Tombstoning (or cliff jumping) is the act of jumping in a straight, upright vertical posture into the sea or other body of water from a high jumping platform, such as a cliff, bridge or harbour edge.[1] This posture of the body, resembling a tombstone, gives the activity its name.[2] A safety advisory from the Government of the United Kingdom records that tombstoning has been taking place for "generations".[3][4] In the United Kingdom between 2005 and 2015 there were 83 people injured and 20 people who died whilst tombstoning.[5]

Injuries and deaths

It was reported that "Between June and August [2007] there were nine drowning or near misses as a result of people jumping from height into the water. Five were fatal, and impact injuries such as neck and spinal injuries were common in those who survived."[6]

In the UK between 2004 and 2008 there were 139 incidents of tombstoning where a rescue or emergency response was required. Spinal injuries occurred with 20% of these 139 incidents and 12 people died.[7]

In the UK between 2005 and 2015 there were 83 people injured and 20 people who died whilst tombstoning.[5]

For Lynn Canyon in Vancouver, it was reported in 2020 that "About 20 people have died in Lynn Canyon in the past 25 years, often in cliff-jumping incidents".[8]


Impact with water from height

When a person jumps from height and impacts with a water surface there is a greater risk of injury or death because of the "...greater force and the greater resistance of the water."[9]

It was reported that, "If you jump from 20 feet (6 meters) above the water, you'll hit the water at 25 mph (40 kmh) -- the impact is strong enough to compress your spine, break bones or give you a concussion."[10]

It was also reported that "...if you add some horizontal velocity, your impact speed increases. ...from the same height, "[A] diver who gets a running start and develops a significant forward velocity will hit the water with more net speed than a diver who dives straight down without a push off.""[11]

Height falling from Velocity reached at water surface
5 feet (1.5 metres) 12 mph (19 kmh)[9]
10 feet (3 metres) 17 mph (27 kmh)[11]
20 feet (6 metres) 25 mph (40 kmh)[10]
50 feet (15 metres) 38 mph (61 kmh)[11]
85 feet (26 metres) 53 to 62 mph (85 to 100 kmh)[11]

Depth, tides and submerged objects

In relation to water depth "the water may be shallower than it seems"[4] and "...tides can rise and fall very quickly",[7] "...what may have been a deep pool at lunchtime may be a shallow puddle by tea time."[12]

Submerged objects also pose a direct risk to jumpers, who may sustain severe physical trauma upon colliding with them, or risk becoming entangled and unable to surface. "Objects like rocks, fishing gear, mooring lines and other under water hazards may not be visible."[12]

Cold water shock and Loss of breath

Cold water temperatures "...can lead to cold water shock and can make even the most experienced swimmers unable to stay afloat."[12] Also it was reported that "...even in recent warm weather the waters around the UK are cold and when the body suddenly enters this environment it can cause an involuntary gasp resulting in water being breathed rather than air."[13]

When falling into water "... something as simple as having the wind knocked out of you could result in your death..."[9]

Getting out of the water and strong currents

After a person has jumped from height into water "It may be impossible to get out of the water."[7] and "...strong currents can rapidly sweep people away".[4]

Safety measures

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency released a safety document regarding tombstoning in conjunction with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.[3] The national water safety forum published safety messages in relation to tombstoning.[4]

The increasing number of injuries and deaths related to tombstoning has increased calls for responses from local authorities and emergency services. At Plymouth Hoe, in Plymouth, Devon, where tombstoning is popular, the number of serious injuries and deaths[14] has led to the dismantling of seafront diving boards and closure of parts of the waterfront to discourage the activity.[15] Similar practices are employed at Holcombe, Somerset, Herne Bay Pier in Kent, and in areas of Southampton's Redbridge causeway, all popular tombstoning locations.[16]



Conversely, Paul Snelling in the journal Public Health Ethics has argued that criticism of tombstoning has been based purely on a health perspective which "fails to take into account the enjoyment that various health effecting habits brings and the contribution that this makes to a good life."[17] Residents of Portknockie in Moray defended tombstoning into the North Sea in July 2014 arguing that it was "a local tradition that dates back generations", pointing out that "the real dangers are when holidaymakers join in" who do not know when and where it is safe.[18] Jo Wood of The Guardian also criticised the anti-tombstoning arguments in 2006, stating that "By banning tombstoning in and around the bays at Newquay, authorities are forcing the tombstoners to less populated and known cliffs, around unknown rip currents, increasing the danger of a) a bad jump and b) not being spotted and easily rescued should something go wrong."[19]

See also


  1. ^ "BBC News - Warning as Devil's Bridge 'tombstoning' continues despite death". 2013-07-10. Retrieved 2014-08-25.
  2. ^ "Tombstoning - Torbay Council". Archived from the original on 2011-06-04. Retrieved 2014-08-25.
  3. ^ a b "Tombstoning: safety advice" (PDF). Retrieved 2022-04-19.
  4. ^ a b c d "Coasteering and Tombstoning". NWSF. Archived from the original on 10 May 2021. Retrieved 15 March 2022.
  5. ^ a b "Man dies after 'tombstoning' off Plymouth Hoe cliff". BBC. 14 October 2016. Archived from the original on 14 October 2016. Retrieved 15 March 2022.
  6. ^ Walker, David (November 2007). "Tombstoning - a giant leap into the unknown" (PDF). RoSPA. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 Jul 2021. Retrieved 15 March 2022.
  7. ^ a b c "Tombstoning – 'Don't jump into the unknown'". RoSPA. Archived from the original on 7 January 2022. Retrieved 15 March 2022.
  8. ^ Baker, Rafferty (29 July 2020). "'We've had fatalities': First responders ask people not to cliff jump in Lynn Canyon". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 1 July 2022. Retrieved 1 July 2022.
  9. ^ a b c "CLIFFS PLUS DIVING = DANGER: WATER, GRAVITY CAN TURN THRILLER INTO A KILLER". Deseret News. 8 June 1989. Archived from the original on 15 March 2022. Retrieved 15 March 2022.
  10. ^ a b Kolich, Heather. "How Cliff Diving Works". how stuff works. p. 4. Archived from the original on 6 March 2021. Retrieved 15 March 2022.
  11. ^ a b c d Kolich, Heather. "How Cliff Diving Works". how stuff works. p. 2. Archived from the original on 6 March 2021. Retrieved 15 March 2022.
  12. ^ a b c Beresford, Alan (2 July 2020). "Tombstoning warning after Findochty Harbour incident". Grampian online. Archived from the original on 15 March 2022. Retrieved 15 March 2022.
  13. ^ Thompson, George (26 July 2019). "The Port of Milford Haven warns against tombstoning". Western Telegraph. Archived from the original on 26 July 2019. Retrieved 15 March 2022.
  14. ^ "Devon deaths warning over Plymouth Hoe tombstoning". BBC News. 18 June 2010.
  15. ^ "'Unsafe' diving platform removed". BBC News. 17 February 2010.
  16. ^ "Tombstoning campaign launched to stop serious injuries (From Daily Echo)". 2014-07-21. Retrieved 2014-08-25.
  17. ^ Snelling, P. C. (2012). "What's Wrong with Tombstoning and What Does This Tell Us About Responsibility for Health?". Public Health Ethics.
  18. ^ Whitfield, A. "‘Tombstoning’ a tradition, say Moray locals" Aberdeen Journals July, 2014.
  19. ^ Wood, Jo (5 July 2006). "In defence of the thrill-seekers". The Guardian.