California man, 100, takes giant leap into record book

ALPINE, CALIF. — ALPINE, Calif. -- Defying age, common sense and the fears of his children, 100-year-old S.L. Potter made his first bungee jump yesterday from a 210-foot tower, earning what he hopes is a place in history.

Against the backdrop of the Viejas Mountains and cattle grazing on nearby Indian lands, Mr. Potter took flight at 2:59 p.m., as dozens of friends from a San Diego area board-and-care home where he once lived clapped and cheered.


Strapped into a specially made torso harness, Mr. Potter stepped off the platform and plummeted toward the ground. He bounced four times as if on the end of giant yo-yo, his house slippers curling almost to the lip of the pool below.

For several seconds, the stooped, 119-pound Mr. Potter dangled motionless and the crowd hushed. "Oh my God!" shrieked an elderly neighbor who feared Mr. Potter had died.


But when Mr. Potter kicked his feet, as if riding a bicycle, and waved with his bony right arm, the crowd broke into laughter and heaved sighs of relief.

After his release from the harness, Mr. Potter complained of feeling tired, and asked if he could please have his teeth back. At the last second, his dentures had stayed behind.

As his family and friends crowded around, surveyed by television cameras, Mr. Potter joked, "I'm going home and going to bed."

Asked if he had been scared, he looked offended.

"Hell, no," he said. "I don't get scared."

In seeking to become the world's oldest bungee jumper, Mr. Potter ignored the advice of his daughter and three sons, who themselves range in age between 68 and 74. They and his former physician were openly fearful that he would die in flight and, in fact, might be harboring a death wish.

"It's possible," Mr. Potter admitted before the leap. "If I die, I die. I told everybody to bring a shovel and a mop, just in case."

Mr. Potter's fearlessness was uppermost in the mind of Dr. Edward Sheldon, a Lemon Grove, Calif., physician who urged Mr. Potter "under no circumstances" to undertake what he considered a foolish and possibly fatal misadventure.


Dr. Sheldon said he was worried about the age of Mr. Potter's bones and skin, which is stretched taut during a bungee jump.

Mr. Potter not only rejected Dr. Sheldon's advice, he got himself a new doctor. Dr. Jim Ricketts of Alpine told Mr. Potter he not only considered it medically permissible, he admired the old man's grit and fortitude.

But Mr. Potter's sons, who watched nervously yesterday as he climbed 61 metal steps from an elevator to the top of the tower -- at the height of a 21-story building -- had also begged him not to do it, for their sakes, if nothing else.

"We tried our best to talk him out of it," said Jim Potter, 72, who lives in nearby La Mesa. "It's wild, it's crazy, but he's so independent, you can't change his mind."