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Around Dorset

You are in: Dorset > Features > Around Dorset > Tombstoning: Have your say

Durdle Door

Durdle Door

Tombstoning: Have your say

This summer's accident at Durdle Door has left both locals and holidaymakers talking about the latest phenomenon: tombstoning. Should it be banned? Or is jumping into the sea a risk we should be allowed to take?

A 26 year old man almost died this summer after 'tombstoning' at Durdle Door.

Tombstoning - jumping off cliffs, piers, harbour walls or other high points into water - causes about 200 serious injuries a year. It claims about 15 lives annually.

The Dorset coastline is particularly popular with pranksters, who often egg each other on to jump from ever higher cliffs or rocks.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) calls tombstoning "extremely hazardous". It has identified the main risks as:

  • the depth of the water (especially since the tide might be out)
  • what may be below the surface
  • temperature differences (water is often a lot colder than people expect)
  • strong currents and rocks at the bottom of cliffs

Coastguard Fred Caygill urges swimmers not just to be aware of the risks but to avoid tombstoning altogether.

"Tombstoning is not an extreme sport - it's a dangerous activity that could result in loss of life. My advice is just don't do it."

What do you think about tombstoning? Should more be done to stop youngsters risking their lives? Or should they be trusted to protect themselves?

last updated: 14/08/07

Have Your Say

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

Dave
I used to 'tombstone' (or go jumping as we used to call it) several times a week in my teenage years, with particular hot spots being Portland bill and stair hole near Lulworth. I'm not an idiot I know it was potentially dangerous. But the key point is the word potentially. As a local resident of the area I've spent much of my life surrounded by the sea and its environment. And as such was sensible enough to take proper precautions such as: check the tide times before setting off for a 'jumping session' and only jumping at high tides, take a snorkel and mask and check the sea bed conditions, study surface currents and be aware of hot spots for under tow currents. Ask any one who was passionate about this hobby and they will be able to highlight conditions that could cause concern. I am in favour of letting people partake in the activity if they are sensible and take the proper precautions...

BJ IRL
Know it gives a big rush, but I have seen experienced 'Tombstoners'paythe ultimate cost, their life. Involved in Irish Coast Guard in South East of Ireland and a Paramedic, I can appreciate the buzz but I see the consequences. The problem is the risk to emergency personel and the cost of the response to the one jump that's gone wrong.

stephen
is it illeagle

ben lennon
did is bad for peeps

ryan
tombstoning is perfectly safe if you take the right precautionse.g you have to check the depth and the wind and only do basic jumps not supid things like backflipsbye ryan vaughan aged 11

Eli
yer im 14 and always go jumping you just need to check what your jumping first. check weather the water is deep enough and weather there are rocks underneath. these peope has obviously not done any of these!

Nat
I think 'tombstoning' sounds fun, but very dangerous. I dont think the government should ban it, because It would be the persons fault if they get injures

tom
i do jumping i never been hurt if your are local you have your local knowledge about the depth and risks the only people who get hurt are mainly not local people and 1 of the best places to jump is at portreath beach cornwall it's a great places to jump and very safe

Sam,16
I think it awesome and nuts gives a good adrenaline rush!!!Before me and mates make a jump we check the depth of the water and before jumping off the heighest point of our jump we start at lower heights and work our way up!!Theres nothing that dangerous about it if its done properly.Ive lived by the coast all my life and respect the dangers of the sea!!These people which die because they jump into 36 inches of water i plain stupidity!!!

Alex Steelmen
I do noy want the goverment to ban it

Matt Butcher
NEWSFLASH: Jumping off cliffs may be bad for you.Natural selection in action.

Steve Fuller
I agree with those who suggest that Tombstoners should be responsible for all the costs of their rescue and hospital care. The problem about this is that the young people who tend to do it, probably do not have enough money in their bank accounts to cover the full cost. If they had to insure themselves against this risk, they would soon realise the real cost of this sort of pursuit. I think that we should allow crazy stunt sports like this , but I don't think we should all have to pay for it.

Sadot Mendez
I think it is a normal drive of humans to recreate themseves by jumping into the water from high natural or human made devices. I even saw a documentary of monkeys in the Island of Santiago in Puerto Rico jumping from palm trees into the water.But unless you are an experience diver like the ones in Acapulco, Mexico knowing the depths of the water nobody ought to try jumping from high devices or unto unknown areas in waters that you should know about. The best thing is to put warnings and to educate people about the risks. To put laws to avoid people taking the risk may be alright; but to enforce it it may be impossible. why? People like risks; I think is normal. Why did Tarzan jumped from waterfalls and Johnny Weissmuller from the George Washington Bridge? God bless you and protect you if you try tombstonig!

