What Is Tombstoning And Why Is It So Dangerous?

Tombstoning is an activity which has been around for many generations, unfortunately, due to recent incidents whereby three people tragically died in 2020 and many more suffered life changing injuries it has gained notriety.

Tombstoning is defined as the act of jumping in a straight, upright vertical position into the sea, river or other body of water from a high jumping platform such as a cliff top, bridge or harbour edge. The posture of the body, resmbling a tombstone that gives it’s name to the activity.

 

You may have read in the news or seen on social media that three people were seriously injured between 30-31st May at Durdle Door, Dorset.  Here’s a video made by Ladbible in conjunction with the RNLI on a rescue by two beachgoers who saved a man from drowning after jumping off a cliff:

https://www.facebook.com/LADbible/videos/2708211482785707

Tombstoning offers a high-risk, high-impact experience but it can have severe and life-threatening consequences.  Consider these dangers first before you jump in:

  • The depth of water can alter rapidly with the tide – the water may be shallower than it first appears
  • Submerged objects like rocks, shopping trolley’s and broken bottles may not be visible – these can cause serious impact injuries
  • Cold water can make it difficult to swim
  • Getting oneself out of the water is often more challenging than people realise
  • Strong currents can rapidly sweep people away

 

What Should You Do Before Undertaking Tombstoning

  • Check for hazards in the water. Rocks, discarded shopping trolley’s or glass may be submerged in the water and difficult to see
  • Always check the depth of the water. Tides can rise and fall very quickly
  • A jump of ten metres requires a depth of at least five metres
  • Jumping into water under the influence of alcohol or drugs can distort your judgement and make you more suspectible to taking more risks

 

  • Check for access. It may be impossible to get out of the water
  • Consider the risks to yourself and others. Conditions can change rapidly – young people could be watching and may attempt to mimic the activity.If you jump when you feel unsafe or pressured, you probably won’t enjoy the experience.
Thanetlifeguards RNLICommunitySafety RNLIWatersafety Respectthewater Margatelifeboat Ramsgatelifeboat Whitstablelifeboat Eastkentebeaches Tombstoning Margatecoastguard 999coastguard Kentpolice BroadstairsBeaches Ramsgateharbour
Pictured: Stuart Cattell Thanet and Swale RNLI Supervisors. Photo Credit : Ian Dent RNLI

Senior RNLI Lifeguard Supervisor, Stuart Cattell, said: “We know it can be very tempting during hot weather to jump into the sea from a pier or groyne, especially if you’re on the beach with a group of friends.

 

“Unfortunately it’s impossible to see hidden hazards under the surface, or to tell how deep the water is. Tombstoning means playing Russian roulette with your own safety.

“There have been 20 tombstoning deaths in the UK since 2005 and 70 reported injuries. Several people ahead of you might jump safely, but if you hit the beach – or a piece of wood or concrete on your way down – at the wrong angle, you could end up with life-changing head injuries, broken bones or permanently paralysis. Please stick to enjoying the weather and the sea by swimming  or using kayaks or SUPs safely.”

 

The best way to learn about the risks involved and have a good experience is to try coasteering – a mix of scrambling, climbing, traversing and cliff jumping around the coast with a professional guide.

RNLIcommunitysafety seasafety blogs Coastguard swimsafe Ramsgate Margate Thanet Broadstairs
Ramsgate’s Atlantic 85 Inshore Lifeboat returning from a service call Photo credit: Thanet RNLI Community Safety Team

Other useful links

Do You Know What To Do If You Saw Someone Drowning – Thanet RNLI Community Safety

Don’t Jump Into The Unknown – RoSPA

National Coasteering Charter – promoting safe coasteering

RNLI Educational Resources ages 14-18 years

COVID19 Coronavirus Respectthewater communitysafety tidetimes

Acknowledgements

HM Coastguard

Royal National Lifeboat Institution

Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents

Ladbible