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Head over Heels

Sivi Sekula

You’ve heard of paragliding, windsurfing, and skydiving. Now read about even wilder extreme sports

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

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W hat’s your idea of sport? Soccer, baseball, tennis? Swimming or skateboarding? For some people, sport isn’t merely a fun way to exercise. For them, it’s all about the danger, the risks, and the adrenaline rush. You’ve heard of paragliding, windsurfing, and skydiving. Now read all about even wilder extreme sports.

Sports lovers and thrill-seekers, this one’s for you!

Bungee Jumping

In 1979, three members of England’s Oxford College Dangerous Sports Club jumped off a 250-ft. tall bridge. Miraculously, they all survived. Well, okay, they were attached to bungee cords, which saved them from death. Lots of photos were taken of the daredevils leaping from the bridge, which were seen all over the world, and that’s how bungee jumping was born.

What made these three club members think jumping off a bridge would be a good idea? Well, club member Chris Baker lived near the Clifton Suspension Bridge, which spans the Avon River between Bristol and Clifton, in England. One day, as Baker used bungee cords to tie his hand glider to the roof of his car, he suddenly recalled something he had learned in school many years before. The natives of Pentecost Island in the South Pacific have an ancient ritual that involves young men and boys climbing to the top of a bamboo tower and jumping off. The only thing that saves them from death is a pair of vines tied around their ankles and attached to the tower.

Baker looked at his bungee cords and thought, Why don’t we try something similar and use bungee cords to jump off the bridge! Fellow club members, David Kirke, Simon Keeling, and Alan Weston, loved his idea. They set a date for the jump on April 1, 1979 — April Fool’s Day. The funny thing is that Chris Baker didn’t even make it to the jump. By the time he got to the Clifton Suspension Bridge early that morning, his friends were already jumping off. But at least he got to see his crazy idea in action.

 

The Dangerous Sports Club then went to San Francisco to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge, and then to Colorado to tackle the Royal Gorge Bridge. Their antics became so popular that they were hired to perform bungee jumps at state fairs and store openings, which they did by jumping off cranes and hot air balloons.

In 1988, New Zealander A.J. Hackett, who was seriously into bungee jumping, opened the world’s first commercial bungee jumping center in Queenstown, New Zealand. Today there are dozens of bungee jumping centers all over the world.

Flying High

Have you always dreamed of flying? Now you can! With the help of a specialized jumpsuit, known as a wingsuit, thrill-seekers can take to the sky and really fly! Most wingsuiters jump from an aircraft and then enter a freefall (falling without the use of a parachute). The wingsuit was invented in 1996 by Patrick de Gayardon, a French aristocrat with a passion for all things terrifying. Since then, wingsuits have been a fave of skydivers. That’s because a skydiver without a suit freefalls at a speed of about 200km/h. (Stop! I’m feeling dizzy!) Put on a wingsuit, which increases the surface area of the skydiver, and the freefall slows down a lot, so the wingsuiter can enjoy the bird’s-eye view for longer. At a set altitude, the wingsuiter deploys a parachute to land. It may look easy, but wingsuiting takes lots of skill. The wingsuiter needs to know how to move his body to control the flight, which is really hard when you’re flying so fast. (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 665)

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