Human Slingshot: It’s very fast and very scary
I plucked up the courage to give the world’s first Human Slingshot a try.
You might think that you have an idea about how the Human Slingshot will be. I imagined it would be fast, scary, thrilling and a big adrenaline rush. But until you have given it a go you will never really know just how very fast, very scary, very thrilling and hugely adrenaline-boosting it is.
Located at Laggan Outdoor Activity Centre, near Gatehouse-of-Fleet in Dumfries & Galloway, the Human Slingshot is the brainchild of centre owner Duncan McConchie and local engineering pal David Yates.
The 20m high structure, which looks like huge rugby posts, sits on a hill on farmland overlooking beautiful Mossyard Bay. Strung between the two vertical posts is a 130m long bungee sling.
The attachment of the “human” to the “slingshot” is enabled by carabiners –similar to those used in climbing – and a full body harness. Additionally, the human wears a neck brace and a helmet.
Daredevils are then pulled back by a vehicle up to 55m (depending on weight) to be released and flung straight forwards through the air up to 80m past the posts and to reach speeds of up to 60mph.
The g-force is between 3G and 6G. G-force is the pressure that gravity exerts on an object when it is accelerating relative to freefall.
As an example, the g-force spectrum in the high-speed sport of motor-racing ranges from 2g, such as a high-speed corner in a sports car, to the 5.3g of a dragster, which can accelerate from 0-100mph in less than a second. In grand-prix races, F1 drivers face g-force of 3-5g throughout each race.
Because I am fairly light my body can apparently only withstand certain levels of g-force so my slingshot experience is gauged accordingly. The exhilaration is unlikely to be any less, however.
Flying on a Human Slingshot
I can’t believe I am about to be launched at high speed through the air on a set of elastic ropes. My heightened nerves cause me to ask a lot of questions, such as:
- Have the bungee ropes been properly tested? – Yes, for months during set up and trials and every day of use.
- Will I hit the ground? – No, the bungee ropes are set high above the ground which prevents you hitting the ground.
- Can I wear my glasses? – No. We will take these from you before the slingshot and give them straight back. The g-force will be too much for them.
- The G-Force will be too much for my glasses, but what about my shoes? (Random questions come with nerves!) – They will stay on if they are laced up properly.
- Shall I zip up my pockets? – It’s best to empty your pockets and also zip them up.
- Has anyone been hurt yet? – No. Everyone loves it and no-one has been injured.
- Can I go a little slower the first time? – We usually start with a slower slingshot and then make the second one faster.
- But how do you do this? – We take into account your weight and then we choose the distance of “pull” back before letting you go.
- But what about the g-force. Will it hurt me? – The neck brace will stop your head being forced backwards and you will not experience any pain. It’s great fun.
- Oh, right, ok – Are you ready now?
After some basic instructions about where to hold on to the rope and how the slingshot will proceed I find myself being pulled back by the four-wheel drive vehicle.
Something on the slingshot is attached to the tow bar of the vehicle and as I am pulled back I flatten out horizontally and head first. It feels almost sacrificial.
My feet are then gently raised up behind me and tucked up on top of each other so I feel as though I am fully lying down in mid air. I feel vulnerable, prone, but excited. What on earth am I letting myself in for?
I think that if there had been too much delay I might well have asked to get back down again but after being asked if I was ok the count down started. Three, two, one and… wow! I am released to fire forwards at an incredible speed.
I scream, swear loudly and scream again. (Listen on the video!) It takes only seconds to reach full velocity and the full extent of the bungee rope stretch but the adrenaline rush is immense.
For a while after the bungee rope stretches backwards and forwards, propelling me out into the air and over the hillside, and then back again. This part is like a huge swing. My stomach repeatedly lurches and I feel as if my heart has jumped into my throat.
The blood continues to rush around my body and my legs felt weak.
After that first “shot” I am not sure if I would say I enjoyed the experience. It was very different and thrilling but it was frightening. It is against commonsense to be flung through the air at high speed. I should confess that I am not a fan of fairground rides and rollercoasters etc and I have never bungee jumped so the Human Slingshot is like nothing I have every tried before.
More shots on the Slingshot
Of course, I agree to go again. This time the pull back increases from 20 or so metres to 25 metres. The difference is staggering. I fly through the air at an even more bonkers pace. I scream loudly again (it’s impossible not to) and experience another massive adrenaline rush.
My Human Slingshot (captured by the fab cameraman Mike Bolam)
The second time I think I almost enjoyed sensation. On the third go I loved it. The anticipation of the pull back continues to be riddled with anxiety and the feeling of being fired through the air at high speed is scary, odd and still unexpected yet the feeling afterwards is fantastic.
My friend Mark also gave the slingshot a go. Because he is heavier and bigger he could stand a longer pull back and greater g-force. If I had watched him being shot through the air so fast and heard his screams before it was my turn I suspect I would not have agreed to having a go. Watching someone else on the Human Slingshot at close range is terrifying.
See Mark being shot through the air (and screaming loudly!)
However, I had already tried it so I could laugh at his screams and chat excitedly with him about the experience. We both agreed it was one of the most amazing and unusual activities we have tried.
The Human Slingshot costs £40 for two “shots” in groups of two or more at Laggan Outdoor. An extra fling is £10 per go. It can be combined with other adventure activities on offer at the busy outdoors centre.
Many thanks to my friend and freelance photographer Mike Bolam for his photos and videos.