The thrill and fear of the Shotover Canyon Swing

Photo: Shotover Canyon Swing

The thrill and fear of the Shotover Canyon Swing

I like to think I'm up for participating in most of New Zealand's crazy activities! I've jumped off a bridge with a bungy cord around my feet and thrown myself out of an aeroplane from 12,000ft. Therefore when my time arrived to do the Canyon Swing, I naively thought it would be a breeze.

The Shotover Canyon Swing is set up at the top of a cliff, 109m (360ft) above the Shotover River in Queenstown. It's a wicked alternative to doing a bungy jump and is guaranteed to get your heart thumping!

After checking in at the Canyon Swing office in Queenstown and enduring the painful process of being weighed in front of a bunch of other brave daredevils, a pattern was drawn on my hand and I was wished the best of luck! Returning to my friends, we compared patterns and began to wonder – was each pattern symbolising which jump-style we'd be asked to do? Getting into the complimentary shuttle van, we headed out of town towards the Shotover River. It's only a short drive, but with eight others huddled together in this small vehicle, I couldn't help but get caught up in the banter and excitement.

Upon arrival, we walked down a little track before being met by the sight of another adrenaline junkie plummeting down in to the canyon, with nothing but jump ropes to support him. Was that really what I was about to do?

Adrenaline started pumping through my body, and my friend's enthusiasm to choose the most daredevil jump styles simply heightened my fear. Instead, I myself was content with choosing The Chair – supposedly the easiest option, where you sit in a harness and leave the task of releasing the cord to your jumpmaster.  However, I challenge anyone to argue that there is anything ‘easy’ about freefalling 60m in to a canyon in a sitting position with nothing to hold on to!

As I got strapped into my gear, I was relieved to discover that the patterns on our hands had been nothing to do with our jump-styles, but was just a kindly disguised symbol of our weight – what a relief!

This relief quickly dissolved however as I was asked to step off the platform, over the canyon, suspended by ropes above me. Thoroughly enjoying watching this poor punter squirm, the jump guides kept me hanging over the canyon for about a minute! The fear of knowing what was about to happen but not quite sure when was immense!

The jump guides then asked me to lean back and look up at the camera and as soon as I did, without any warning, they pulled the cord to release me. I'm sure my screams were heard back in Queenstown! Gravity pulls you down towards the river before you really know what’s going on and it’s only really once you start the swing across the canyon at the bottom that you take in what has just happened. The sensation of freefalling 60m at a speed of about 150kmh is absolutely mind blowing and while you are sure to lose your stomach on the way down, the sense of achievement for attempting such a terrifying activity is well worth facing the fear!

Once I had completed my swing, I was pulled back up to the top of the platform, able to finally enjoy the (much slower and relaxing) experience and take in the incredible scenery.

- Jeff Wells



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