cliff-diving-tombstoning

A little bit about tombstoning AKA cliff jumping

We spent a wonderful day down in the Calanques south of Hyeres jumping off rocks of various heights and admiring those intrepid souls who chose the highest cliffs in that particular bay …

… and we got to musing about this sport, one which we had seen profiled on the Beeb not so many days before with various people bemoaning the fact that it was dangerous, extreme, put people’s lives at risk, etc etc etc but at the same time admitting that no-one will ever be able to stop it…

… phew …

That’s why we are all being driven to extremes. All because of Health and Safety stepping in like a bull in the china shop to stop anything that bears a remote relationship to fun with a hint of spice.

What is the modern world coming to?

But back to tombstoning – an attention grabbing name if ever there was one. The name  is thought to have come from the way the body looks – feet first with arms crossed over the upper body, sometimes, as it plunges into the sea, not unlike a body in a tomb or coffin. Plain old ‘cliff jumping’ lacks that certain ‘je ne sais quoi’.

General perception now perceives tombstoning as a foolish, dangerous and ill-thought action rather than a well planned and calculated ‘extreme sport’. It does not need to be an ill-thought action, and drunken louts throwing themselves off any high wall do not help the image of the sport.

Tombstoning can be done with a degree of safety – and the first obvious advice is: DON’T JUMP INTO THE UNKNOWN. It seems obvious doesn’t it but you would be amazed how many people do exactly that. To prevent a blanket ban on this sport some advice should be listened to.That one is numero uno.

The second is a knowledge of the area you are jumping in and taking advice from others. You might watch with admiration someone leaping from the highest cliff and, vipped up with enthusiasm, rush off to do the same – but tides change and you might have left it too late. Also watch the swell of the sea – you can jump safely then be dashed against the rocks. Not pleasant.

Drinking affects judgement and timing – always!

The temperature of the sea is important too – even strong swimmers have drowned and sometimes very close to the shore. It is wise to swim first to acclimatise your body to the temperature – and/or wear a wetsuit.

And you should have a friend nearby to raise the alarm should anything go wrong…

Don’t let that friend pressure you into doing a jump you really don’t want to do. And don’t jump merely to impress your peers…

Done correctly tombstoning is an example of people doing something they enjoy, but understanding that  it can be dangerous and doing what they can to minimise the risks. There’s a good video below, just follow the link:

BBC Radio 1 – About Tombstoning

As you can see, if the risks are mitigated, jumping into water is a relatively low-risk activity.

This sport need not be dangerous. Few of the adrenaline junkies go for the really high or dangerous jumps, and those you see doing such a thing, more often than not, are doing it sensibly – in experienced groups, wearing wetsuits and some form of sea shoes.

Really tombstoning is all about  escapism – never are you freer than when you’re rushing through the air to a relatively soft landing, the rush of adrenaline giving you a natural high that beats any drug.

So, a few words of advice, but now back to how much fun tombstoning, or good old fashioned cliff jumping, (StuartMorris7) can be…

The coast is littered with dangerous sports – surfing, kite surfing, windsurfing, to name just a few. Anything involving the water, if done irresponsibly, is dangerous, and loss of life is always tragic. But doctors don’t tell surfers they’re insane as did a Cornish accident and emergency doctor when describing the tomstoning craze as “utter and complete insanity” . To surf you need a board (£300 upwards), you need to learn to surf (lessons aren’t cheap), and you need, preferably, a 3ft swell or more. To tombstone you need high water, a sensible cliff ledge, and a great big pair of balls!

It’s human nature to strike out of the comfort zone, and tombstoning isn’t going to go away. It’s time to put in place the same measures already taken with other sports to make them safer – such as marking out the spots which are more safe to jump, such as close proximity to beaches with lifeguards, areas where low swells and high tide bring a deep pool of safe water…  and not to berate those who feel the urge to do it and try to put in place a blanket ban.

As for us? Well, we’re planning another trip to the Calanques. The water’s deep, warm and crystal clear; the rocks and cliffs have something for everyone. It couldn’t be better…

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