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February 21, 2016

Safety While Cliff Jumping

Safety While Cliff Jumping


Understanding Your Environment

Being safety conscious while cliff jumping is absolutely imperative- many factors come into play.  Attempting cliff jumping without the proper education can be deadly; this article was written to provide safety guidelines to follow while you are jumping.

Be aware of your surroundings; dangers lay in-wait, and every one uncovered makes you safer.”

-Depth and Underwater Danger-

Checking the water for both depths and dangers are principal safety procedures.  Goggles play a huge role in checking the water; being able to visually see dangers and ground texture is a huge help. “If you don’t have goggles, swim the water out anyway, use your feet and arms to feel for any dangers if the water is murky.”  Swim the landing area out thoroughly, looking for any debris and dangers- manmade or natural.  Swimming holes can produce many different dangers unique to the location.  For example, rebar in a quarry or fallen trees in a river- both can be a deadly in a landing site.  Checking the bottom for large rocks or tree branches can save lives.  

Make sure you save some deep breaths

to check the depth of the landing area.  Depths for safety vary depending on the height of the jump.  The higher you jump from, the more severe the impact. While free falling, gravity plays her role: pulling your weight into the earth until collision. The mass that is you, gains momentum every second of the free fall.  Acceleration Of Gravity dictates that every second of your descent has an increased velocity over the second before it.  You can find exact speed calculations right here, The Splat Calculator.  

A great tool to utilize here is a roll-out tape measure, weighted on the end.  You can use this for measuring water depths and heights of jumps.

These findings are based on the World High Diving Federation.

Small Jumps (5’-10’)it is recommended to have at least 12’ of water below.

Medium Jumps (10’ to 30’) it is recommended to have at least 20’ of water below.

Large Jumps (30’ to 60’)- it is recommended to have at least 38’ of water below.  

The World High Dive Federation says 43’ to 49’ of water is adequate for a 65’+ jump.  


Another danger present at most jumping locations are People. Whether it is due to ignorance or stupidity, some people may pose a threat to your safety.  As you walk into a location, be sure to asses the people, and determine if they are intoxicated or acting unsafely.  When you are aware of intoxicated or unsafe individuals, your chances of injury diminish.  Avoid cliff sides and other danger areas while any unsafe people are present. One mistake can take a life.  

People can also influence your decision making abilities. Peer pressure is a common problem while cliff jumping.  Friends may chant your name and do countdowns trying to trigger your leap; this in turn gets adrenaline going and can lead to you doing something you’re not ready for- resulting in injury.

If it isn’t appropriate to confront the person acting unsafely, be sure to warn others of the dangers that the individual or individuals present.  It is our job to protect one another.

“The most important thing to remember is that you control your actions, and it is solely up to you to decide if this jump is appropriate or not.  Do not let anyone influence your decisions.  Listen to yourself.  If you feel unsafe, STOP.”

– Terrain Difficulty –

The best part about most swimming locations, whether it be a riverside rope swing or cenote deep in a jungle, is that each spot is unique.  Those intriguing unique qualities can also offer dangers as well.  Inspecting the difficulty of terrain and climb is essential.  

“Make sure you are physically able to handle the climb to the jump spot- many injuries occur while climbing.”

Engage others about the difficulty of the path.  Loose dirt or rock can be a grave danger while scaling cliff sides.  Knowing about it prior to the climb will prove useful.

When walking in the water, take careful, slow, flat steps to avoid slipping on algae covered rocks.  Always keep hold of secure branches, roots, or rocks while climbing. Test each before putting any serious weight onto them- just to be sure they can support the force you plan on delivering.  

“Carrying rope can be very handy for climbing- I always carry rope while exploring new locations.”

The Jumping Process

Sizing up the takeoff spot can be terrifying.  Looking over the ledge at the waters you plan on landing-in can give quite an adrenaline rush, but make sure to keep your mind focused on the important details of what lies ahead.  

– Taking Off  –

Plan the steps you wish to take with care and visualize yourself landing in the water safely.  Look for any jutting cliffs or tree branches below.  If an object presents itself as a threat, remove it.  If it is immovable, do not jump.  “Do not damage or harm our forest or wild ecosystems in any way, please.”  

Practice your approach to the ledge until you are positive about where you want that last step to be.

Alert anyone below of your intentions of jumping- helping to prevent a collision or a reason for a last second hesitations.  

In a more difficult jumping location, where you may only have a tiny place to stand, be sure to at least have your toes and metatarsals firmly planted to propel you away from whatever dangers wait straight below.

Back up and align yourself with your practiced runway, swallow that lump in your throat, and go over all of the techniques you are about to practice on the way down.

– Flight –

Immediately after your final step off the ledge you will be hurling forward and gravity will begin to suck you towards the crust of the earth where a deep pool of water should await you.

Once in flight, raise your arms up at a 45-degree angle out in front of you.  This will provide the original in-air stability you will need to start your free fall.  If this angle keeps you level the whole way down, just go with it.

While falling, you may need to adjust your arms to correct your body’s weight trajectory.  Point your arms away from your body at your shoulders, so you resemble a T.  Move your now T’d-off arms slightly forward or backward leveling your falling body so you stay upright.  Keep your eyes on the landing spot and just focus on staying vertical.

Once leveled off, try to enjoy your time in the air.  It goes by very fast, and at the same time, almost happens in slow motion.  Half the skill of cliff jumping is enjoying this very moment.

