AJ Hackett first
commercialized New Zealand bungee jumping. Bungy
jumping is a spelling variation
used by AJ. As a pioneer of extreme sports and adventure tourism New
Zealand he popularized and commercialized this adventure activity.
his home country he spread and is still spreading the adventure bug
into many other countries.
This adventure activity how the world knows it today got its inspiration of several sources. Amongst them was a video showing experimental jumps by The Oxford University Dangerous Sports Club around the 1970’s. The second one is a 1500 year old festival called Nagol or N’gol on Pentecost Island. Pentecost Island is part of the Republic of Vanuatu formed by an archipelago of 83 islands in the South Pacific.
Legend tells a couple disputed and the wife climbed a tall tree to escape her threatening husband. He followed his wife up and her land dive down. She survived with vines tied around her ankles while he hadn’t taken this precaution.
Since then each year, marking the end of the yams harvest, from April to June each Saturday the festival takes place. In a community effort a wooden tower like structure is built providing multiple heights to jump from. Volunteering male members of the community can excel their experience over the years and work their way up to the top level.
What set out as a ritual for men to state their strength and that they can’t be tricked by their woman any more evolved into a fertility celebration. The Vanuatu people believe that the men touching the earth with their heads at the end of a land dive secure an abundant yams harvest the following year.
In 1958 born Alan John Hackett grew up in Auckland on the North Shore. At the age of sixteen he left Westlake Boys High School to learn the carpenter trade. A time, he also cultivated his interest in outdoor sports. His first amateur bungee jump off Greenhithe Bridge in 1986 elicited the remark by A.J. "one of the most riveting experience of my life."
Hooked, Hackett developed a super stretchy bungee cord in the mid 80ties. Growing public interest and attention he flung himself of the Eiffel Tower in Paris to demonstrate the world its qualities in 1987.
The world’s first commercial public
bungy jump site was established by AJ Hackett from
Kawarau Bridge in Queenstown, opening in 1988. Over the years he claimed many Guinness World Records. In 1988 he claimed the title for being the first to do a bungy jump of a building, which he performed of the Stock Exchange Tower in Auckland city.
Later AJ Hackett extended his company to Australia, France, Germany, USA, Mexico, Indonesia, Macau and many more. In 1990 he jumped 380 meters from a helicopter.
He originally had a partner in the job by the name of Henry Van Asch, but they went separate ways in 1997. Asch took over the New Zealand bungee jumping business and AJ went to Australia. Later in China he opened the Macau tower and also broke the record, measuring to be the highest sky jump and highest commercial jump.
In Malaysia having just developed a new bungee technology allowing it to stretch up to 1 kilometre he beat his original record by 799.6 meters.
Some years after the parting, AJ and Asch reunited to work on the AJ Hackett business. Places to bungy jump in New Zealand are: Kawarau Bridge and Nevis Bungy, which is the highest jump in NZ. Both are in Queenstown. Rotorua and in Auckland off Harbour Bridge and off Sky Tower a guided skydive. Else there are some bungy jump variations like swing, ledge and zippline that need you to master any fear of heights. As the father of commercial bungy jumping he was in the lead of adventure tourism New Zealand and became and still is one of the most famous entrepreneurs.