The art of walking off buildings… face first

The art of walking off buildings… face first

There are those who are crazy enough to create online stores, speculate with their pensions or invest in the Zimbabwean economy… for the rest of us, we need to get our adrenaline pumping in other, more visceral ways. Welcome, then, to the world of adventure sports.

Adrenaline junkies the world over have found new ways to get their hearts racing and to satisfy their thirst for adventure. Gone are the days of jumping off a tall ladder and splashing into a tiny pool. Now you can throw yourself off a bridge with a big elastic band attached to your ankles, or jump off a building and go into full flight before throwing a small parachute in the air from your fist, or descend horizontally for 100 m down a building, cliff face or dam wall on a rope. And if bungee jumping, BASE jumping, or abseiling aren’t enough… now there’s rap jumping.


Rap jumping is also known as Australian abseiling or Australian rappelling, or deepelling. So what’s Australia got to do with it? In the late 1960s, the Australian Special Forces came up with the technique of descending face-first into a combat zone so that they could fire weapons while descending if they were attacked from below. Adrenaline-fuelled adventure seekers decided to turn this into an exhilarating pastime and the first commercial (fun) rap jumping operation was started by Macka MacKail in Cairns, Australia in 1989.

How it works

Abseiling requires you to sidle your butt over the edge of a building or mountain and to lower yourself backwards down the face of said building or mountain. You’re harnessed into safety gear and feed a rope through your gloved hands as you descend to the ground, watching your starting point get further and further away from you. Rap jumping, on the other hand, requires you to literally walk over the edge of the building and then run down the side of it. Run. Yes. The hardest part is getting up onto the platform or edge of the building and tipping yourself forward into thin air, much to the consternation of your survival instinct. And once you’ve mastered this manoeuvre while still maintaining control of your bladder, you simply place one foot in front of the other while running down the side of the building… Mission Impossible-style.

Where can you rap jump in South Africa?

There are a few adventure companies that offer rap jumping at specific locations in South Africa. The most popular venue is the colourful Orlando Cooling Towers in Soweto, where the ride to the top of the towers is enough to blow your hair back, let alone walking, jumping or diving from their 100 m height. The Shongweni Dam Nature Reserve near to Durban is another rap jumping location, with temporary facilities also offered at Joburg CBD’s Parktonian Hotel and the Golden Gate Bridge in the Free State.

Most tour operators offer two rap jumps per session because adventure sport enthusiasts always want to do it better the second time around… once the adrenaline has replaced all traces of fear and the need for another thrill kicks in!