How (Not) to Jump Off a Stadium

The Commonwealth Games, an Olympics-like sporting competition involving athletes from the Commonwealth of Nations, are headed to Durban in 2022. The 2022 host city won’t be officially announced until September 2015, but it turns out that Durban is the only bidder. (Edmonton, Canada, initially submitted a bid but later withdrew it.) So…yay! It’s not 100% confirmed but the Commonwealth Games are most likely coming to Africa for the first time ever.

(Incidentally, the Olympics have also never been held on African soil. WTF? This needs to change.)

Last weekend I was invited to Durban, along with a few other journalists/bloggers/instagrammers, to do fun things in the city and create some hype for the Commonwealth Games bid. Mainly we hung around Moses Mabhida Stadium, built for the 2010 World Cup and one of the most beautiful stadiums in South Africa.

Mabhida roof

Looking up at the roof of Moses Mabhida Stadium. See that narrow walkway going across, near the top of the frame? Store that away for later.

Our morning started with breakfast on the Durban Beachfront, which is one of my favorite places to hang out in Durban. I drank a smoothie and watched the cyclists roll past, soaking in the sun.

Biking Durban waterfront

Durban beachfront Instagram.

We made our way over to Moses Mabhida and watched some kids run on a track outside the main stadium.

Runners

Future 2022 competitors? Perhaps.

Dane and Roy

Future 2022 competitors? Definitely not. (Thanks for the amazing photo-op, @dane_forman and @roywrench.)

We took a private tour of the stadium, which was awesome.

Roy in stadium

There’s nothing like walking across the pristine green field in a huge, empty sports stadium. Look closely: See the rope hanging down in the middle of the arch? Store that for later.

Stadium seats

Beautiful ocean-themed seats in Moses Mabhida Stadium.

After lunch we gathered in the headquarters of Big Rush Urban Adrenaline to prepare for “The Big Swing”. The Big Swing departs from that tiny walkway across the top of the stadium that I pointed out earlier. The Swing is kind of like a bungee jump, except you’re strapped to the rope from your torso rather than your feet. Jumpers experience a 60-meter (200-foot) free-fall and a 220-meter (720-foot) arc through the air above the field, before being hauled back up to the platform.

It’s kind of like a bungee jump. But not. Store that away for later.

Anyway, we went to Big Rush and those of us brave enough to jump got kitted out in our harnesses.

Big Rush office

Here I am with some other jumpers. I was too busy smiling for the cameras and didn’t listen carefully to the briefing. (Photo: Big Rush Adrenaline guy whose name I didn’t get.)

Most of the jumpers opt to climb up the arch to the Big Swing platform, using a steep stairway. But my group opted to ride to the top on the stadium SkyCar and enjoy the viewing platform before our jump.

Stadium viewing platform

A family enjoys the view from the top of Moses Mabhida. Read more about the SkyCar and viewing platform.

From the viewing platform, it’s a short walk down to the jumping platform. We inched our way down, with a strap attached to a cable on the walkway (just in case).

Babalwa on stadium

Babalwa, one of the journalists in our group, looking a bit nervous about her impending jump. How great is that view?

We walked slowly down to the platform where the swing takes place. We had to wait for quite a while for the other jumpers to finish. One by one, they climbed down a steel ladder onto the platform. We could hear people screaming as they jumped but couldn’t really see over the ledge to the platform. So we settled on the steps and waited.

Waiting to jump

My colleagues, waiting to jump. I love the expression on Peter’s face (bottom left). I think he was the most scared.

Finally, it was our turn. Babalwa went first, quietly. Then me.

Heather before jump

Saying my final goodbye. (Photo: Dane Forman)

I bungee-jumped last year, off the Bloukrans Bridge in the Western Cape. The Bloukrans jump is the highest commercial bungee jump in the world, about three times higher than the Big Swing. So I figured this jump would be easy. Ha! I frequently underestimate my capacity for fear in situations like this.

Heather about to jump

Note how tightly I’m clutching that rail behind me. (Photo: Dane Forman)

And now, the jump. Remember how I said the swing is kind of like a bungee, but not? Remember how I said I didn’t pay close attention during the briefing?

When bungee-jumping you’re supposed to dive outward from the platform, so the rope attached to your feet (and the backup rope attached to your back) won’t hit you in the face. I was so good at that last year. I swan-dived out from that incredibly high platform and bungeed like a mo-fo. Here’s video footage to prove it.