Chelsea 17
I have been tombstoning on Plymouth Hoe and various areas throughout Devon and Cornwall for the last 7 years of my life. I know of the dangers and have only jumped at a reasonable tide. However unlike many tourist and new "jumpers", I have lived by the sea all my life and understand the tides, depth and rock layout. I suggest that people unfamiliar with tombstoning wishing to carry it out in need of the "RUSH" should ask locals and experienced jumpers for advice to ensure their safe return from the waters.It is very dangerous and I have witnessed very serious accidents. Do not feel pressured into doing it.

Scarlett Allum
We went on holiday to dorset this year and we viseted durdle door beach. we saw many people jumping off the rocks and it looked very dangerous. nobody was hurt but i still think it is a stupid and dangerous risk to take.

BOB
Tombstoning is idiotic! I’m not going to lie to you but if you want to do it fine but at least do it right . Check the conditions are right and don’t listen to that idiot next to you telling to jump before you’re ready. p.s. there should be warning signs about this.

Tim King
The rest of the world call it Cliff Diving. It is considered a sport and attracts a large following. With a 70% reduction in the number of UK diving pools over the last thirty years it's not that surprising people are using the cliffs.

Ben
it's brilliant i do it every year at portland bill with my friends

Jason
There's a huge difference between jumping 4-5 metres off the end pillar and jumping 20 metres from the top of Durdle Door. The latter is almost certain to get you killed, whatever the depth of water. The former won't if you've swum out and checked the water depth where you're jumping. There was a time when you could replicate the feat from the diving boards in your local swimming baths. I would have thought those 'shocked and apalled' by people enjoying themselves on the coastline would be old enough to remember a time when people were allowed to take such risks. How about just a ban on using the word 'tombstoning' - but then you'd find the media just going and picking on some other juvenile pursuit to entertain themselves over the summer.

Steve
The only way to ban this is to drain the sea. The risks are obvious, let people do what they want. Fred Caygill, the coastguard in the article, cliff diving is an extreme sport - Red Bull host events every year. Any intelligent person can enjoy taking risks whilst minimizing the potential of injury. I don't think cliff jumping is any different to motocross, snowboarding, F1 etc... as far as risk taking is concerned. I don't think this guy really knew what he was doing. He did ruin many peoples day out and it will probably haunt some people for a while but his actions shouldn't result in a "tombstoning ban". I'd never heard of the RoSPA either, I bet they all go to work in bubble wrap and only use blunt pencils to write with...

chris
Down here in Torquay I have a great photo in an old book of a man diving off Peaked Tor Rock {40ft above high tide} into about 8ft of water in front of a paying crowd, circa 1925?. Tombstoning is hardly a new craze. Like many things in life jumping has risks but if properly assessed the enviroments and excitement that can be experienced can justify the risk.

mary
I've been tombstoning and i can bet all the people sujestiing of baning it havent you can not describe the thrill you get howevr the water underneath and tides should be checked and if you feel it is safe do it

Richard
Why is that we seem to live in an increasingly risk adverse society where those who wish to take any sort of risk (climbing, jumping whatever) are pilloried by others. As a father of 2 I will be actively encouraging my children to partake in tombstoning (my 3 yr old has already made his first, tentative jump from c3 feet) I intend to teach him that these activities are dangerous but done correctly, moving through the heights they can be done relatively safely. I do not expect (or want) everyone to join in but I can not for th life of me (or my children) see why such exciting, life affirming experiences should be banned just because people get hurt doing it. Other wise we could loose cycling, rugby, football, parachuting, swimming etc tec etc on the same basis. Where to draw the line shout the authorities? Perish the thought but why not leave it to the individuals involved - or perhaps our country is not as free as we are told

richy taylor
walking acrossa motorway or surfing on the back of a train is more dangerous than cliff jumping. next carpet bowling will be frowned upon, possibly banned incase the bowl is dropped on someones foot

Robin
List of things taht are 'dangerous' and can monopolise the time of the emergency services.RugbyClimbing treesNetballDIYCookingRiding bicyclesBoxingHorse racingDrinking to excessBan them all, or just some of them?

Bob
The 'I'm a taxpayer' argument is a dangerous path to tread for many reasons - one being that our taxes get wasted in many more odious ways than (very infrequently) rescuing people having problems after jumping off cliffs. For example - Would you close all pubs because a high proportion of assults are alcohol related? This would be more efficient, as they say. How about compulsory fitness? Fit people save the taxpayer money by being less useless and/ or ill.In the cliff jumping scenario there are no victims - only people who have calculated the risks to themselves and by their own volition exposed themselves to that risk. And what right does anyone have deny us the harmless freedom to experience these risks.Freedom asside, a bit of proportionality is needed here. A tiny proportion of people are hurt compared to those who engage in this passtime. Why all the hysteria this summer? Surely there are more important things going on in the world.

