I had a foolish close call cliff-jumping, but got it on video. Here’s the bone-chilling tale of hubris and naked luck: hottest day of the year but the lake was ice cold so I went to the cliff-jumping swimming hole on Lester River known as the Deeps. I’d made a video there before of jumping from up high, but I hadn’t jumped from the highest point yet, so I tried it.
I was one of 20 or so people around, mostly teens and several of them were jumping from this highest point which I believe is 40 feet up a rock face with jutting ledges. I had my camera on a stick ready to film the action and I took a couple steps and went sailing over the edge. I quickly realized I hadn’t taken as big of a headstart off the edge as I should have, and over the long fall to the water I honestly didn’t know if I would clear these ledges or not. I cried out, “Oh shit!” in mid-air in front of God and everybody, faintly audible at the five-second mark.
Luckily I just made it by “what can only be described as a hair’s width” (Bukowski referring to a close call on a joyride with Neal Cassidy). Not literally true but you can see the cliff wall is virtually shaving my back on the way down. Obviously an impact could have been catastrophic, so for goodness’ sake be careful and I’m not jumping off the high cliff again.
My impact with the water snapped the camera off the camera pole, and the camera sank 15 feet or so to the murky bottom. Keen to retrieve it if possible, I ran 100 yards to my car and fetched my dive mask and flippers, and got to work diving around looking for it. Found it on the third try after eight minutes, which I have mostly edited out.
But here’s the best part, and I’m not sure if this was worth almost dying or not (answer: no). But the camera was filming the whole time, and until I reviewed the footage, I was hoping it had spent some time pointing up from the bottom and possibly getting usable video of people diving above or maybe a small fish or something. Turns out no, it landed face down in the muck. But, for the last two or three minutes, a crayfish crawled right up next to it and stuck a claw and two legs into the frame, before scuttling across the floors of silent seas as I approached. I am weirdly so gratified by this.
After I rescued the camera I lashed it to my right wrist and got additional cliff-jumping footage. The rest of my jumps were from the shorter cliff spot, itself 20 feet up or so but a lot easier to clear the rocks from.
The moral of the story: get a good fast start when jumping the high point at the Deeps, or better yet, just avoid it. One false move and you’re toast.