For the Big Swing, I was advised to jump straight out, body upright and feet pointed down, so I wouldn’t get entangled in the rope attached to my chest. I didn’t listen though. So instead of jumping outward with my feet down, I tried to swan-dive like before.

Heather jumping

I don’t have any GoPro footage this time. But you can see from the way I’m jumping (diving) and the position of the rope that I’m not doing it right. (Photo: Dane Forman)

The jump still went fine, but I wound up getting rope-burn and an ugly bruise on my arm. That’s what I get for disregarding instructions. But it was all in the name of promoting the Commonwealth Games, and the jump was totally worth it. Hanging in the air, surrounded by silence, and looking out over the Indian Ocean as I was hoisted back up to the platform was the best part of the experience.

Heather after jump

Finished. (Photo: Roy Potterill)

For your information, here’s what a proper Big Swing jump should look like:

Roy jumping

My friend Roy swung like a mo-fo: Arms akimbo (you can also hold onto the rope), feet pointed down. Watch a video of proper Big Swing form here.

Anyway, we all jumped, we all survived, and it was awesome. Then we walked down.

Walking down stadium

Following Babalwa down the archway.

I love the fact that Moses Mabhida Stadium has become a proper tourist attraction in addition to a sporting venue. I can’t wait to watch the Commonwealth Games there in 2022. Maybe I’ll go back to watch the games in person and do the Big Swing again. Feet first.

My trip was provided courtesy of Durban 2022. All opinions expressed are my own.

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15 Comments

  • Reply Jonker Fourie (@FireflyAfrica) April 28, 2015 at 10:42 am

    I don’t know if I would be able to do it

    • Reply 2summers April 28, 2015 at 12:27 pm

      Haha. You never know what you might be capable of…

  • Reply Stuart Parker (@capturingafrica) April 28, 2015 at 11:24 am

    Great post and good to see you out enjoying Durban. Exciting stuff regarding the Commonwealth Games.

    • Reply 2summers April 28, 2015 at 12:26 pm

      Thanks Stuart. Yes, it is exciting. Let’s hope the Olympics follow.

  • Reply dsk4567i April 28, 2015 at 12:19 pm

    brave lady ! could’nt do it, even for a million Dollars !

    • Reply 2summers April 28, 2015 at 12:26 pm

      Not even for a million dollars?!

  • Reply beeseeker April 28, 2015 at 3:45 pm

    Great post: honest, educational and entertaining with super pictures.

  • Reply K for Kate (@Kate_Els) April 29, 2015 at 4:15 am

    Good grief! I like to believe I could do this, but I really don’t think I could!

    • Reply 2summers April 30, 2015 at 2:08 pm

      Ha! I don’t know about that. I can totally see you doing this.

  • Reply Eugenia A Parrish April 30, 2015 at 4:03 am

    Okay, it’s not as high as the bungee jump. It’s still too high! I mean, I could climb up as long as the stairs are steady. I once tried to climb up a three-story wooden tower that shuddered in the wind; didn’t make it past the first platform. On the other hand, I’ve stood on the edge of some very high mountain cliffs, so it’s not heights, it’s the no-solid-surface fear-of-falling. And jumping off? Nah. Kudos to you.

    BTW, on my screen the links and other things in this new[ish] blog are in a very pale sea-green, almost invisible until I pass my cursor over it. Sometimes to read the sentences I am hopping my cursor from the side scroll to what looks like an empty space so I can read it, and then back to the side scroll to move down. Any chance you can darken that? It applies also to each name of ‘replyers’ and the word ‘reply’ but those aren’t crucial to reading the main body.

    • Reply 2summers April 30, 2015 at 2:07 pm

      Genie, I am so glad you pointed this out. There was an automatic upgrade to my theme a couple of months ago and the color scheme changed slightly. While I initially liked the way it looked, I had also been thinking to myself lately that the green hyperlinks were hard to see. But it took your comment to spur me into action. I’ve now changed the accent color to a darker blue. What do you think?

  • Reply Genie Parrish May 2, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    Absolutely perfectly better! Thanks! While I’m here, another question: I notice in one photo here that driving seems to be British, i.e. on the left side. I think you said this before when you were getting your license, but please refresh me — South Africa drives on the left? Or is the photo inverted?

    • Reply 2summers May 2, 2015 at 5:36 pm

      Yep, we drive on the left here. I’ve actually written a few posts about driving here, way back in the archives…

  • Reply Genie Parrish May 2, 2015 at 5:35 pm

    No, wait — it can’t be inverted or “STOP” would be backwards. Duh.

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