Twenty-five years ago, Kiwi bungee pioneer AJ Hackett jumped from the Eiffel Tower, in a stunt that changed his life.
“Un Kiwi a fait le yo-yo du haut de la Tour Eiffel” read the headline in the France Soir newspaper. The date was June 26, 1987, and the
Kiwi in question was an Auckland builder named AJ Hackett. The ‘yo-yo’ was a bungee jump from the Eiffel Tower that made headlines around the world. Twenty-five years on from that famous – if slightly insane – jump The Red Bulletin talked to the people who made it happen.
AJ Hackett: We did our first bungee jump in November 1986, off Greenhithe Bridge in Auckland. A friend of mine, Chris Sigglekow, had heard about the Oxford University Dangerous Sports Club. They jumped off a bridge in the late 1970s with some rubber tied to their feet.
In 1980 Chris decided to have a go, but it didn’t work particularly well. Six years later he asked me to help him figure it out. I was right into
rock climbing and it’s very similar. You use the same knots and safety systems.
Henry van Asch (co-founder of AJ Hackett Bungy): After that first jump, AJ rang me and said: “You’ve got to try this bungee thing. You’re going to love it.”
AJ: We figured out the formula for the bungee cord and the great thing was that it worked. It did what it was supposed to do and we bounced back up. It was a pleasant surprise.
Henry: AJ and I were due to fly to France in February 1987, as part of the New Zealand speed-skiing team. AJ was supposed to meet us at the airport but he’d been arrested for jumping off the Auckland Harbour Bridge. Of course, he managed to talk himself out of it. It’s one of
the things he’s pretty good at.
AJ: When we arrived in France, we picked up a rental car and drove past the Eiffel Tower in Paris. I thought it was beautiful and I knew I wanted to jump from it.”
Henry: We told our French friends about the bungee jumping we’d been doing in New Zealand. They told us about this bridge we could jump from, the Pont de la Caille. It was 40 minutes from where we were staying in La Clusaz.
Kal Sory Touré (AJ’s friend and jumpmaster): I was filming the skiing at La Clusaz when I met AJ. He introduced me to bungee jumping at the Pont de la Caille. I found it a bit odd and the Kiwis rather eccentric.
Caroline Mary (AJ’s ex-wife): Kal was a friend of mine and he introduced me to AJ. I think he already had the idea to jump from the Eiffel Tower when I met him.
Henry: I always say AJ jumped off the Eiffel Tower to impress Caroline but he insists he always wanted to do it.
AJ: When I left Auckland I had this vision of jumping off a cable car in the mountains and skiing off. That was my romantic bungee vision, but jumping from the Eiffel Tower seemed like such a cool thing to do.
Read the full story in June's issue of The Red Bulletin.