What is tombstoning and is it safe?

Tombstoning is jumping from a height into water, usually from cliffs or rocks but sometimes from structures such as bridges and piers.

Some say the name was coined by coastal lifeguards who said it was an easy way to an early grave, others believe it just refers to dropping into the water like a heavy stone. People always have and always will jump from rocks and at what height it starts to become tombstoning is open to question.

Usually when people have been killed or seriously injured taking part in tombstoning it is because the water into which they have been jumping is too shallow. Often they have been drinking, which has affected their judgement; or they have ignored warning signs or advice from coastguards and lifeguards. Anyone considering trying tombstoning needs to think twice before doing so, and consider the following:

  • Knowledge of the depth of the water and the conditions below the surface are essential
  • Tides change and there may be rocks or debris in the water of which you could be unaware
  • The water may be extremely cold
  • Even strong swimmers drown; sometimes quite quickly and close to the shore
  • You need a safe exit route from the water and someone to raise the alarm if something goes wrong. 
Coasteering courses are available in some areas where you will be able to enjoy the excitement of jumping from and scrambling over rocks, but using routes which have been checked and wearing the correct protective clothing while being supervised.

Date Updated/Created: 09/09/2010


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