Cliff jumping fun but dangerous

By By Leiha Kunz

By Leiha Kunz

Jumping off of high cliffs and gnarly-looking rocks hasn’t always been for kicks and giggles.

Hundreds of years before cliff jumping was even remotely cool, the Hawaiian Island of Lana’i required men to jump off cliffs to prove their courage and loyalty. The men hit the water at incredible rates of speed, and their goal was to enter the water feet first and make as little a splash as possible. Over time, the sport grew immensely and is now a regular vacation activity.

Lake Powell is well-known for its amazing cliffs and rock formations, which makes cliff jumping that much more enticing. However, cliff jumping isn’t always a simple thing to do and there are injuries every year.

Max King, a park ranger for Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, has witnessed a few.

“The most common way a jumper is injured is entering the water too fast,” King said. “The last man that was injured suffered from a broken neck.”

King’s personal thoughts on cliff jumping are presumably typical to those of most park rangers.

“(It is) highly dangerous,” King said. “Spinal injuries and compression fractures are not uncommon.”

Following a serious injury in 2004, Lake Powell has made it illegal to jump off of anything taller than 15 feet.

The incident involved John Hodges, a 23-year-old college graduate, who jumped to his death Sept. 11, 2004. Hodges was five weeks into a round-the-world trip when tragedy struck. He was on a group tour, planning to jump from a 70-foot cliff near Antelope Point in Lake Powell. Hodges had listened to all instructions before jumping, but failed to resurface. His body was found two days later. His cause of death read “complications of blunt force head trauma.”

King remembers this tragic accident vividly.

“This was the last major accident we have had,” he said. “Lots of people are jumping illegally. Warnings, tickets and citations are given on a regular basis. We just try to prevent jumping for the time being.”

King noted that accidents have begun to rise in recent years as more young teens tend to succumb to peer pressure, which is an issue when it comes to cliff jumping.

Because this tragic story won’t deter many from jumping, common sense must.

A flotation device should always be used, along with attempted correct technique. Experienced cliff jumpers began and still use the “pencil” method, which entails jumping feet first with your hands by your sides.

For those who still have it set in their mind to cliff jump, hitting up local hot spots is a must. Flaming Gorge Reservoir and Bear Lake both have their share of cliff jumping areas. The water is deep and calm, providing a safe and enjoyable atmosphere. The highly populated areas are usually the safest.

For more information about cliff jumping and diving, visit and type “cliff jumping” into the search engine. There are a lot of resources ranging from an introduction to the sport to global hot spots and competitions.

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Lennie Mahler