Located north of Lake Wakatipu with the Remarkables mountain range of the background, the town of Queenstown, New Zealand, is known as the “world capital of adventure.” It offers numerous options for all types of adventurers, from hiking outdoors until rafting and skiing. But his fame is mainly due to overhead activities, highlighting the Kawarau Bridge Bungy Jump, with 43 meters high, considered the world’s first commercial Bungee. With the growing popularity of adventure sports two questions arise:why people do this and is it safe?
The sport of bungee jumping started with a 1950 documentary by David Attenborough about the Nagol ritual, known as dip in the earth, of Pentecost, Vanuatu. The documentary showed young people who dived from the wooden platform of 30 meters, only with vines tied to their feet. The Nagol is a complex ritual of fertility, where men throw the tower head touching the ground, thus ensuring a good harvest of yams to the tribe, and also a rite of passage for boys who spend childhood and enter adulthood.
The rituals must be performed with good intentions and pure hearts
(Proverb of the Hopi Indians)
The expression French ‘rites de passage’ has been adopted by European writers and anthropologists to define all the rituals and ceremonies that allow the passage of a person to a new form of life or a new social status. Also the Latin word Ritus meaning river. When we have a rite of passage, we dip into the flow of life force that permeates all beings, honoring the sacredness of life. The most important element of a rite of passage is the intention, it is what drives the energy during a ritual, either for ourselves or for a friend who is celebrating the transition. The most important contribution of the participants is the solidarity and support we offer through words or gestures, thus reviving the spirit of brotherhood and the feeling of belonging to a group.
You are strong, courageous, and important! We love you very much! You are completely crazy! I yelled at Carol, as she walked the line and approached the platform bungee jump. The wind threwing my hair back and my eyes smiled at before a stunning landscape that screening before me. Carol was a mix of intense emotions: joy, enthusiasm, vibrancy and fear. Adrenaline running in her veins, it her mind, memories of her parents and boyfriend, her whole life in one second, a single step throws her into an unpredictable future and grown-up that she is about to become.. Also on the platform, the adrenaline was already beginning to run in my veins and with it the conviction that we would never be the same anymore. Jumping! (Photo by Ana Cris)
Only those who risk going too far are able to find out how far one can go.
T. S. Eliot
Facing unexpected situations and be able to perform a challenging activity is undoubtedly a major attraction in adventure sports. As Weber (2001) states learn and gain insight not only side effects of this type of activity, they are integral parts of them. Such experiences bring knowledge about yourself, that are not available in everyday life. Consequently, play with your fears seems to be an attraction in adventure sports. Bungee is a good example. “I think people have an inherent fear factor, and what they want, is to push yourself above it. And the interesting thing, especially with bungee is that people with high fear threshold, i.e., those that can withstand a lot of fear, basically draw very little bungee is something they can do without problem. Already, people with a low threshold and, of course, more afraid, they really have to overcome and conquer something within themselves to do it. And these are people who will tell you that the bungee was a change of life, they really feel that they won something. “(Mark Patterson, Marketing Manager, Challenge Rafting). Fear is part of who we are, and one of its features is the unpredictability.
Minutes felt like an eternity while she was standing on the platform, staring into the abyss under her feet. There was no hurry, no pressure. The operator calmly give the instructions on the jump, helping her to regain control and confidence. Downstairs, her friends gave her support, waving and shouting her name, Graci and her home country, Argentina. A heart vibrated more than the others, her husband. And then she released, free and loose, her fears being left behind. A chorus of voices of friends and strangers cheered and applauded! There was a brave woman!
Go, Graci, go!
(Photo by Carol)
I’m sure of one thing: I did not stop in the border river, always I chose to go through and discover what’s on the other side of the border.
Everyone needs an adventure, a break from everyday life and stability of your known world. In the adventure we launched the world with fewer defenses and reserves than in any other relationship. In the adventure we not know clearly where we are going or why. Every adventure involves some risks, and overcome this can be portrayed as part of the attraction to adventure. The idea of the flow experience suggested by Csikszentimihalyi (1975) helps to solve this seeming contradiction, by showing that, when there is a balance between the skill required and the challenge inherent in an act, positive feedback occurs in terms of satisfaction.
