It only takes one wrong landing to break a spine

By Ea Francisco | Photo by Jan Traid/Unsplash

The danger is part of the experience is what anyone who’s tried cliff diving would say. While that may be true, a lot of people don’t fully understand the risks to cliff diving.

To be honest, any height that’s taller than yourself can be dangerous if you’re not doing it right. The biggest threat to cliff diving is the speed at which you’re going. Speed builds up fast when airborne, so even just jumping from a 20-foot height can have you speed up at 25 mph as you hit the water. When positioned wrong, the impact can leave you with broken bones or a concussion. If that height is fast enough to hurt you, imagine jumping off a 60-foot cliff.

The risks of cliff diving increases just as the height does, which is why the World High Diving Federation (WHDF) doesn’t recommend anyone going higher than 65 feet (or 20 meters) unless they’re a professional or supervised. Among the injuries that can happen are bruises, abrasions, compression fractures, concussions, and even spinal damage. There are competitive divers who can go as high as 80 feet, but that’s only because they’ve trained years and worked their way up.

Aside from how hard you’ll be landing, there’s also the issue of where you’re landing. When you’re jumping off natural bodies of water, you have to be extra sure that it is deep enough. The WHDF says if you’re diving from a 65-foot height then the water should be around 43 to 49 feet deep. While you can always circle the location to check if it’s deep enough, the ebb and flow of the water can be misleading. Strong waves from the water can also do last-minute changes in depth that are hard to predict.

There’s also the risk of rocks and logs floating around. The water definitely doesn’t soften the impact when you’re diving with bad form, but hitting objects in the water can be fatal. Getting hit can also cause you to pass out or panic, which could cause you to drown.

These are just the most common things that could happen on your cliff dive. This doesn’t count all the other things that could happen from just reckless behavior like slipping on the cliff or doing flips too close to the edge. There’s no telling what could happen but if you want to reduce the risk as much as possible, always have someone else with you and make sure to land on your feet on the way down.