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Stari Most / Mostar / Bosnia and Herzegovina
Class of 2017

When I arrived in Mostar and sent a picture of the famous bridge to my friends questioning them if they knew where I was, one of them replied with the question if I was planning on jumping off that bridge. I thought to myself: ‘Ah, that’s him again with one of his silly jokes’, until I actually saw somebody jump off the bridge a few minutes later. After a quick Google search I learned that it’s not a joke but a tradition. That Bosnian guys have to do it to become a man, and to have a successful life. That’s exactly what I wanted: to become a man and to have a successful life. But when I went to have a look from the top of the bridge that didn’t seem to be so important anymore. If you have a mild fear of heights 24 meters is extremely high. More so if you know that people have been killed or wounded severely doing the jump.

Practice platform / Mostar / Bosnia and Herzegovina
Practice makes perfect

Trouble shared is trouble halved

I have jumped from greater heights¬†even, but I didn’t do that alone. But suddenly I realised that my friend Hagan from the US would come to visit me a few weeks later. That meant we could jump together, stuff like that creates a bond and more importantly it would automatically create peer pressure. So I suggested it to him, and he responded without hesitating ‘I’m down’. Fuck! Once I had returned to Mostar with him we reported ourselves to the diving club as candidate members. Although the Netherlands paid 2 million for the reconstruction of the bridge, that doesn’t mean we can jump off it for free. I was very relieved when I was told I was too old. But that proved to be one of John’s, the diving boss, jokes. What followed next was a crash course from a ten meter high platform. And only if John thinks you’ve learned the technique sufficiently you are allowed to jump off the bridge. Our training fortunately went without a hitch, which made me start to think that I might even get away with it without so much as a scratch. Hagan too was given the go ahead for the death jump, so we’d run out of excuses. We agreed that he would go first and we’d take pictures of one and other so we’d have proof.

Stari Most / Mostar / Bosnia and Herzegovina
Even though I told him: ‘No fucking stunts!’

Red Bulls don’t fly

After Hagan and all of the other candidates had made their jump I couldn’t back out of it anymore without losing face. So I climbed onto the balustrade while a big crowd was watching. The value of the training then became clear to me. Because you learned to follow a specific procedure, that’s what you’re focussed on. You know what to do, and like a robot you go through the motions. And before you know it, three and a half seconds later, you enter the water with an incredible blow. Evidence here (and from a different angle). The pain shot through my back and my legs didn’t feel too good either. But I was alive and I fucking did it! An hour or so later my body hurt so much that even lying in bed was unbearable. When people asked us why we had so much trouble walking, we said: ‘We jumped off the bridge, just like all men from Mostar’. To which we’d always get the reply that only tourists are crazy enough to do that shit. Two week later I returned, more or less healed, to Mostar for the Red Bull Cliff Diving thing. For those guys the bridge ain’t high enough, they jump off a platform six meters higher built especially for the event on top of the bridge. Two of the professional divers unfortunately miscalculated their jump and had to be pulled out of the water unconscious and severely injured. Oops! It’s a good thing I hadn’t seen that before I made the jump. After all, I’m not suicidal!

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