Queenstown’s AJ Hackett Bungy celebrated its 25th birthday yesterday.
The leading tourism company celebrated the impressive milestone in style at the Kawarau Bridge, the ‘World Home of Bungy’, with a fun-filled day of laughter, action, balloons and of course Bungy Jumping and Zipriding.
People from all over the world came to take part in the birthday bash from Queenstown to Korea, from Australia to India and China.
They whooped and cheered as staff performed stunt jumps from the historic bridge, including a shopping trolley Bungy, a three-man Bungy and special Bungy Jumps from Streets’ Lion Man, Bungy Man and of course Superman.
It wasn’t all about superheroes though. Following in the footsteps of Queenstowner Jef Desbecker, the first customer to jump in 1988, today Australian William Nelson replicated the historic event as the first to jump exactly 25 years later.
Kicking off the day-long celebrations, 61-year-old William from Cairns said Bungy jumping at the Kawarau Bridge was “one of my main reasons for visiting Queenstown”.
“I’ve jumped twice in Cairns and loved it. I’m always a little apprehensive at first but it’s a huge adrenalin rush. I love it.”
Visiting New Zealand for the first time he said it “was fantastic to jump in such an incredible location”.
“This scenery is just simply stunning,” he said.
AJ Hackett Bungy co-founder Henry van Asch said this year’s birthday celebrations were “extremely special” as the company marked a quarter of a century in business.
“It’s been a great day so far,” said Henry.
“I love seeing all the school children here at the ‘Home of Bungy’, learning all about the history and just getting excited about it.
“That’s what inspires me seeing the next generation of Bungy jumpers excited and nervous about the experience. We know we’re doing something right when you see the excitement on their faces after their first ever jump.
“Watching the first paying customer jump today, 25 years after that very first jumper, is awesome.”
Henry and co-founder AJ Hackett spent the day mixing with children, staff, jumpers and watchers on, posing for photos, answering questions and joining in the party atmosphere.
The famous duo didn’t disappoint the crowds as the pair jumped together to celebrate the 25 year milestone.
Taking a running jump from the top of the Kawarau Bridge, AJ and Henry were cheered on by school children from Queenstown’s Remarkables Primary School, some of whom then stepped up to the plate to jump themselves.
One of the three lucky pupils taking the plunge was Matthew Bell who was “excited and stoked” to try his first ever Bungy Jump.
After braving the 43m drop Matthew said it was “the coolest thing I’ve ever done”.
“I’ve done every rollercoaster in the States – well almost – and this was just so much better than that,” he said.
“I’ve always wanted to jump from something very high like a bridge and have that feeling of free falling down. It was so awesome. I’m definitely gonna do it again.”
Children from all local primary schools joined the party throughout the day with pupils and a teacher from each school Bungy jumping in front of their class mates.
The youngsters were treated to a sausage sizzle, ice-blocks and class photos with AJ and Henry, and each took away a goody bag as a memento of their “big day at Bungy HQ”.
Visiting Queenstown especially for the birthday, AJ Hackett said the last 25 years had flown by and Bungy jumping was still “very much in its infancy”.
“Although we’ve been going an impressive 25 years, Henry and I feel like Bungy’s only just begun,” said AJ.
“It’s like jumping into a fast flowing river, it just goes so fast. You’ve just got to ride the river, take the corners as they come and get to the end.
Finishing each other’s sentences like the long-time friends they are, the duo said the last 25 years had felt like an apprenticeship in Bungy, just “dipping their toes” into what was actually possible.
“There’s so much more to come. We’ll certainly be here in 10 years and already today we’ve been brainstorming some new ideas,” they said. . .
Bungy jumping has made an enormous contribution to New Zealand tourism.
What’s more difficult to quantify is the impact it’s had on those who’ve jumped.
I did it five years ago.
I’m not sure I actually enjoyed the experience but since then when I’ve been faced with a challenge I’m not sure I want to accept I think to myself, if I can throw myself off a bridge, I can do this.
in #gigatownoamaru we’re all thinking we can do this in the quest to be the southern hemisphere’s first gigatown.