Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Sea Caves and Cliff Jumping

 Jumping into warm water allows modification in the paddlers equipment.  Each stretch of coast is viewed by the kayaker as a potential jumping site.

This has been a difficult post to write, not from a literary perspective but rather from a safety point of view.
  A number of people may find some of the ideas somewhat controversial.  The idea of encouraging people to jump off cliffs into the sea must cause numerous Health and Safety inspectors to turn in their graves.  We need to be realistic though, generations of young people have flung themselves from bridges, cliffs etc, all in the pursuit of pleasure..  It seems to be more sensible to offer suggestions on how to jump in safety as opposed to discouraging people and perhaps forcing them to indulge in this pastime without any guidance.
As we are all aware the sea kayak is the ideal craft for the minute exploration of the indentations of the coast line.
  The small nooks and crannies, often with steep sides offer excellent opportunities for climbing out of the kayaks, scrambling over the rocks and jumping back into the water before paddling on.  This can be one of the great pleasures of paddling but to enjoy it safely requires some knowledge and technique.  These are ideally acquired before heading out onto the open ocean.
 This is an ideal practice jump.  Not too high but clearly over hanging so if there is a mistake on take off the jumper will still hit the water.

Probably the key to safe jumping is confidence and this is best acquired in a controlled environment.  My ideal choice is a small harbour with a good set of steps.  The depth of water is normally clearly indicated and the sea bed will, for obvious reasons, usually be free of obstacles.  It is vital to check for any local laws and to keep clear of any boats which are operating in the area.  The flat harbour wall provides a solid base for the feet prior to jumping.  Select an area in which you want to land, at least a metre away from the wall.  Place one foot in front of the other and then push off confidently.  When flying through the air use your arms to steady yourself, making sure that you pull them into your sides just prior to hitting the water.
Ideally it should be a short swim back to the steps and you are ready for another go.
  There are a number of harbour walls, nearby, which offer jumps of differing heights, so that as experience is gained and confidence increases it is possible to increase the height of the jump.  In areas with large tidal ranges it is possible to vary the height by using the same location but visiting at different phases in the tidal sequence.
Although this looks like a good jumping location, it is not a sensible place to explore.  It was a reasonably difficult climb to the top of the stack with a couple of moves we would not have wanted to repeat.

Harbour walls are just the beginning; the excitement comes from paddling along secluded sections of coasts and identifying areas to explore which are beyond the scope of most other people.  An ideal location would have somewhere easy to climb out of the kayak, although at times it is easier to climb out of the kayak in deep water then swim ashore.  The water should be clear so that any potential hazards are easy to identify from above.  The jumping spot should be flat and reasonably large in size.  In addition the walls should be steep, ideally overhanging so that there is no possibility of hitting the rocks if a slip should occur or if the jump isn’t as positive as it should be.
Another good jumping spot, this is off the north coast of Milos.  Jumping over the entrance to the arch ensures safety.

Start off with simple jumps in protected inlets in the company of other experienced coastal explorers before attempting more demanding jumps.  There are some important points to consider.  It is perfectly acceptable to say no to a jump and do not give grief to people who are unwilling to attempt certain jumps.  This is an activity which is meant to be enjoyable and  fun.
Always have the right equipment; shoes are essential and protective clothing for the arms and legs, such as a wet suit.  This is to help protect against barnacle rash, a painful affliction which occurs when skin comes into contact with barnacle covered rocks.  Many people prefer to keep their buoyancy aid on when jumping but it is important to hold it tight when entering the water to prevent it riding up.  It does offer extra protection if collisions with rocks are possible.  If a swell arrives when you are in the water then the safest option is to remain in deep water, where it is unlikely for the waves to break until the waves die down.
Once you have experienced the thrill of exploring the coastline and jumping into the sea it is unlikely that you will ever view the cliffs and gullies in the same way again.  Each rocky knoll becomes a potential site of adventure and challenge with weather and isolation doing very little to dampen enthusiasm.
The sea kayak gives access to new areas.  This is a well known jump off the main rock of the Paternosters, off the north coast of Jersey.  Depending upon the state of the tide the jump can be up to 55 feet high.
 A historic photograph to illustrate that cliff jumping isn't a new activity.  The paddler is Derek Hutchinson at one of the Jersey Canoe Club Sea Kayaking Symposiums in the early 1990's.  The intrepid jumper is Barry Howell.

1 comment:

Jill c",) said...

Very cool! Looked really fun!