Bridge Day: the world’s largest extreme-sports event

New River Gorge Bridge, West Virginia, USANew River Gorge and Bridge - Fayetteville, West Virginia by TrodelCreative Commons Attribution-Sharealike licence (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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Location: New River Gorge Bridge, West Virginia, USA

Date: third Sunday in October

Level of participation: 2 – watch the daredevils plummet

It’s the world’s largest extreme-sports event. More than 450 BASE jumpers hurl themselves off a 265m-high bridge, watched by up to 200,000 spectators.

BASE stands for ‘building, antennae, span, earth’, the fixed points from which the adrenaline-seeking jumpers leap. Every year since 1980, the steel structure high above the New River has proven to be a perfect launching pad. It may be America’s second-highest bridge, but jumpers still have just eight seconds to freefall and open their parachutes. They can land in the rapids below, nicknamed the ‘River of Death’, or on a patch of shoreline that’s free of trees, boulders and spectators.

The six hours it takes the 450 lunatics to deploy is the only time pedestrians are allowed on the 900m-long bridge, which gives breathtaking views down the forested gorge. Some daredevils leap from trampolines and diving boards, others parachute from the bridge rails and climbing teams rappel into the canyon. One couple even tied the knot here and celebrated by leaping into the void.

Essentials: first-time participants must have made 100 previous parachute jumps and must take part in a training course.

Local attractions: take a tour of the gorge and watch the jumping from below.

More infowww.officialbridgeday.com

See other festivals in October here.