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Bridge Jumping
jumping from a bridge into a climbing rope

If Seppm and his fellows make a bridge day they do not take one day off between a holiday and weekend. They take it literally and dash down freefalling from a bridge. A real do-it-yourself-sport!

Somewhere in the middle of nowhere
A bridge in the middle of nowhere. It´s at dead of night. Nobody there, except of...
A dozend guises, heavily packed with huge backpacks and ropes, is creeping through the dark. Their destination is a 120 feet railway bridge hidden in the forest. Actually they are heading to the basement floor under the rails. Just a metal fence is still seperating them from their destiny. An obstacle, but no insuperable one. Cause tonight these fellows want to jump from the bridge.

What drives someone to jump from a bridge? Isn´t that pure lunacy? You knot a rope somewhere and tumble down in blind trust that everything will go well... what is that? Sport? Foolishness? A trial of courage? Bungee jumping for poor men? Why should you lay your life in someone´s hands who you might have never seen before?
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Bridge jumping has a lot to do with faith. Because you don´t only have to trust in a climbing rope but particularly in the people that you are jumping together with. The subjective feeling generated by the whole group was the deciding factor for me. Does the group function as a unity? Doesn´t everybody just want to be the chief? Do the others technically know what to do? Would it be remarked and spoken out if someone acted careless or even broke ranks?
The people wo introduced me to bridge jumping are all crazy in some way. Sure, a guy who is not satisfied dashing down with a triple frontflip must be one beer short of a sixpack. Seppm is such a guy. „The frontflips are nice, but you don´t have any relation to the environment and the depth. If you just drop down and see the ground rushing towards you, and the wall at your side, that gives you a better reference and a great kick!“ So the 38 year old loony places himself side by side to the abyss, makes a step aside dropping down not even 2 inches next to the wall. Who bears the responsibility for all that? Seppm says lapidary: „The rope bears it. If it rips it did not bear the blame.“
Still I confide my life to Seppm. Because despite all his stupid slogans he knows what he´s doing. In key moments he can switch his brain instantly from oafishness to rational thinking. Such as making an accurate security check before someone else´s jump.
Flo is a totally different fellow. I didn´t know that 23 year old parachuter, whose ropes and karabiners we used, before. I also have to blind trust him and his equipment if I want to jump the bridge. Flo appears rather quiet. Opposite to Seppm you won´t hear any oafishness from him. Conscientiously and wordlessly he sets up the rope construction that he sovereignly inaugurates with a perfect backflip. This creates faith! But this time Flo is not there, unlike while my first jump. Just his ropes and karabiners.
Tonight it´s Tobi taking his position. The 26 year old newbie had only once been at a jump session and never installed the ropes himself. But still it´s due to him as the driving force that we are here tonight. I told him in advance that I would not solely lay my life in someone´s hands who doesn´t have any practical experience in setting the ropes up. I wanted to have at least one experienced jumper there who has made the setup before.
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Somewhere around the bridge´s center Seppm and Tobi are installing the ropes which should catch us after 60 feet freefall as a huge pendulum under the bridge. I am impressed how much thought Tobi gave to all that in advance. He´s indeed inventing some reasonable innovations to make our jumps safer. Such as installing a little piece of carpet to protect the rope from the bridge´s sharp steel edges or bringing snap lightsticks for a better visibility in the dark.
Actually just one rope would be enough, the second is slightly longer and just serves as a backup in case the first rope should tear. Actually all relevant pieces of equipment are double-mounted. Unlike bungee jumping we will not jump from the rope fixing point, we will jump from one of the two massive concrete pillars positioned right-angled and carrying the steel bridge. You have to climb or jump down four feet onto this seven feet wide concrete socket with a 120 feet abyss all around. Dropping from up here would probably not be lethal because there´s a big river flowing around the two sockets. But still you must move extremely careful here because an accidential drop even into water would cause severe injuries. Just like on the bridge´s basement floor where you won´t find any balustrade. And you shouldn´t have acrophobia if you want to walk here. Only the massive steel bars simulate an illusory safety.
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Fear and overcoming
It´s that special moment just before the jump that counts. When slight panic crawls your body up. When you know that you´re gonna be next. With an unpleasant feeling you jump the four feet down onto the concrete socket. Unpleasant not because you are jumping unsecured on a concrete base with 120 feet abyss around. No, it´s the certainty that you are just about to jump down this abyss, intentionally and in full consciousness.
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Then there´s one of the experienced jumpers waiting for you, like a hangman. He´s got two karabiners in his hands with the ropes that you should confide your life to now. By the weight of the two 100 feet ropes dragging you towards the abyss you realize what you are just about to get into. After a brief security check you´re all alone with yourself. Only four steps to Nirvana. The faster you run the easier it is. That´s what they said. Curious views from all those already being member of the brave club of bridge jumpers and all those who have not yet realized what´s awaiting them. The whole group is cheering you, but you´re still alone. Only you can make this decision! „Will I run or will I stand there like a chicken?“ Not in front of the others, rather in front of myself. Cause you know: no one will push you to jump or even condemn you if you don´t dare the leap. You can still step back. It´s a bit like the little angel fighting the devil on your shoulder: „Are you lunatic? Don´t do it!“ „Don´t be a wimp, jump!“
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Not knowing why you are choosing lunacy and start running, regardless who it was whispering that „Do it!“ into your ear. It´s not about good or bad, it´s about overcoming fears of death, the leap into a new life. You don´t know yet that your life will be different after that because you are just losing ground, you are falling. Your hands are clawing into the rope falling with you, locked but totally useless. Damned! Shouldn´t the rope have already catched you?
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Then there comes a gentle jolt introducing that titanic pendulum swinging you through the air with a breakneck speed. Finally you understand why you have done this. Cause finally you know that you are alife! The past years appear to be wasted and you ask yourself why you didn´t start to live much earlier. Now your facial expression switches from panic to a satisfied grin. And you know for sure that this was not your last bridge jump.

Team work
Getting back up is pure team work. Cause only with concentrated forces each jumper can be pulled up quickly and uncomplicated. First a drag rope would be lowered down in which the jumper latches in. Then one takes command, all the others pull. No one cops out, no one just wants to take command. Everybody participates, without being asked. That´s my vision of real team work, real team sport. Without any specified rules or a referee.
A priceless adventure
You certainly cannot buy this adventure. There´s no commercial company where you could book a bridge jump. You need to know someone who already did it. That makes it somehow exclusive. You don´t need any specific skills, just the balls to jump. Of course you must bring a certain readiness to assume a risk because there´s no one you could blame in case of an accident. Everybody´s jumping on his own risk. Bridge jumping is a do-it-yourself-adventure which Seppm explains like this: „There´s also a residual risk if you climb a ladder at home. But bridge jumping is much more fun than climbing a ladder!“ Maybe that´s exactly what makes this sport so fascinating. The impartiality and the fun are in the front, nevertheless everybody cares for each other to guarantee maximum safety.

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After the jump is just before the next jump
Seppm and his buddys don´t jump very often, mabe three or four times a year as it always costs alot of time and effort to round up all the people. Asking if he would ever grow out of that phase that he needs that kind of nonsense he answers: „I don´t know! Maybe I´ll tell you one day!“

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view film arte, Tracks
Bridge Jumping (Saut à l'Élastique)
TV report, 30.06.2012, 7:00 min. (French Version)
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watch video Bridge Day
Bridge Jumping
video clip, 3:30 min.
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watch video Emotions
Bridge Jumping
video clip, 1:55 min.
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