Is banning tombstoning counterproductive?
A long running right of passage or a dangerous new trend?
OK, I am going to chose my words very carefully here because there are some strongly held views. Perhaps as divisive as the age old chestnut of drug legality.
So first off I am going to say that Tombstoning (leaping into the sea from rocks or harbours) is dangerous. I am not saying that just as a disclaimer, to avoid legal action in the future from the parent of some teenager who has died doing it.
It is a plain and simple fact that it is dangerous.I just found this video on Youtube and, I have to admit that, just watching “Steve” on the edge scares the willies out of me.
The pressure from peers to jump is probably the most dangerous thing here as many youngsters will end up jumping, despite possibly justified misgivings about conditions. To save you watching the whole seven minutes Steve does finally jump and is completely unharmed. He is described as a faggot by his clearly sympathetic and politically aware friends.
Here are a number of other activities that are dangerous.
- Base jumping
There are of course loads more, in fact the list could go on and on. But many of these activities are done as organised sports, and actively encouraged among men and women of courage and adventure. Most are recognised competitive sports with participants encouraged by peer pressure and the offer of rich prizes to push themselves further and harder.
However, the current attitude to Tombstoning, is almost the exact opposite. Even such activities as Parkours have their own website but Tombstoning is apparently just some stupid fashion that has started recently and has to be stamped out.
Now to be fair, when you see headlines like this Coastguard warns against ‘tombstoning’ after river callout – News – North Devon Gazette. in the local paper you can be forgiven for wanting this to stop. But what I think is important here is to understand the difference between these impromptu dares and what has been seen as a right of passage in coastal towns for some years.
I do think that jumping off bridges into rivers either singly or as a group should be discouraged. I am also willing to go along with the coast guard who want to see an end to youths jumping into the sea wherever they see fit at any time of the day or night, but wait, where do you draw the line? Clearly nobody wants to ban swimming in the sea from the beach (although plenty of people get into trouble every year on Devon’s coastline just doing that) Likewise, presumably, it is still OK to climb out of the sea onto a projecting rock and have a sunbathe before sliding or jumping into the sea to cool off?
So how high do you have to be before you call it tombstoning?
In 2008 a lad was threatened with an ASBO for jumping off Ilfracombe pier into the harbour. http://www.thisisnorthdevon.co.uk/Tombstoning-Ilfracombe-harbour-gone-generations-say-parents/story-12162145-detail/story.html#axzz2YZ6Z41Dy
His parents argued that it was a right of passage claiming the father and uncle had done the same thirty years earlier and their father before had done so too.
They further argued that jumping off the pier was relatively safe with a known distance to a sandy bottom, and plenty of people around. True.
However the threat of a police record has no doubt driven teenagers in the town to seek out more secluded locations to jump. Locations with unknown rocky bottoms, and jagged rocks on the way down to try and jump beyond. Such as the one in the video. Unobserved by the public, any youngster who gets into trouble is going to have far less chance of getting help before it is too late for them Other participants may even be afraid to report a serious injury for fear of getting themselves or their friend into trouble with the law.
I pose the question is the objective of the authorities to prevent injury and loss of life, or are they merely trying to stamp out an activity that they disapprove of. I believe that if it is the former then they should adjust their policy.
So whilst I have absolutely no desire to indulge in this particular past-time and would hope that my kids see things the same as me, I would suggest that it would be beneficial to all if the authorities took a more relaxed approach to the activity taking place from the pier, or even better, if they took a little time and effort to organise an official event, once a year perhaps, where anyone can, under supervision and properly risk assessed hurl themselves into the harbour. Perhaps, they could be encouraged to wear amusing apparatus such as “flying machines” Oh wait a minute! they already did this for many years and called it “Southwest Birdman”
So what a load of appalling hypocrisy, really. I mean it is fine to dress up as an aeroplane and jump into the harbour at an organised event, but not to jump in of your own choice and at your own risk.
I reiterate. Tombstoning IS dangerous and you should take sensible precautions before attempting it.
If it is illegal then of course that adds another consideration for you to take into account. I do not wish to encourage anybody to break the law, however, it is not my job either to enforce the law, or to tell you not to break it. That is for your own conscience.