IZUWAN HAJIS: WANT TO BUNGEE JUMP? SINGAPORE'S FIRST JUMPMASTER WILL HELP YOU DEAL WITH YOUR FEAR OF HEIGHTS AT SENTOSA
Nothing can fully prepare you for free falling at Skypark Sentosa by AJ Hackett. But with jumpmaster Izuwan Hajis around, you're in very safe hands.
"It's tough to describe what a jump feels like until you've done it yourself. Even after you've jumped, it's still hard to put into words how it feels. But I would say that it is very freeing. You let go of everything, and you just free fall.
Bungy jumping is not about overcoming your fear of heights. You don't really overcome it. Even as a jumpmaster, I would still feel scared if you asked me to stand on the edge without a safety line. Bungy jumping is more about dealing with your fear at that moment.
You need to have complete trust in the people that you work with. You also need complete faith that the safety line will prevent a fatal fall. That’s why at Skypark Sentosa by AJ Hackett, we always emphasise safety and check our equipment before we do anything.
Skypark Sentosa is a 40-metre tower purposefully built with a bungy jump and a giant swing. We have a safety pool which is 3.5 metres deep. This is quite cool because not many bungy sites offer water touches as part of the overall experience.
And it’s nice that we get to enjoy a beach site location at Sentosa. We’re the tallest point at Siloso Beach, so we can see far out. And the view of the sunset from the top of the tower is something you need to see.
My blood, sweat and tears are literally in this tower. Me and John Dealy – he’s a jumpmaster from Australia who trained me to become a jumpmaster – built this tower with contractors and a few other pioneering members. We were actually part of the construction.
I remember from the time the lift wasn't up yet. So every morning, when we had our safety briefing, I would always say, 'Don’t forget your tools!’ Otherwise, you would have to go all the way down and climb 17 storeys up again.
I'm Singapore's first local jumpmaster. To become a certified jumpmaster, you need to conduct 1,250 customer jumps safely. I had to undergo training to acquire the knowledge and skills to work with ropes and bungee cords.
It was quite stressful, being the only local jumpmaster for a period of time. Jumpmasters are responsible for the safety and set-up of a bungee jump. They do the final checks before a jump can occur. The customer's life is literally in your hands.
Every single day, it was either John or me. When he's away on vacation or busy with other work, it's only me up here. So the pressure was on to make sure everything was safe.
Now, I feel relieved with two more new jumpmasters in the team. I'm more relaxed because I can share the responsibility with others. I have another certified person to check on me, and I can also check on that person. We learn from one another.
Over the years, I've learned to read people's facial expressions and body language and use that skill to adapt, respond, and interact with jumpers on the edge or off the platform. This has shaped me to be more empathetic and patient with people.
Some of them start crying; some start grabbing me. They can also say a lot of nasty things to you or to whoever is around them, just to release emotion. And you cannot react, be angry or say nasty things back. Jumpmasters need the ability to assess and control situations.
We understand that a bungy activity can be terrifying, especially for those who fear heights. But that's one thing I enjoy about being a jumpmaster; you get to meet people from all walks of life.
The best part is when they share their story of what brought them to this point of doing a bungee. They would say things like, ‘It’s my birthday, I want to push myself,” or ‘I want to overcome my fears, but I don’t really want to do this.’
So I'll say, 'Don't worry, it's safe. I've done this hundred of times already.' When you get a terrified person to trust you and manage to get them to jump and reach the ground safely, the feeling is amazing.
Sometimes they leave a note or come back and say, 'Thank you so much.' That gives me a sense of satisfaction - I did it. And we, as a team, did it. Everyone played a part in keeping that person safe. That person enjoyed themselves and actually came back to try again. It's really nice.
For anyone out there who wants to bungee jump, I just want to say that they need to be mentally prepared. AJ Hackett, who commercialised bungy jumping, says, "Bungy is about shoulders-up, not shoulders down. It's all in the mind".
We're not going to lie to you. It will be really scary, but it will be very safe. We will check and make sure everything is safe for you to jump. The longer you stand on the edge, the scarier it gets. So when you're on the edge and hear us counting down, '5, 4, 3, 2, 1,' just go for it!" - Izuwan, 30
By Arman Shah
Arman Shah is a former travel writer with fond memories of solo adventures in Southeast Asia. His work has appeared in print and online in publications such as Expat Living Singapore, AsiaRooms.com, SG Magazine, and HungryGoWhere.com among others. He now manages The Everyday People, a website featuring people stories and lifestyle content.