– Landing –

With water approaching at a rapid speed, you cross your arms over your breasts, lock your knees with your legs together, and brace for impact.  Braced knees and a straight smooth entrance lowers your surface impact.“ Keeping your legs together and braced is important because if they were separated with the force of hitting the water from most cliff jumping heights, it could do incredible amounts of damage to your muscles joints, and nervous system.  Water is also liable to shoot up the anus, possibly causing rectal complications and pain.”

You want to hit the water vertically, but off a 90-degree angle by a small amount.  Leaning back very slightly as you hit the water will help prevent you from hitting the bottom.

Hitting feet first, hold your pose, and enjoy being alive in this moment.

As you swim out, you will be bursting with pride from conquering another cliff jump.  This is a great feeling, but be careful exiting the water.  It is easy to get distracted and slip, ending a formidable adventure.

The Biggest Mistakes While Jumping

There are several mistakes I have witnessed on my journeys.  Some leading to what I thought were surely death at the time.  Thankfully, that is not an experience I have experienced, and I plan to keep it that way by spreading knowledge and safety techniques. By educating about jumping safety, we can prevent many unwarranted deaths and injuries.

– Drinking And Jumping

Thoughtless decisions are made and people get hurt; there are cliff jumping deaths every year due to intoxicated individuals.  Check out how the brain reacts to alcohol, directly affecting balance: Alcohol and the Brain.  

– Giving Into Peer Pressure –  

This one is tricky; trying to “one-up” one another can be very much part of the thrill involved with cliff jumping.  You naturally want to be competitive, and your pride can take over.  It is important to stay calm and humble.  Remind yourself of your limits, and stick to them.  Don’t push yourself too far because of peer pressure; it won’t be worth it if you break your back.  

– Not Checking The Water For Depths And Debris –  

Water moves boulders and changes landscapes every day.  Do not just assume a jumping spot is deep enough or clear of debris even if you have jumped there a thousand time before.  Depths can change overnight and people throw trash, broken glass, shopping carts, bikes, railroad ties, and pretty much anything you can think of into our waters.  Always check for depths and dangers.

– Hesitation At The Last Second –

Hesitation while pushing-off could result in many bad outcomes; grabbing a friend and bringing them with you, grabbing a branch or other object, or simply slipping can change your falling trajectory.  Bailing out while taking off, leads to pain- EVERY TIME.

– Throwing Arms Back –

A common mistake is throwing your arms behind you as you jump- this will happen because your mind is telling you this movement will help your balance in the air.  That is not true, it’s an unfamiliar situation for your body, and being focused is key.  Concentrating on holding your arms outstretched and at a 45-degree angle in front of you will keep you safe.

– Holding Hands –

Having two different weights dropping at different speeds, moving in different directions but tied together.  Does this sound right?  “I witness girls holding hands almost every time I visit a popular spot- this is unsafe.”  Many factors are involved: how much force each person pushes off with, how much each person weighs, and what the person is aiming for may all factor in when free falling.

– Holding Nose From Take Off –

The act of throwing your arm up to hold your nose isn’t much of a movement, but when done from 40 feet in the air, that motion has nothing to stop its continuation of forward momentum.   The momentum from putting your hand to your face throws your balance off and twists your body in the direction your hand was thrown.  The result of this is generally smashing the water at a high speed most likely in a laid out, face down position, or what we in the swimming world call a belly flop.  Not fun and easy to avoid.  This is not to say you can’t hold your nose at all; just don’t hold from from the beginning of your jump.  Grab your nose when you’re ten feet from the water if you have to grab it. 

                                                                                                                                                                                      Cliff Jumping Checklist

  • Water the most important asset on any trip.  Keeping hydrated is crucial to maintaining the right body conditions for jumping.  Water vitalizes your entire body and allows you to think clearly- a truly important utility.
  • Big Swings App- FREE DOWNLOAD HERE.
  • Trustworthy Friends- Have people who you can depend on in any situation.
  • Kingii Floatable  A safety floatation device that is a necessity for any water-adventures.
  • Backpack- I use the GraniteRocx Cascade Backpack which is perfect for a serious explorer
  • Rope Be prepared for any situation that may arise.
  • Sunglasses- Keep it polarized and inexpensive with a pair of Nectar Sunglasses.
  • Goggles- You’ll need these to check the water thoroughly.
  • Swim Trunks or Bikini- swimsuits are recommended for most jumps; however the Big Swings App does have nude beaches that you can find… 
  • Water shoes with hard soles- you will feel safer and more confident when you have good footwear appropriate for swimming and climbing.
  • Hiking Stick- My hiking stick has come to my aide more than a few times.
  • Trash Bag- Take out what you bring in; go above and beyond by picking up other’s litter. #KeepItClean by bringing out any trash you come across. 
  • Any Granola Trail Mix- Great little snack to pack in the backpack without taking up much room.
  • First-Aid Kit- Don’t leave home without one. A first-aid-kit is as must have.
  • Towel- it takes up room in the backpack, but you will be happy that you brought it when its time to go. I keep mine in the flat pocked of my Cascade Backpack, it essentially becomes another cushion layer.
  • Extra set of dry clothes- I like changing before driving home from a jump location.

Adopt-A-Spot brings allows locals to step up and take care of their most sacred swimming holes. This is the Big Swings Crew out on an Adopt-A-Spot cleaning day!

Adopt-A-Spot Cleaning Day!

Factual Information provided in part by the following sources: wikipedia, wiktionary, World High Dive Federation