NZ Firsts: First Bungy Jump
Bungy has always been a life-changing experience. It began with a small group of people in Vanuatu. They fearlessly threw themselves from huge towers for centuries with merely a few vines around their feet. They called it ‘land-diving’, and legend says that it started when a mistreated wife threw herself from a tall tree, saving herself with the vines while the husband fell to his death.
The event was reconstructed annually, only by women. Eventually men would join in to prove their courage, and the tradition is upheld to this day.
This ancient ritual inspired the Oxford University Dangerous Sports Club in 1970s. AJ Hackett, along with a few mates, saw a video of this group in action and, in true Kiwi fashion, his imagination took over.
He and Henry van Asch started developing Bungy cords with a bit of help from Auckland University Scientists. They knew people would be just as pumped as they were to take a leap of faith, push the limits and live without fear.
After some extensive testing, they needed a radical way to demonstrate their faith in the Bungy ropes. What they did would make headlines around the world. In June 1987 they snuck up the Eiffel Tower at night. The next morning, AJ jumped from the iconic building. He was immediately arrested, and then released 5 minutes later.
Bungy took off. The world’s first commercial Bungy operation opened at the Kawarau Bridge in November 1988. People couldn’t wait to try it, paying $75 to jump.
Visitors would soon flock in from around the world to take part, in what would eventually be recognised at the birth of adventure tourism in New Zealand.
I myself have never been brave enough to try this particular form of adventure!