David Whitley spins, hovers, swoops and screams in New Zealand’s hotbed of absurd adrenalin rushes

The roar is obnoxiously loud. It sound like I’m stood behind a fully fired-up jet engine, and that’s not too far from the truth. I’m dressed in a jumpsuit which, being entirely made of cheap denim, makes me look far more like a redneck baby than Elvis, and I have been released into a circular cage. Stood on a platform made from the material that usually goes into bouncy castles, I am told to put my hands out in front of me and let myself fall into the cacophonous void...


If Queenstown is New Zealand’s place to go for the heart-stopping big beasts of adrenalin-junkie tourism, then Rotorua is the spot for variety. Best known for its overriding stench of sulphur, thermal pools and mad bursts of hot steam bursting out of the ground willy-nilly, Rotorua is also home to Agroventures. You can pretty much do anything on this roped off section of a local farm. Rolling down hills in giant hamster balls, bungy jumping and cycling around the underside of a monorail track are all on the menu.


I, however, am testing out Freefall Xtreme. As I tumble forth, the wind turbine below propels me upwards – taking on gravity with a 185km/h blast. Well, in theory, I go upwards. The idea is to float in the air above the turbine. I’m just propelled to the bouncy castle matting on the other side. After a few more abortive attempts, I just about get the hang of it, and the dastardly swines operating the thing decide to play tricks on me. One pushes my legs, the other pushes my arms and I find myself spinning around like a particularly big hand on a particularly silly clock. Dignified it is not. If the Freefall Xtreme is absurd, then The Swoop enters genuine underwear-staining territory. The concept is relatively simple – you’re strapped up inside a big bag/ straight jacket, and then slowly winched upwards to a height of 40m.


From there, you pull a rip cord and fly back to earth.

The gradual process of getting to that 40m release height is horrible. You’re gradually pulled backwards as well as up and, given that you’ve little choice but to look down, the view below sends your heart into warp speed. All that’s going through my mind was whether it was worse to fall into the river or onto the concrete. After seemingly months, the little ant man on the ground calls out. Is that my signal to pull the cord? What if I get it wrong? What if he’s shouting “don’t pull it yet”? I run through my extensive vocabulary of swear words.


Eventually I get a three-two-one and I yank the little orange rope. Deeeeeeeeeeear looooooooooord – I’m falling to earth...I have entered a temporary phase of freefall, reaching 135km/h and 3G as I skim just a metre above the concrete that would no doubt claim me and have my mother weeping.  But I survive; the upswing takes me flailing around in the air, powerless to resist or manoeuvre. But by this stage, it has become quite good fun. I’m whooping like a fat retard on in an American chat show audience rather than screaming. I’m Rotorua’s newest action man; I hovered, I swooped, I conquered.





By David Whitley