The experience of flow is defined as one of complete involvement of the actor with his activity (Csikszentimihalyi, 1975) and is characterized by feelings of fusion and fluidity with that activity. Flow is an important concept because it gives theoretical model for understands enjoyment in the experience of adventure sports (Johnston, 1989). Only by studying these activities through the prism of the flow is that the feelings of harmony, satisfaction and loss of self-consciousness present in high-risk sports, become clear (Cater, 2006).
Priest & Bunting (1993) proposed a model of flow in adventure sports. The authors suggest, when the competence for an activity is high, but the risk is low, a condition of exploration and experimentation is prevalent. When the risk is increased, but competence decreased, adventure occurs, and when the two are matched there is the condition of peak adventure that corresponds to the balanced nature of flow suggested by Csikszentimihalyi (Cater, 2006
Ana Cris in the sky (Photo by Carol)
Time stood still and the landscape became static, like a movie where the director zooms in slow motion. There was only the silence and the feeling to be into the great stream of life. Diving into the ether, where there is neither an end nor a beginning. Forgetting for a minute of “Ana Cris”, and simply living in the here and now. A turquoise portal signaled the transition from Te Po world (the realm of night, darkness) to the world of the Te Ao Marama (the realm of full light), inviting me to cross it. A joy overcame me completely. Then, the rope gave its first hit, bringing me back to the body, its world of sensations and urges. In the balance of the rope, I let me go. Spinning up and down, moving me to new stage in my life.
When you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you
With the growth of adventure tourism industry and therefore all its machinery of marketing, tourists can engage in adventure activities with the realization there is minimal risk of damage due to the context of tourism, that involves the delivery of a significant part of the responsibility for risk management to the provider of the adventure in question. However, accidents occur, and its consequences can be tragic. Ron Watters in his essay The Wrong Side of the Edge 1998, draws attention to the danger of glamorizing the high-risk sports.
Kawarau River (Photo by Ana Cris)
In our efforts to provide programs, create new markets and promote high risk sports, we have gradually come to a point where we have over-glamorized them and created an image for general consumption that is far different than what these activities really are. We have diverted people’s attention from the not-so-glamorous possibility that one can get killed, concentrating attentions only on the fun. It is a mendacious, one-side view that has pervaded nearly every corner of our society. The effect has been to make the high risk experience into something akin to a visit to Disneyland. There’s a big difference. At Disneyland everything is safe. Not so in the outdoors (Watters, 1998).
This false sense of security according to psychologist, Michael Apter in his book The Dangerous Edge (Apter 1992) comes from an unrealistic assessment of their ability. Using the metaphor of a cliff’s edge, Apter theorizes that every activity in life has three zones: a safe zone where one is far away from the cliff’s edge, the danger zone where one walks on the edge, and the trauma zone where one has fallen off the edge and has been hurt or killed. Apter believes that when people seek excitement, they put themselves in he what he calls a protective frame which is built through skill, proper equipment and preparation. The protective frame allows them to come close to the edge, but not to fall into the trauma zone (Watters, 1998).
What can happened according to Apter is that people can be tricked into thinking they are operating within a protective frame when in reality they are not. Reinforced by what they hear and see on the media and combined with lack of knowledge and skill, the boundaries of the protective frame are completely obscured. Apter says: One seems simply to be playing an exciting game with no repercussions (Watters, 1998).
Undoubtedly, bungee jumping can be dangerous, and the recent case of Australian tourists, who had broken the rope during a jump in Zimbabwe is in the media to remind us. Most accidents occur due to the incompetence of the team responsible for the jumps, which do not meet safety standards for bungee jumping (see here and here, some standards). Also most inexperienced bungee jumpers do not have information about the risks of non-lethal practice of sports, which are reported mainly in scientific circles. Among them is the risk of ocular trauma associated with bungee jumping, (see examples here in English and in Portuguese here), which can lead to vision loss. So it is important that the public is aware of the risks of the practice of this sport, and decide to do so they hire operators are firmly committed to the security standards in force.
Apter, Michael J. 1992. The dangerous edge: the psychology of excitement. New York: The Free Press.
Cater, C. I. 2006. Playing with risk? participant perceptions of risk and management implications in adventure tourism. Tourism Management 27: 317-325.
Faur, M. 2003. O legado da Deusa. Editora Rosa dos Tempos. Rio de Jnaeiro.
Watters, R. 1998. WaThe Wrong Side of the Edge in To the Extreme: Alternative Sports Inside and Out, edited by Synthia Sydnor and Bob Rinhart and published by State University of New York Press.