Ed
I am a trained gymnast of almost 20 years and a keen diver. This is not "tombstoning" we are talking about, this is cliff jumping. A tombstone is a style of jump or dive so first of all get it right you media granddads! Yes, this can be dangerous but so is crossing a road or having a nut allergy! Why is this country becoming so sterile in its attitudes towards our behaviors and life styles? Before engaging in any sport or activity, you make sure the chances of injury to your-self and others are as low as possible. Jumping into the sea from 100ft is going to have consequences and very sadly people have paid with their lives. This type of sport, like any, shouldn’t be taken lightly. However there’s always a risk involved in any activity, so should we therefore ban every activity where lives have been lost? Safety is a key issue yes but banning it will not stop it. Why is this the answer to so many issues in society – BAN IT AND IT WILL NOT HAPPEN!

G
Oh Dear! The anti fun police are out again. If people want to jump into the sea from a cliff then so be it.By all means advertise the dangers and then let people make their own minds up.Not really shocking is it 15 deaths this year from tombstoning when you compare it with the number of road deaths and I don't see driving being banned. (or do I even mention jet skis!!!)Oh Yes and for those that think I don't have a clue I have spent years working as and training lifeguards so I do have some expertise in the area of sea and coastal safety.

Ricky Brown
Having seen the aforementioned "accident" at Durdledoor, I cannot stress enough how idiotic and stupid it is to 'tombstone'. Several families with children were witness to this horrific event and thousands of pounds of tax-payers money was spent saving the foolish man's life!

Craig
I think that it is ok unless it is safeI do it but i dont if it is going to be dangerous

Steve Donnelly
I know that we have all done some daft things in our youth but this is bordering on suicidal, as suicide is against the law I feel these idiots should be prosecuted....

Dave PD
Let them jump. This sort of thing is only for stupid people as we are all aware of the dangers so let them do it. If we are lucky they will do us all a favour and take them selves out of the gene pool. This will mean that there will be less stupid people in the future.

Steve
I am amazed at some of the comments on here. Firstly, how could you ban it? The coastline of Britain is pretty substantial, there will always be places people can go and do it. Secondly, why should the guy pay for the rescue services? He was having FUN and it went wrong. Do potholers pay for their rescues when things go wrong? When schoolchildren get lost on Dartmoor on a school trip, should they pay for the rescue services? This is something that went wrong, but I'm sure many hundreds, if not thousands, do this 'sport' properly but you don't hear about them. And they are the ones that could suffer if a ban is imposed.

Gary
i've been "tombstoning" for years (and i'm still alive). let people do what they want, it's their life. if people weren't doing things like tombstoning then what are the lifeguards doing there, so they are there to save people who swim out of their depth, well why swim so deep if you aren't a strong swimmer, it's the same argument.

aaron
i think it should be allowed but i think there should be warnings about what is under that particular bits of sea Dave has the right idea if your going to do it make sure that the sea bed is clear and that it is deep enough

Felicity Jones
People should still have the right to make the choice for themselves. We are dictated to about too much in this country. If people are stupid enough to take the risk, so be it.

Anne
Let them do it,also make them pay all bills incurred if they need to be rescued but Don't expect us to feel sorry for them if fatalities occur.

ned fitzgerald
latest phenomenon?? we were doing things like this as kids 25 yrs ago. Is it the name tombstoning people object to? no body seemed to worried when i was a kid

Caroline Barker
Let them do it - and then send them the bill for the coastguard and hospital expenses incurred as a result of their stupidity!

Kevin Baker
Tombstoneing should not go on what with yesterday's accident, next time it could be fatal you have been warned it is not game nor fun never done it , never will use your heads young adults and at 26 you should no better

Simon Peacock
I'm a big fan of John Stuart Mill's 'Harm Principle' in which he basically states that you should be free to do as you please provided it does not harm anyone else. Enough of this nanny state - give us our freedom back! If it kills us - then at least we die free (based on our own risk assessment and decisions), which is better than living without liberty.

anonymous 2
I would hesitate to even call this activity 'dangerous', which implies a chance that it might not result in injury. Jumping from such a height into water so obviously shallow is obviously and certainly going to cause injury or death and therefore shows not thrillseeking or bravery, but instead a complete lack of intelligence and common sense. However, society does have a certain responsibility to protect individuals from their own stupidity, which is the reasoning behind many rules and regulations that we have in this country. One must also consider the impact that people's actions have on other people. Hundreds of people witnessed someone nearly dieing, which is very distressing indeed, and the coastguard was also called out - what if they had been needed elsewhere?

