks/ to make sure all ropes, harnesses and ties/ are correctly attached.
It is important/ to remember/ that this sport/ is not safe/ for everyone. People/ who have high blood pressure/ or a heart condition/ should not try jumping. People/ with back or knee injuries/ or who suffer from epilepsy/ should also avoid this sport. And remember, if you do not feel/ like experiencing it yourself, you can always watch other people/ jump.
Now you have jumped, bounced up and down/ several times/ on the rubber rope, and are hanging/ by your ankles/ in the middle of the air. You may be wondering/ what you are supposed to do now. Do not worry. The operators/ have different choices/ for getting you back/ to land right side up again.
Often times, a bungee guide/ on a rope/ will attach to your rope/ and help you/ back up to the structure/ you jumped from. One extreme sports company/ gives a warning/ on its Web site. It warns/ that bungee jumping/ might lead to big smiles/ and deep feelings/ of happiness/ and excitement.
Since its beginnings/ in New Zealand, commercial bungee jumping/ has spread to countries/ everywhere. One of the highest bungee jumps/ in the world/ from a structure/ is near Locarno, Switzerland/ over the Verzasca Dam. The drop/ measures two hundred and twenty meters.
In fact, you can see the character/ James Bond/ jump off this very bridge/ in the nineteen ninety-five movie/ “GoldenEye.” Or, there is the two hundred and sixteen meter jump/ from the Bloukrans Bridge/ in South Africa. This is the highest single arch bridge/ in the world.
Of course, not every place/ has a body of water/ with a bridge/ from which you can jump. Some amusement parks/ offer bungee jumping/ from crane machinery. In the Andes Mountains/ of Peru, you can visit Action Valley/ outside the city of Cusco.
Visitors/ can jump from a metal box/ that hangs from cables/ high up in the air. Most of these companies/ can sell you/ video recordings/ or photographs/ of your jump. This way/ you can prove/ to your family/ back home/ that you were brave enough/ to bungee.
Now, extreme sports companies/ are finding ways/ to make bungee jumping/ even more frightening. Some/ offer bungee jumps/ at night, or jumps/ where you fall off a structure/ backwards. There are also bungee jumps/ from flying helicopters/ and hot air balloons.
You can also try bungee jumping/ for two. Some companies/ can harness two people together/ so you and a friend/ can experience/ twice the excitement. A.J. Hackett’s company/ even offers a sky jump/ off the tallest building/ in Macau. Just how far/ would you go/ to experience the fast rush/ of bungee fear?
Hosiah Mudzingwa/ helps run a bungee operation/ on the Victoria Falls bridge/ between Zimbabwe and Zambia/ in Africa. He has been jumping/ from this one hundred and eleven meter drop/ for many years. From the steel bridge/ you can see the giant waters/ of Victoria Falls, one of the largest waterfalls/ in the world.
Mister Mudzingwa explains/ that every human being/ wants to feel the rush of adrenaline. He says/ when you bungee jump, you leave all stress/ and bad thinking/ behind. He says/ you come back up/ with a new mind.
But what does a person/ who is new/ to bungee jumping/ think about this sport? Tim Rooney/ recently traveled to Victoria Falls. He only had twenty-four hours/ to spend/ in Zimbabwe. But he made sure/ he found time/ to jump off this famous bridge/ towards the powerful Zambezi River. Here is/ what he had to say/ about the experience.
“Hi, I’m Tim Rooney/ from Washington DC. Jumping off the bridge/ was one of the most spectacular, poetic moments/ of my life. The idea/ hadn’t really occurred to me/ until we got to the falls/ and we saw the view. I decided/ what better way/ to get to know this view/ than to jump into it.
"I think/ that the jump/ had more of a scary impact/ on my girlfriend/ who had to watch the whole thing. To an observer, a bungee jump/ looks like a terribly violent process. But the actual experience of it/ is one of floating. You jump/ and you don’t have any sensation/ of being tugged/ or falling/ or anything. You just are floating/ up and down. It is one of the most calm, wonderful things/ I have ever done. I recommend/ everybody/ do it.”