Standing on the edge of a platform looking 150 feet straight down at the river below I thought to myself, how did I get roped into this mess? Do I really want to go ahead with this foolishness? Shouldn’t I be back with my feet firmly planted on the ground?

I was standing on the platform of a 100-ft high bridge. My fingers tightly holding the rails in a death grip. I was about to do a bungee jump because I had boasted to Himakar, my cousin, I could do anything he could. At that time didn’t take into account such craziness. Then I was full of false courage and so I let my cousin arrange for this jump on a lazy Sunday morning. He had fixed it with a local sports operator.

I have done many stupid things in life but I didn’t expect this particular foolishness to scare me as much as it did now. Taking this swan dive off this platform with just a largish rubber band tied to my body can only be termed a madcap and Xtreme sport. Also the 90 ft drop seemed like 900 metres from here! Where’s my momma?

But before the day dawned, I was curious to know about this sport – bungee?? bungy? Was the difference only in the way the Americans spell it and how the rest of the world spells it? Well, not exactly but its one of the reasons.

Actually there are two types of bungee jumping. Bungy, which originated in New Zealand and Australia, consists of rubber cords (with no elongation limitation) and it offers lower velocity and higher rebound but a smoother ride. While Bungee, the American variation, refers to the use of military-specification shock cords. Shock cords allow for a longer freefall but with a higher g-force, and greater hang-time on rebounds. Definitely not for the faint hearted.

Bungee [Illustration by Anup Singh]
Bungee [Illustration by Anup Singh]

The actual origin of bungee jumping come from the ritual practiced by the “land divers” of the Bunlap tribe in Pentecost Island in the New Hebrides. Tradition has it a man called Tamalie, mistreated his wife. So she ran away and climbed a banyan tree. He followed her but she tied lianas or long creepers to her ankles. Just as Tamalie reached out to grab her, she jumped and he jumped too. The lianas saved her life, but he died.

What excuse do I have right now, to back out? All my stupid friends were near by cheering me on. I dare not tell them my knees felt like jelly or that ankle straps make me feel like a convict with a leaden ball and chain attached. Suddenly the countdown begins. My heart pounds faster and faster.

..5..4..3..2..1.. heeeeellllllppppp! Before I knew it I was off the edge of the platform. Was it willing or with a friendly shove I didn’t know for sure. I realised for a micro second that I was floating in mid air before the earth’s gravity took over. I was plumming downward at 60+ miles.

Unlucky for me, traveling at that speed on elastic bands is not yet outlawed! I stepped into space falling through a zone of pure animal fear. The next instant the river was zooming towards me at high speed. The wind was whipping my fear-stricken face as I plunged down towards the earth. I could feel the cords tug my harness. And then. . . I stopped just 5 feet short of the water. My hands lightly skimming the water.

As I breathed a sigh of relief, the cord shot me upward at lightning speed. There was no snap in the elastic turnaround just a smooth, heavy slow-down, then swoosh. I cart-wheeled and took the second drop out of shape and out of control.

I was busy trying to grasp the cord to hold on to something. As I tried to hold the cord, it viciously smacked me in the forehead and my bottom. I got busy fending off the cord and did exactly what I’d been told not to. When the thrashing finally stopped, I hugged the bungee and thanked my stars. I was safe a few feet away from the water.

Bungee is a certified sport. Bungee operators offer jumps from cranes, balloons, helicopters, bridges, towers, platforms and the sport is growing from jump to jump. It is wise to check the operator’s experience for the equipment you will use and the type of jump you will do before doing it. Accidents are relatively always minor injuries such as skin burn, or getting slapped in the face or body by gripping the cord, which you are instructed not to do.

It is a strange sport well appreciated by the public, safe and sound at a distance. Bungee jumpers take pleasure in diving off anything, much like a matador with only a red cape faces a mad bull cheered undoubtedly by a crowd safe above the barricades.

As with all things American a zing has been added to this sport: ‘Slingshotting’ (from the ground up), ‘sandbagging’ (jumping with extra weight), ‘bodydipping’ (over water), etc. Other variations include jumping with your back to the ground. Jumpers admit that this is quite scary and it takes greater effort to let your hand go off the rail. When you can see what you are jumping into you can convince yourself into a jump.

Whatever your own preference just keep telling yourself it is fun and RELAX (which I didn’t do but which you should do) and you will have a great time. Now that I am a pro at it with one jump I am impatiently looking towards next Sunday for my second jump.

950 words | 9 minutes
Readability: Grade 5 (10-11 year old children)
Based on Flesch–Kincaid readability scores

Filed under: features
Tags: #rivers, #sports, #rubber, #banyan tree

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