Charlie
I didn't see it happen but was on the next beach. Simon's right that it must cost a fortune in rescue - there were paramedics running up the coastal path with all their kit in the hot sun, an ambulance battling though the crowds to get up the track, and soon the helicopter that airlifted him away. It was such a lovely day, but the atmosphere suddenly changed to a kind of sickening horror. Everyone thought he was going to die. There were kids who must've seen him brought to shore broken, bloody and unconscious - that'll really stick in their minds. Accidents happen, but to do this deliberately..? Really selfish.

Josey
Martin – it's all very well saying that it's up to people to take the risk if they want to, but in that case they shouldn't expect members of the emergency services to come to their aid if they get into trouble. Our ambulance crews have enough to deal with, without having to waste time coming to deal with deliberate and self-inflicted accidents, in hard-to-reach and remote places. Jump if you wish, but if it all goes pear-shaped, I agree with 'anonymous' - it's a case of natural selection!

Paul
Car Insurance is compulsory. Any folk who participate in dangerous activities should be presented with the rescue bill when it backfires.

Chris
Ban it? And deny a whole new generation of potential Darwin Award winners the opportunity to kill themselves due to their own foolishness!? Let them - means that there are fewer of them on our roads.

Annie
So many of these people end up spending the rest of their lives in wheelchairs without the use of their limbs, a few seconds 'fun' a lifetime of misery. I suppose it is a free country and people should have the choice but this stupid activity results in putting others at risk i.e. rescue services etc as well as the cost implications for treatment and the worry and upset for their families.

beachbuddy
If signs are ignored, which is usually the case the cost of a helicopter or lifeboat rescue should be passed on to the tombstoner - as soon as they recover consciousness.

Freddy
It's just evolution in action...

Chris
If you ban people from doing this, they will only find some other stupid pastime which may also endanger other people's lives.

Ron
I believe that anyone stupid enough to deliberately put their own, and perhaps more inportantly (because they have a sense of duty), rescuers' lives in danger because of their own whims, should (if they survive) pay for the costs of their rescue and make an additional donation to a rescue charity.

Martyn
Let them jump - provided the idiots understand that 'tombstoning' is an apt description of the likely outcome of their actions. The only sad thing is that other people have to put theselves at risk to rescue the foolish jumpers.

Jessica
whilst it is up to the individual to jump.. in my opinion this complete stupidity deserves nothing other than a HEFTY bill for the airlifting to hospital, and the subsequent medical treatment that they receive. If it's their choice to jump, why should the already stretched emergency & health services have to pay for for such idiocy.

Dan
ALL extreme sports are dangerous activities that could result in loss of life. That is a worthless quote. Tombstoning is no different. The issue is this is much more accessible to anyone wanting to 'have a go'. I think it shouldn't be banned but people need to understand its dangers. I take part in 'tombstoning' and have done so for years. I jump at a site I have reasearched myself over the past 8 years. I check tide times and weather before going, and the group I go with has 2 fully qualified and one student doctor. They understand the dangers and the necessary precautions. Done with the right mentality and the correct preparation makes it as safe as possible. I am really tired of this blanket conviction for all people involved. Why don't the papers and news programs interview this person and find out where he is from. How long has he lived on the coast and visited Durdle Door? When did he check the area he was jumping in to? When did he check the tide times to make sure it was deep enough? It's stupidity that got him hurt.

Dave Upton from Blandford
I hope that the morom who jumped is to billed for the cost of emergency services and hospital.The one good thing is that he has found out who his mates are!

Anonymous
By all means put signs up warning people, if they need it however, anyone who has been to Durdle Door can clearly see how dangerous it is so let them find out the hard way and allow them to jump. We live in such a nanny state these days that people are loosing the ability to use their common sense. I see it as natural selection.

Simon
I completely disagree with Martin 'If people want to take this risk then it is up to them!'. You may want to take this risk, but when it ruins other peoples days, puts others in danger and cost a fortune for rescue and treatment - we need to put something in place to prevent idiots from doing it.

Martin
If I want to jump into the sea why shouldn't I? This has been around for ages, but it was never called tombstoning! If people want to take this risk then it is up to them!

Carrie
I was recently at Durdle Door and was shocked to see so many people jumping off the side of the arch into the sea. I think there should be signs up warning swimmers how dangerous it could be.

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