With the summer holidays underway, I thought I’d re-post this article by RoSPA on the dangers of tombstoning. For those of you with children old enough to be left to their own devices, please do read this and ensure your child knows the risks. 

An article by David Walker, Leisure Safety Manager at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).

Summer is here, it’s boiling hot and you’re looking for a nice bit of water to cool off in. While the coast is an ideal place to have a splash around, it can also attract thrill-seekers looking to jump into deep water from a great height – an activity often referred to as tombstoning.

Tombstoning has gained increased attention in recent years for all the wrong reasons, with a number of people ending up killed or seriously injured. When you take the plunge into the unknown, whether that is from a pier or cliff edge, the consequences can be life-threatening.

What are the dangers?

The depth

  • Unlike a swimming pool, the sea has no depth markings, no fixed depth and you can’t always see the bottom. If you add to that the fact that the water depths are constantly changing with the tide, this can prove deceptive, with the water appearing shallower than it seems
  • Strong currents can rapidly sweep people away
  • Getting out of the water can be a lot more difficult than people realise. This is why it is important to consider how you are going to get out before you jump in.

Submerged rocks and objects

  • Sharp rocks and other objects may be difficult to see and these can cause serious injuries on impact.

Cold water shock

  • The water may be a lot colder than you were expecting, even on a hot day, and this can lead to cold water shock which can make it difficult to swim.

What can you do? 

Be aware of the dangers well in advance. Consider the following:

  • Learn about the tides and gain knowledge of the area. Diving is a skill, so have a few practice swims and do an informal risk assessment of the area beforehand to get a feel of the depth of the water and the current
  • As a rule of thumb, a jump of 10 metres requires a depth of at least five metres
  • Remember that alcohol and swimming never mix, so don’t be tempted to jump while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Consider the risks to yourself and others. Peer pressure can often lead to people undertaking an activity that they would not normally do, such as tombstoning. If you jump when you feel unsafe or pressured, this means it is likely that you will not enjoy the experience
  • Why not improve your chances of having a good experience by finding out more about activities such as coasteering? This involves scrambling, traversing, climbing, and cliff jumping around the coast with a professional guide
  • Try swimming at a supervised site such as a swimming pool and build on your water safety skills and confidence.

RoSPA has plenty of detailed water safety advice, so please take a look. These tips, like learning about what flags to look out for on a beach or remembering that children should swim with an adult and not by themselves, could be a lifesaver!

Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents