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A popular activity for both residents and visitors to Koh Samui is the Bungy jump. The Samui Times met up with Michael Antony Thomas to find out what sort of person enjoys hurling themselves off a crane fifty meters up in the air and how Michael ended up being the one to encourage them to do at all and some of them to take the jump naked!
Where do you come from and how did you end up doing this very unique job?
I originally come from Swansea in Wales. I came to Samui to run the Bungy jump eighteen months ago, when my Dad Mark, who has owned the Bungy for the last three and a half years left to go and live in Australia. He asked me if I wanted to take his place and having just got a first in politics at University I thought it would be a great opportunity.
What do you think of your new life in Koh Samui?
I think like anywhere else in the world the island has its good points and its bad points. I love riding bikes but this island is really not conducive to enjoyable bike riding. I have experienced some problems with cultural differences and find certain aspects of island life hard to get used to. One thing I find particularly hard is the continual fascination people, both Thai and Farang, here have with money. I don’t find that the lifestyle here is not really conducive to good health and I have suffered more hangovers here than I ever did back in Wales. However, I do enjoy my life here, sometimes you have to step back and get a sense of perception on your life and when you do you realize that you are lucky to be here. I love my job. I love being able to come to work in the morning and swim in my pool that is directly under the Bungy jump. I get to meet people from all over the world. What I enjoy the most is the journey that I am able to take with the jumpers. They come to jump feeling fine and then when it comes to jump they go through terror and after the jump they feel elation and relief. I think that I get to see people facing their fears and then see them at their best.
Which parts of the world do your jumpers come from?
They come from just about every corner of the globe, although around 70% are from Israel. I have been able to learn around fifty words in Hebrew. I am now able to explain about the jump in Hebrew, answer questions and most of the time I know what they are saying. This is useful as I can assess how they feel about the jump. I think it is very important to learn Thai as well and I have learnt quite a bit. I am enjoying learning new languages.
Why do you think the jump attracts so many Israelis?
A lot of people from Israel visit Koh Samui and they don’t seem to have a Bungy jump at home. I think they are quite outgoing people and this experience lends itself well to the kind of fun they enjoy. There are quite a lot of Brits here on holiday but surprisingly I never seen them. I have only had five jumpers from my native Wales in the entire time that I have been here.
What age groups come to jump?
We get a lot of people in their 20s. The youngest I have had was 10 and the oldest was a guy who jumped on his 72nd birthday, there is no excuse for anybody not to have a jump, all ages, shapes and sizes can jump as long as they are above 34 kilos and below 150. Obviously minors need parental consent. I hope in the future a lot more residents of the island will come to jump. The more jumps you do the cheaper they become so anybody living here should take advantage and add a bit of fun and adrenalin to their lives!
Do many customers get cold feet and refuse to jump?
About 1 in 20 finds that they cannot jump, and have to come back down on the crane again. I tell nervous people not to think too much about jumping. It won’t help. Nothing logically in your brain is going to help you as it is not natural for us to be jumping off fifty foot high cranes. If somebody comes down without jumping I feel like I have failed, it is my job to get them to something ridiculously and crazy and then feel proud they faced their fears after they did it.
What conditions would prevent you from jumping?
It’s a case of being sensible, if you know you have a pre existing condition or have recently had surgery you should think about that. You can decrease chance of injury by jumping the right way. It’s a good idea to be honest about any surgery or back problems but so far we have never had a problem, the worst we have ever suffered is blood shot eyes. It is a good idea to use the bathroom before you jump as well!
Do you ever get special requests?
I do get asked to do pranks, the sort you see on Youtube where you pretend to use worn rope or throw a rope over as if the one the jumper is using has broken but I would never do that. People love to spend some time at the top of the crane enjoying what has to be the most amazing view of Koh Samui. We also do rocket man jumps for those who do not want to jump from the crane. It is a bit easier for nervous people because they are released rather than having to physically make themselves jump. And we have had an upsurge in requests for jumping naked! We have the facility to video the jump, which is pretty popular and a great memento to take home.
Do you jump?
Yes I jump for fun and also to test the new ropes that we make here ourselves. That can be very scary. Before I personally test them we test them using a barrel.
Why do you have a pool under the Bungy jump?
The rush of jumping is not the height you jump from but how close you get to the floor. The pool is the thrill factor because it allows you to go beyond the floor. We can adjust the ropes so you miss the water, skim the water or even go half body down if you want to. That is as far as we let you go though, we don’t do full submersion.
What do you do when you are not working and what are you future plans?
I work every day so don’t get chance to go to the beach or anything like that. I play football on a Sunday and my other passion is playing pool. I would love to be a writer but can see myself in a human recourse office or something like that. I would like to jump in other countries too. I went to Malaysia to see the F1 and missed out on jumping there as the jump was closed. My dream is to jump in New Zealand so that is high up on my list too.