Bring on bungy’s next 25 years.
That’s the key message from two Kiwis who co-founded the adventure tourism phenomenon at Queenstown’s Kawarau Bridge a quarter of a century ago.
Queenstown’s Henry van Asch and globetrotting AJ Hackett reunited at the site on Tuesday to celebrate bungy’s 25th birthday, hosting local kids for free jumps during the day – then an invite-only party at night.
In a joint toast, an emotional Hackett – pausing at one point to say “I’m losing it” – told guests he’d been asked by lots of people about plans for the next 25 years: “It’s a difficult question, but we feel we’re only just beginning.”
Van Asch said it was great to see plenty of familiar faces who’d been associated with them down the years, before making a special mention of veteran staffer the late Tony Middendorf.
The group logistics boss, who would’ve marked 20 years with AJ Hackett Bungy in February, was killed in a motorbike accident two Saturdays back.
“He would’ve wanted us to have the best time possible,” Van Asch told the crowd, adding it’d been a sad time and Middendorf, who started as a boat operator and mechanic, left a great legacy.
Hackett thanked the Van Asch family for always being so welcoming, saying “we’re like brothers” before planting a big kiss on Van Asch.
Van Asch praised Hackett’s international crew before wisecracking: “Even though he continues to try and poach some of our jumpmasters.”
Earlier that day, Hackett, who is developing new jump sites in Russia and Singapore to add to AJ Hackett International venues in Macau, Cairns and France, said the 25 years have flown by and bungy is still in its infancy.
“Although we’ve been going an impressive 25 years, Henry and I feel like bungy’s only just begun.”
Before starting commercial jumps 25 years ago, Hackett and Van Asch – who started their friendship skiing in Wanaka – developed bungy cords with the help of Auckland University.
They and crew then developed a Bungy Code of Practice, providing a framework for the New Zealand/Australian Bungy Jump Standard, considered the industry bible.
The pair, who split as business partners in 1997 but later adopted a brand consistency agreement, say the past 25 years felt like a bungy apprenticeship.
Both promise more innovation to come and they’ve been brainstorming during Hackett’s latest visit.