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The Lumberjack
Wednesday, Feb. 27, 1991

Bungee jumping requires leap of faith

Reporter stretches loyalty to the limit to cover frightening sport

By Matthew Glenn

"Bungee jump why not?" I said to my editor when I received my latest assignment.

So began the journey that ended with me dangling by a cord from a 150-foot bridge.

The sport of bungee jumping originated as and still is a rite of passage for males of the Pentecost Islands. In California it has not been viewed with the same fervor; in fact, the Legislature had made bungee jumping illegal.

Bungee Masters of Oregon made their first jumps in California and they didn't seem to mind breaking the law. The California Masters consist of two people, Roger Eckart, a California resident, and Casey Dale, a professional bungee jumper and resident of Oregon.

Dale has been "doing that bungee thing" for two years and is a member of an elite group of jumpers known as the Freak Brothers, a group of men who drink champagne and bungee jump off bridges in tuxedos. He reminded me of the scene in the movie "Apocalypse Now" when Martin Sheen first sees Robert Duvall: when I looked at Dale I knew he wasn't going to get so much as a scratch.

During the group's orientation to bungee jumping Dale reminded us that the bungee we would be jumping with was completely safe and that each of the four bungees had been tested with weights up to 1,500 pounds.

But despite the reassurances from Dale I still had lingering doubts as to whether four small cords, similar to the ones I use to hold books on my bike rack, could absorb the shock from my 195-pound frame. I had the right to fear - those books always seem to fall off my bike rack.

Finally my fellow jumpers began to take their leaps of faith. After each successful jump, I began to think that I too would survive.

Bear McKinnon, a music junior, was the first HSU student to jump and after his third and final jump I ran up to him to find out what he thought.

McKinnon's first jump was a "Lipton," a take-off of the famous plunge taken on TV commercials.

"I was terrified," McKinnon said. Then he went on to ruin my feeble trust in the bungee cords: "you don't get any trust in the bungees. . . I was very aware of how few things were holding me."

Soon it was my turn.

I was the largest of all the jumpers that day and my male instincts led me to believe that I should be the most macho, the one least afraid.

But this wasn't the case.

I was the only one of my peers that was visibly shaking when I stepped up to the jumping perch.

My fellow HSU students were cheering me on; they knew I was doing this in the name of journalistic excellence and The Lumberjack.

All I could think of was controlling my bowels.

I was now shaking so hard that I lost my balance and nearly fell off of the bridge, but I regained by balance and soon after knew it was time to jump.

I said the number five aloud and my peers joined in "Four. Three. Two. One," and with the number one I jumped backward off the bridge.

I fell extremely fast and wasn't slowing down. When I jumped I tilted my head back and saw the river below coming nearer and nearer. Then slowly I began to slow down and was amazed - my body felt no sudden snap or jerk, only a gradual deceleration.

Then just a gently as my fall had been broken I felt my body begin to rise.

According to Dale, the average jumper pulls four Gs and accelerates to 70 mph during ascent.

When my ascent reached its apex I was surprised by the fact that I was completely weightless.

Then I began to fall again and the bungee softly stopped my fall and I once again ascended. This time at my moment of weightlessness I pulled off a flip and was amazed at how easy it was.

Finally after a few more ascents and descents my jump was over. A rope was lowered to me. I hooked it to my harness and was raised back up to the bridge.

Although I had had a good time, I didn't want to press my luck, so I declined the opportunity to jump again. After all, I had completed my assignment with my life intact. What more could any reporter ask for?

There were only a few more jumpers left when a gentleman dressed in black cowboy boots, 501's, a black tank-top and a ten-gallon hat told us that if we didn't get off the bridge he'd "notify a peace officer."

So my bungee excursion came to an end, but the Bungee Masters do plan on making more trips. It costs $65 for one jump and $99 for two, although when I jumped the Masters gave us three jumps for the price of two. Their next jump will be sometime in March.

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