Although there’s no official consensus on what makes a certain activity “extreme,” we could all agree that it refers to all the sports that involve highly risky situations. In simple terms, this means that one could get seriously injured, or worse, if you’re not using proper techniques, methods, and safety equipment. Just a single moment of recklessness and a disregard for safety can potentially lead to serious consequences, so the very use of the word “extreme” seems appropriate enough for wider use.
When we have an activity like bungee jumping, we can clearly see that some of the main “extreme” indicators check out. It comes with some obvious risks, so we can technically put it into the category. Risks associated with bungee jumping mostly happen because of improper equipment handling or not following safety procedures.
In this guide, we’ll be taking a closer look at bungee jumping and exploring what makes bungee jumping so extreme, as well as other details about this particular activity.
Table of Contents
What Is Bungee Jumping?
Bungee jumping, which can also be spelled as “bungy” jumping, is a form of activity that involves jumping from a greater height while your body is attached to an elastic bungee rope. An individual that practices the activity jumps head down towards the abyss (so to speak) and is then more or less aggressively pulled up by the elastic rope’s tension, all without touching the surface below them.
The starting point here is some sort of an isolated and erected structure, basically anything with enough distance from the ground, as well as the distance from any potentially harmful objects and surfaces. This can include anything from a bridge over a canyon and up to a specialized crane that’s made for the purpose of bungee jumping. There have also been some of the more experimental and extreme settings, like bungee jumping from a helicopter, a plane, and even a hot-air balloon.
These days, it’s also not uncommon to use specific natural formations for practicing bungee jumping. Most commonly, these include very steep cliffs with enough room for a safe jump and a sudden pull upwards. In some cases, bungee jumping involves touching a body of water or even partially diving into it.
But the whole concept of bungee jumping takes us all the way back to ancient times and a ritual that’s been present among tribes of Pentecost Island in present-day Vanuatu. The activity was called land diving, or “Gol” in the Saa language, and was a test of courage as a passage into manhood.
However, compared to modern bungee jumping, participants are jumping from high wooden platforms and have vines tied to their ankles. Additionally, they’re supposed to hit the ground, with vines absorbing the impact.
The activity was eventually introduced to the Western world, becoming a local attraction either in cities, amusement parks, or even different countrysides. The very word “bungee” comes from the English language’s West Country dialect and was officially documented in the first half of the 19th century. The word is sometimes used for elastic cords that are used to secure luggage.
The very first modern incarnation of bungee jumping was introduced in 1979 in Bristol, England, over at the city’s Clifton Suspension Bridge. It was done by the members of Oxford University’s Dangerous Sports Club who wanted to recreate the vine jumping ritual, and they were immediately arrested after attempting it.
Nonetheless, they continued their practices in the United States on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and the Royal Gorge Bridge in Colorado. The activity was popularized and they eventually started practicing bungee jumping from cranes and hot air balloons.
There were also some other similar examples prior to the Dangerous Sports Club attempts done by alpinists Charlie Fowler and Mike Munger who were trying to do mental preparations by simulating long falls.
Commercially available bungee jumping began in the mid to late 1980s. At this point, there have been millions of successful bungee jumps all over the world. Today, there are even some people interested in taking dogs on a bungee adventure.
Bungee Jumping Variations
Aside from the “conventional” bungee jumping, in more recent years, we’ve seen the rise of other variations to this activity. These can include:
- Bungee running
- Reverse bungee
- SCAD diving (or Suspended Catch Air Device)
Ramp jumping is performed with participants jumping off of a specialized ramp, usually by sledding, skiing, or cycling before jumping. It includes two rubber bungee ropes tied to a harness on a jumper’s waist.
Bungee running is technically not jumping but rather just running over a designated track with a bungee cord attached to a participant’s body. It’s popular among children, although it can also serve as an exercise for athletes.
The trampoline version combines bungee jumping with trampolining. After being attached to bungee ropes, a jumper is then placed on a trampoline, all while slightly hanging from the ropes. The additional tension from these cords enables them to jump higher.
Reverse bungee is also called “slingshot” or “catapult bungee” and is now one of the common attractions at amusement parks. It’s much safer compared to regular jumping and includes two telescopic towers with two bungee ropes holding a passenger car.
Suspended Catch Air Device jumping includes participants jumping from a higher structure and into a net. No cords are attached to the person jumping, although the net itself is placed at a height, which further enhances the whole experience.
Why Is Bungee Jumping Extreme: What Can Go Wrong
The word “extreme” in sports actually comes from the Extreme Sports Company and the Extreme Sports Channel. Although a somewhat loose term, it applies to sports and activities that are popular among adrenaline-seeking enthusiasts or professional athletes. This, of course, includes an activity that’s considered to be dangerous and that could potentially lead to any form of injuries or, at worst, fatalities.
Bungee jumping on its own can be considered an extreme activity. It comes with a risk and accidents have happened over the years. This mostly happens due to improper equipment handling, not following safety procedures, or just different equipment components failing. Some of the accidents also happen due to improper bungee rope lengths, with participants hitting the ground before they could be pulled up in time.
There are even other injuries and accidents that happen even with all the safety precautions undertaken. For instance, a sudden pulling movement of the rope recoil can cause a sudden rise in the upper-body pressure, ultimately leading to unwanted consequences. The most common injuries, in this case, include temporary or permanent eyesight damages. However, there have been some other recoil-related injuries.
Other injuries can also occur if a participant gets entangled in the rope after a strong recoil. Some have even experienced issues similar to those of a stroke due to one’s body response. Additionally, there have been claims that bungee jumping can increase overall stress levels.
Looking at all of these examples, it’s pretty clear why bungee jumping is considered to be extreme. Sure, injuries are rare, but they’re possible. And combining this with the fact that you should leap from a tall spot most definitely boosts one’s adrenaline, it’s pretty evident why bungee jumping falls into this particular category.
Safety Is Always Your Priority
With this said, it’s important to point out that safety is above everything. Although it rarely ever happens, serious injuries, and even fatalities, are a possibility with bungee jumping. What’s more, minor and serious injuries and fatalities in bungee jumping have occurred with healthy and fit individuals, all in their twenties and thirties.
Yes, bungee jumping is extreme. From the accidents and experiences described in this guide, it’s pretty obvious why this is the case. But don’t think that we want to scare you. Just bear in mind that bungee jumping is not to be taken lightly, even if you’re participating in any of its milder variations.
The best methods to keep yourself safe are all preventive. First, make sure that the bungee jumping spot, be it a crane, or a bridge, or a landscape formation, all checkout. There should be a group of professionals working there, and the equipment should be checked. Additionally, you should do all the necessary medical testing before participating in bungee jumping. After all, you could have some conditions that you’re not aware of, which can ultimately lead to unwanted consequences.
On the other hand, accidents rarely do happen and the chances that you’ll have a great time doing it are pretty high. Of course, this doesn’t mean that it’s something that should be done on a daily basis, and it’s always recommended that you’re already physically prepared and are exercising regularly.
Is Bungee Jumping a Sport or Just a Thrill-Seeking Activity?
One of the most common questions is whether bungee jumping is a sport or just another physical activity that boosts your adrenaline levels. Technically, it’s considered to be a sport with some organizations even hosting competitive events. These competitions are in some way similar to classic Olympic diving where participants are assessed by a panel of judges.
But for casual jumpers, bungee jumping is more of a thrill-seeking activity rather than a competitive event. In some cases, it can serve as a form of exercise, both mental and physical, for some other sports. As for some other milder forms of bungee jumping, like a trampoline or reverse bungee, they’re more of amusement park territories rather than sports.