Cliff jumping - The Ultimate Guide
Imagine throwing yourself off a high cliff surrounded by nothing by nature, all is silent except the roar from the waterfall you are falling right next to. After a brief moment, you feel the force of gravity pulling you down towards the lucid water.
Does it sound frighting or encouraging? Either way, keep on reading for more knowledge and extraordinary footage of cliff jumping or cliff diving.
I have been jumping off everything from moving trains to the freezing continental cracks of Iceland and learnt a whole lot over the years.
Keep on reading to take part of some of my lessons learnt and all you need to know about the breathtaking sport of cliff jumping, and how to try it out for yourself.
There is a lot to cliff jumping, more then what meets the eye. And we will break down the most important things there is to know about cliff jumping as well as navigating through great spots to try it out for yourself. And more importantly, how to do it in a safe way (well, as safe as possible at least).
Get inspired with breathtaking footage from some of the worlds best cliff jumpers and cliff divers.
What Is Cliff Jumping?
Cliff jumping is a sport where practitioners throw themselves from cliffs or other objects to enjoy the free fall feeling and land into the water below.
It might not sound that complicated, but there is a lot of factors involved and the higher the cliff jump, the higher the stakes and difficulty.
Cliff jumping at high-level demands for a lot of training, preparation and mindset.
A big part of the actual cliff jump is to bring a unique style or twist to it, some people perform multiple flips and twists from breathtaking heights, whilst some add grabs and tweaks to theirs.
Many high-level cliff jumpers would also say that cliff jumping is a lifestyle, which might be the truest form of cliff jumping. The community of dedicated jumpers that travel the world to jump different spots and with fellow jumpers from around the globe.
Then there is also, of course, the people who just do it occasionally for fun.
How To Cliff Jump
If you are keen to learn about cliff jumping, you are in the right place. Let’s break down the foundations of learning to cliff jump and how to do it in a safe way.
Cliff jumping from heights is a dangerous activity and should be treated with respect and caution, to avoid serious injuries (just like with most sports to be fair).
Pushing too much outside your comfort zone or forcing a learning curve that is too steep without drilling the basics can and probably will get you injured.
But with that said, cliff jumping is great fun and an amazing thrill, and can with practice become a relatively safe sport even at great heights. But it takes time to get there.
Cliff Jumping Safety
Let’s start with the safety aspect of cliff jumping and what you should think about before moving on to the actual jump.
Explore the water
Before proceeding with anything else, always check the water and surrounding water of your landing area.
Bring a mask and dive down to control the water for depth, rocks, anything floating around over or under surface. Once you are sure of your landing, proceed and have some fun!
Never jump alone
Not only is a lot safer to have a buddy that you trust will jump in after you if something goes south, but also a whole lot more fun.
Never jump alone. Bring at least one friend or more that you know will have your back.
How deep should water be for cliff jumping?
This, of course, varies depending on the height you are jumping from. But in general, you should look for something around 7 meters or deeper. This will be enough for pretty much any jump.
If you are jumping heights of 25-meter plus, 10 meters plus is a good depth for a safe entry.
With more practice and awareness, you will learn more about how much depth you need depending on the height of your jump.
Expert cliff jumpers can go for more shallow landings and still do it in a safe way with different techniques and angels of entering the water.
The cliff jump
Now when you know how to approach cliff jumping safely, let’s start having some fun!
The first thing you need to learn is how to hit the water for minimal impact.
Start with low jumps like 3-5 meters and practice what is called a pencil jump (can be called multiple things..) but let’s go for pencil jump.
Jump with your feet first and upon landing, hold your arms tight against your body, press your feet together and pointed down. This will minimize your area that strikes the water and minimize the pressure on your body.
This might not feel like much of and different from those heights, but mastering the landing is essential to be able to conquer greater heights.
Once you mastered the landings, it is time to get playful, either with the objects and heights you are jumping from or tricks you perform when speeding down towards the surface.
Make sure to practice your flips and variations before you send them from a great height. Build up an air awareness, this will help you navigate in your flips and tricks for a safe landing and the ability to solve miscalculations in mid-air.
Trampolines or multiple low cliff jumps are great ways to work on your air awareness. And the more you practice it, the greater the fun you will have in the air.
Highest cliff jump
The highest cliff jump ever made is almost 60 meter high (58.8m). Months went into the planning of the cliff jump that was done by Lazaro “Laso” Schaller in 2015.
For reference, the usual heigh for cliff diving competitions is 27 meters. Which is fu*king high up when you are standing there.
Dangers of cliff jumping
Like discussed earlier in the text, cliff jumping can be made safer with a good mindset, training and safety precautions.
But it is still a dangerous sport, and injuries do occur.
A cliff jumper can reach speeds well over 100km/h before hitting the water depending on height, and a poor landing at those speeds make injuries a real thing.
The most common injuries include bruises, abrasions, compression fractures, concussions, and even spinal damage.
So it is very important to be well prepared, both physically and mentally for a jump of great height to minimize that risk.
The water is what saves you upon impact if a good landing, but it can also be really dangerous if you would land in a way that makes you pass out would hurt yourself in a way that makes you unable to swim to shore by yourself. Therefore never go cliff jumping alone without someone that got your back.
Not to scare anyone off, cliff diving is awesome! But it is important to be aware of the dangers and how to avoid them.
Do not wear regular shoes when jumping from great heights. This will increase your area of impact drastically and put much more pressure on your body.
Shoes like barefoot or five finger shoes are good for higher jumps.
Here is an example of me snapping my ACL due to a cliff jump from 25 meters while wearing shoes. Lesson learned: Better to have an unpleasant rocky runup then the extra impact when landing.
