Make sure you know what you’re doing before you dive into water. (Citizen file)

Make sure you know what you’re doing before you dive into water. (Citizen file)

Editorial: Think twice before jumping off a cliff

Not like in the movies where people can jump from the top of waterfalls and make it out unscathed

Let’s talk a little about enjoying the water safely.

In a cautionary tale last week, a young man jumped from a cliff more than 100 feet up into Comox Lake and badly injured himself in the process. In this particular case he failed to jump far enough from the cliff face and hit it on his way down, slamming into the water unconscious.

The Cumberland fire chief noted that his department has had to attend this very spot, known as Devil’s Ladder, on far too many occasions because of people rolling the dice and jumping from the cliff. It’s important to recognize that a fall of even 20 feet can be dangerous, let alone more than 100. The higher you jump from, the less of a soft landing water will provide, until you might as well be hitting concrete. And if your body hits at the wrong angle, even experienced divers can be shocked, or even injured enough by the impact to put them in danger.

It’s not like in the movies where people can jump from the top of waterfalls and make it out unscathed. That’s movie magic, not real life.

In this instance, the water below the cliff is apparently plenty deep enough, but most everyone knows peripherally at least, of someone who dove into water without knowing how deep it was and would up hitting bottom. Every year people wind up dying or paralysed in such preventable accidents, especially if they are diving in head first.

It takes only a split second to permanently damage your spine or neck; make sure you take at least that much time to find out how far down the bottom is. And remember that areas that may be deep enough other times of the year shallow out considerably when the weather gets dry in the height of summer. It’s not something you should take for granted, even if you’ve performed dives at the same place in the past.

There’s no prize for putting yourself in this kind of needless danger. There are better ways to impress your friends.

Cowichan Lake and River, Chemainus River, Shawnigan Lake, Fuller Lake, our numerous ocean beaches — the Cowichan Valley is awash in wonderful places to swim and have fun in the water over the summer. A few simple precautions can make sure it stays fun, such as not trying to swim farther than your fitness level allows (note: that means being able to make it back to shore as well), wear a life jacket if you go out on a boat, no matter how proficient a swimmer you are (if something happens to your boat and you are knocked out, your swimming prowess won’t matter), and don’t mix alcohol and drugs with water fun.

Editorials