Tombstoning 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. This posture of the body, resembling a tombstone, gives the activity its name. A safety advisory from the Government of the United Kingdom records that tombstoning has been taking place for "generations"; however, it is under increasing media and public scrutiny due to wider coverage of the risks involved.
Due to the hazards involved, both from the risk of hitting water from great height and that posed by unforeseen underwater hazards such as rocks, debris and shallow water, tombstoning has become a controversial activity. The practice has received increasing media attention in the United Kingdom, with the UK Coastguard recording 139 injuries, with 20 deaths, between 2004 and 2013, including children aged 12 or older. Two males aged 17 and 20 have been left paralysed. In 2013 and 2014 the BBC recorded further fatalities in Cumbria, and several injuries in Dorset. In May 2014 the Maritime and Coastguard Agency released a safety document regarding tombstoning in conjunction with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.
The increasing number of injuries and deaths attributing to tombstoning have 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 has led to the dismantling of seafront diving boards and closure of parts of the waterfront to discourage the activity. Similar practices are employed at Holcombe, Somerset, Herne Bay Pier in Kent, and in areas of Southampton's Redbridge causeway, all popular tombstoning locations.
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." 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. 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."