Also a bit of insight in planning and the emotional roller coaster before a high cliff jump.
Where to go cliff jumping
Where you can go cliff jumping is only a question of imagination and preparations basically. But you will, of course, need water and height to jump from. If you have that, you can go cliff jumping.
Some of the best cliff jumping sessions I’ve had have been in urban environments from bridges or buildings and into lakes or rivers. You do not have to go to a recognized cliff jump hot spot to have a good session. But with that said, there are quite a few amazing spots for cliff jumping.
Furore bridge, Italy
A magical place to visit for cliff jumping, if you are an experienced cliff jumper, the 30+ meter high bridge might spark your interest. The water is deep and clear, and a magnificent view while jumping.
If you are not so keen on the super high bridge, there are cliffs just down below the bridge that are much lower and suitable for beginners and intermediate cliff jumpers.
Lake Vouliagmeni, Greece
This is a lake that is connected to the Mediterranean sea by underwater caves, and have a pleasant temperature all year around.
There are jumpable cliffs around the lake, ranging from low to really high.
Stari Most, Mostar, Bosnia
The iconic bridge in Mostar is a must for all serious cliff jumpers in Europe. The surroundings of the old town give a great vibe and jumping from the bridge is an old tradition. When you stand up for a jump, all of the surrounding people will stop with their day to watch your jump.
There is also a cliff jumping school situated here if you are not an expert cliff jumper.
the bridge is around 22 meters high and the water below is cold all year round and holds strong currents.
If you want some practice jumps before, there is a platform on the mountain wall that is 10 meters high.
Ponte Brolla, Switzerland
Ponte Brolla is an area where you will find multiple rocks to jump from and into the river below. And it is a truly beautiful place, that can be somehow crowded in the summertime.
Wolfgangsee Lake, Austria
One of my personal favourite spots for cliff jumping, you are surrounded by the alps, and overlooking a turquoise lake and green fields. Wow…
You will find a lot of different setups for cliff jumping here as you walk along the trail, everything from 7 to 27 meter.
There is a lot of stuff to jump off from at the coastline outside of Dubrovnik in Croatia. And you have the city nearby at all times, so getting to and from the spot from the city is super easy.
(Same goes for many coastal towns in Croatia)
Even though the most famous spot for cliff jumping in Malta is now gone (The arch, and it went down in a storm) there are still plenty of spots around the whole island for cliff jumping.
Don’t be afraid of getting creative with your exits here, there is plenty more stuff to jump from then just cliffs.
Polignano A Mare, Italy
Maybe not a great spot for the beginner, but if you are confident with heights and unconventional exit points, this is a must go!
Inis Mór, Aran Islands, Ireland
Not one for the beginner either, but for the experienced cliff jumper, this is a real treat.
There is a high platform for you to jump down into a big natural pool in a rock formation. While overlooking the sea.
Winter cliff jumping
Cliff jumping in cold water or winter conditions are a great challenge and change the way you need to think about many aspects. But, there is a big charm to it and happens to be one of my personal favorite things to do.
The cold is the first aspect that dramatically increases the amount of planning you need to do and the equipment you have.
Cold or almost freezing water will more or less paralyze your body upon impact. So you will need a wet-suit, preferably with shoes, hood and gloves.
The temperature in the air is not that big of a problem when you are in a wet-suit. Just make sure to be able to dry quickly at the spot and get into warm clothing. Or have a plan for a quick getaway to a place where you can dry and get changed quick if not possible on the spot.
Check the water before entry just like you always would, the difference in winter is that ice could be floating around under the surface if there are currents in your landing area.
Make sure that your exit is solid and non-slippery. If you are standing in the snow at your exit make sure that it is not an overhang that can collapse with your jump.
If the whole mission behind a jump is encouraging for you, maybe winter cliff diving is something to try out.
Imagine going on snowmobiles out in the wild dressed in wet suits, climbing a frozen waterfall which has a small pool of water that is not frozen under it, find a good exit and go for the jump.
What is the difference between cliff jumping and cliff diving?
That is quite hard to answer, many people would probably describe it in different ways whilst some people would say that it is the same thing with two different names.
So let’s stick to what we know.
In the competitions of cliff diving, you get points for your jump based on different criterias. And the more perfect your jump is in every way, the more points you get.
The athletes in these competitions are absolute top athletes that have practiced every detail of their jump to perfection. Triple and quadruple flips with twists from 27 meters and close to perfect entry in the water almost every time are not unusual to see. The men are wearing speedos and the goal is the achieve the perfect form.
Which in some people opinion makes it quite strict, and very much to a controlled sport.
Whilst you could say that most cliff jumpers have a much more laid back approach to the whole thing. Having a perfect form and pointed toes throughout the jump could almost be seen as an imperfection (not less impressive, but not unique in style).
Cliff jumpers usually find more creative exits and objects to jump from than the typical platform used in cliff diving competitions.
And the tricks have style and charm instead of what would be considered as perfection in a cliff diving competition.
So more or less the same thing with different names? Maybe. One could also go so far and call cliff jumping a sort of lifestyle, whilst cliff diving is a sport you can dedicate your life to.
(Not fact but thought)
Red Bull Cliff Diving
The Red Bull cliff diving world series is, without doubt, the biggest event in cliff diving and it is simply breathtaking to watch.
The athletes jump and flip from 27 meters into the water and it is usually held at some of the most scenic places around the world.
A must see for anyone that is interested in cliff jumping or cliff diving if you have the possibility.
Cliff jumpers to follow
Hello, I am a semi-homeless, extreme sports enthusiast bum, born in Sweden. I produce content for Ridestore, both written and film.
Thanks to the remote working lifestyle, I do not have to sleep outside anymore while travelling, cheers!