This post was last updated on December 19th, 2014
I swore I wouldn’t do it.
I was certain that I would be one of those people who happily live out the remainder of their life without ever feeling a compelling need to jump off of a bridge. I was wrong.
We were in Nanaimo, British Columbia as part of the #GreatCoastRoadTrip. Our itinerary for the day included a stop at WildPlay Element Parks, a 17-acre park located in the midst of lush Douglas Fir forests and a dramatic river canyon. Our schedule was flexible, allowing us to choose between the four vertigo-inducing challenges, including a bungee jump, primal swing, guided zip line tour, and the park’s signature Monkido Aerial Adventure. After much debate (Dan wanted to do the bungee from the get-go) we opted for the latter of the four, which would take us on dozens of games, obstacles and zip lines high through the trees.
I told Dan I would think about the whole bungee jumping thing while we did the Monkido Aerial Adventure. See, Dan had already checked bungee jumping off of his bucket list at one of the highest bungees in the world. He had no fear of doing it again, especially if it meant I would do it, too.
I thought that traversing dozens of ladders, cargo nets, rope swings, tightropes, swinging logs and wobbly bridges might make me more receptive to bungee jumping. In reality, it didn’t. The Monkido Aerial Adventure proved fun and challenging, a healthy dose of adrenaline without any actual fear for my life. I was now ready to overindulge in Mexican food, the next activity on our itinerary, and one I had been looking forward to all morning.
Unfortunately I wouldn’t get my way just yet. Dan, being the intrepid soul he is, decided he was going to bungee jump with or without me. We cautiously climbed to the top of the bridge and awaited the bungee jumping staff. With my heart pounding through my ears, I took a quick glimpse over the edge and down into the river canyon below. It didn’t actually look that high. And I had jumped out of a plane before. Maybe I could do this after all.
I waited expectantly for the trained crew to hand Dan a helmet. Or a full-body harness. Or at least a safety line. But none of these things came. Instead, I watched as Dan had his ankles tied up—and that was it! I firmly declared that there was no way in hell I was jumping off a bridge with only a rope wrapped around my ankles. I kissed Dan goodbye, thanked him for three lovely years of marriage, and stood back to apprehensively film his drop.
Without so much as a breath of hesitation, Dan lifted his arms, gave a holler, and jumped. Seconds later he was bobbing upside down as the crew collected him safely in the raft and brought him back to solid ground. He had survived.
While I waited for Dan, I decided to test the staff a bit on their bungee jumping knowledge. I wanted to know safety records, methodology, training… Sure, statistically bungee jumping might be safer than driving in a car. But who in their right mind really jumps off of a bridge, anyway?
I know I must have been totally aggravating, but the Jump Master was patient with me, and kindly explained the entire process. The ankle strap system was the original harnessing system for bungee jumping. It eliminates extra straps and buckles that can get caught or fail and instead uses a girth hitching system, a foolproof method relying on physics; that is, the knot will only get tighter and tighter as the jumper’s bodyweight pulls on it. There’s no way the ankle harness is coming off. Which leaves the bungee cords. Again, the Jump Master assured me that there was nothing to worry about, that the cords are retired far before their suggested lifespan, and that he personally looks after each one. To let the numbers speak, over 250,000 people have taken the plunge at WildPlay, all without a single incident. I probably should have been convinced at this point. Still, I was hesitant.
Dan was beaming when I met him, the rush of free falling clearly coursing through his veins. I asked if we could please go get some guacamole now to celebrate his jump. Dan turned in his gear, collected his jumping badge, and we began to make our way to the car. I could practically taste the creamy avocado at this point. Again, I would have to wait.
