Alister Morgan
Saturday 21 February 1998 00:02 GMT

The Dangerous Sports Club first captured national headlines in 1979 when its members performed the first ever bungee jump in the Western hemisphere. Performed on April Fool's Day, the founder members of the DSC donned top hats and tails before jumping illegally from the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol (pictured below).

"The DSC began when I went with a chum, called Ed Hulton, to Switzerland to watch the Cresta run and the bobsleigh," says David Kirke, current Chairman of the DSC.

"We'd previously built a hang-glider from a 1903 design which had crashed and smashed to pieces so we wanted to try the Cresta and the bobsleigh. We found they were a bit exaggerated so we thought we'd start something new."

The DSC was created as a tongue-in-cheek way of having fun, but it wasn't long before its stunts grew increasingly outrageous.

"It was all just a giggle. We were the first people to ever fly off Mount Olympus on a hang glider.

"It was amazing. We were standing at the top of the home of the Gods and as I flew down I asked myself, `Is this better than sex? - it possibly is but may not be quite as good as the best passage in a Joseph Conrad novel'."

Since then, club members have carried out more than 80 white-knuckle capers in over 40 countries, breaking laws as well as a wide array of limbs along the way.

They've catapulted themselves off cliffs, jumped off Cheddar Gorge, invented the extreme reverse bungee jump and hang-glided into 5,000ft of cloud over one of the world's most active volcanoes, Mount Kilimanjaro.

Naturally, an integral part of DSC membership involves run-ins with the law. And visits to exotic foreign lands have often culminated in unscheduled stays in equally exotic foreign jails.

"We used to wind the police up something rotten," explains Kirke. "They used to bring van-loads of police dogs to track us down but we always escaped in boats or through the woods.

"When we did the first bungee jump in Bristol, the police were very nice. I've been in jail in three or four countries, for short periods, but after the jump was the only time when the police brought us leftover wine and said, `Well done boys, you really brightened our day'. I've defended the British police ever since."

While the Bristol bungee jump went perfectly, DSC members don't always escape without a scratch. When Kirke was launched off the edge of a cliff in County Clare, Ireland, by a machine used to launch aircraft on battleships, he cracked his spine in three places.

"I suppose I was very lucky but even if I was in a wheelchair I would still have done it," he says. "Some resin, to minimise the impact of the firing mechanism, arrived a day late. But I had to do it because it was such fun. So I mocked up the padding and put foam rubber behind my parachute."

Now the DSC's exploits are about to be released on a video, Mad Bad and Totally Dangerous - a fitting tribute to the club that paved the way for modern adrenaline freaks.

The club still exists but now performs mainly for ecological and charity organisations. Kirke assures me that he has something very special lined up for the Millennium Dome. I can't wait.

`Mad Bad and Dangerous' is released on 9 March (pounds 10.99). We have five copies to give away. The first five postcards to reach us will each win one. Name and address to Alister Morgan, DSC, The Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL

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