David Kirke is the guy who invented bungee jumping, says Charlotte Philby in the London Independent. As a student at Oxford in the 1970s, he and some friends formed the “Dangerous Sports Club,” which was devoted to hang gliding, bobsledding, and other extreme pastimes. But those thrills weren’t enough. “We decided to invent something new,” recalls Kirke, 63. “Someone suggested we go vine jumping in New Guinea, where natives leap from tall structures, attached to vines.” Instead, they got some elastic cords and decided to throw themselves off a suspension bridge in North Somerset, England. It was April Fools’ Day, 1979. “The other jumpers waited for me to go first, to see if my theories were right.” In top hat and tails, clutching a bottle of Champagne, Kirke did a back flip off the bridge. Horrified witnesses thought he would hit the water, 245 feet below, and be killed instantly. But the cords worked, and Kirke rebounded without injury. “Seeing that I had, in fact, survived, the others followed.” The stunt inspired legions of followers. It also inspired Kirke and his cohorts to pursue other reckless adventures, such as hang gliding from volcanoes and experimenting with a “human catapult.” Explains Kirke: “Life is a short event, and at the end of it, you have to have had a good run for your money.”
The first bungee jumper
March 12, 2009
Try 4 Risk-Free Issues of The Week magazine.
of The Week magazine.