On our way to the exit, we saw the Jump Master once more. I don’t remember exactly what it was he said to me. It was something about taking chances and living life to the fullest—on choosing adventure and taking risks and overcoming fears of the unknown. It all sounds very cliché to type, but whatever words he spoke to me at that moment had a profound effect on me. There was no pressure whatsoever; in fact, the Jump Master walked away after he had spoken to us, leaving me to ponder his words as we continued walking to the parking lot. But then something clicked. I stopped in my tracks, looked Dan in the eye, and said I had to jump off that bridge right now. I knew that deep down I would regret it if I didn’t do it. I also knew I would remember this occasion in a sort of, ‘if I can bungee jump, I can do anything’.
There was only one stipulation: Dan was coming with me.
WildPlay is unique in that it offers tandem bungee jumps. I knew the only way I would make it off that bridge would be if Dan was holding me tight. He would be the full-body harness I was so convinced I needed.
We were back on the bridge before I had time to reconsider, the staff smiling widely at my change of heart. I chattered nonsense, my nerves starting to overcome all of my sense. With our ankles bound, Dan and I edged our way to the platform overlooking the canyon. I hugged Dan so hard I might have suffocated him. I tried to convince everyone I had been joking and that this was far enough and that now I knew what it was like to get all tied up and I didn’t really need to do the jumping part. And then, after what seemed like seconds to me but probably a lifetime to the staff, our feet left contact with the platform.
We were free falling. I was screaming. The cord pulled tight. I was screaming. The raft came to collect us. I was screaming.
It was a rush, to say the least. But I did it. And it was amazing.
Bungee jumping was more than just overcoming a fear. It was more than a metaphor for living life adventurously and taking chances. I think the thing that made bungee jumping so life changing for me was that I was able to have the experience with Dan. Not just alongside him, but gripping him with my whole being as we went over the edge. If that doesn’t make you bond as a couple, I don’t know what will.
Believe it or not, bungee jumping has also helped me to get a hold of my fear of flying (or, more accurately, my fear of turbulence). Something about remembering what is feels like to free fall, of having Dan there with me, of knowing that everything will be as it should—it’s just all very reassuring and, somewhat ironically, grounding.
So would I bungee jump again? I suppose I have to jump alone at some point. There’s a whole lot of value and lessons to be learned in that, too. But for now, I don’t feel a compelling urge to get on the edge of a bridge again any time soon.
And for the record, I never got that Mexican food. It took me so long to work up the courage to jump that it put us behind schedule. I suppose surviving bungee jumping wins out over margaritas and guacamole. Just this once though.
Some Bungee Jumping Tips:
*Don’t over think it. Statistically, you have a much greater chance of injuring yourself in your home than you do bungee jumping. The fear is a rational response from your body, but don’t let it overcome you. Try using a mantra to talk yourself through it.
*There isn’t a sharp tug or jolt when the rope catches. In fact, you might not even realize at first that you’ve switched directions!
*Choose to jump at a place with a reassuring staff. I think it’s obvious to say that I would not have jumped at all if it hadn’t been for the friendly, well-trained and patient staff at WildPlay Element Parks. To say I was grateful for them would be the understatement of the year.
*Once you’ve jumped, you’re going to feel a rush of pride. You’re also going to be exhausted from the rush of emotions and adrenaline (at least we were).
*Take the risks that are right for you. Don’t jump to prove yourself to facebook. Don’t do it just to say you’ve done it. Bungee jump for YOU and you alone.
A single jump at WildPlay Element Parks in Nanaimo, British Columbia costs $99.99. A same day, second jump is $49.99. The jump is safe for ages 12+ (their oldest jumper was in her 80s!). The jump is 150 feet high and offers the chance for a water touchdown, if you feel like getting wet.
Nanaimo’s Wild Play Park also hosts an annual Naked Bungee Jumping event to fundraise money for the British Colombia Schizophrenic Society. Participants get to face two of their biggest fears—that of falling and of being exposed—while supporting a good cause.
So would you give Bungee jumping a try? Have you already crossed it off your bucket list? If so, where?
We were guests of WildPlay Elements Park. All decisions to jump off bridges and then write about it are, as always, our own.