Reader Rave: “Why I Jumped Off Sunset Cliffs Yesterday.”

by on September 10, 2014 · 12 comments

in Life Events, Ocean Beach

Sunset Cliffs jumpsiteEditor: The following “reader rave” was sent to us anonymously by someone who claims they’re a local resident and reader. It was originally published on Sept. 10, 2014.

Yesterday, while searching Sunset Cliffs for waves in my car, I stopped, got out and then walked over to where the kids jump, and I jumped off the cliffs – and I’m 65 years old.  Here’s why:

It was hot yesterday … and muggy. I was looking for waves as I cruised the Cliffs. I had my suit with me and I knew I had to hit the water at some point.

I had seen them as I drove south along Sunset Cliffs Blvd – the kids jumping off that section of the cliffs into the Pacific below, and then climbing out over the rocks back up. You know where I’m talking about. It’s between Adair and Osprey. Heck, there’s even a Yelp page for it.

Kids, young people, have been doing it for years – jumping at that small outcropping – ( usually jumping – I’ve never seen or heard of anyone diving – as that would be particularly dangerous). Hell, I even jumped there when I was a teenager, 16, 17 18 years old when I used to surf the Cliffs. In fact, I had crawled back into the tunnel when it used to be more accessible, and walked back far enough to find a brickwall, apparently blocking any further movement.  The tunnel, as many locals know, was used during Prohibition to unload booze – the tunnel used to  – I’ve heard – lead up into one of the large homes nearby.

So, as I had turned around at the end at Ladera, and was making my way back north – I saw them again, and I saw people stopping and getting out. So I pulled over, got out and watched for a few minutes. I can do that, I thought.

It was hot, it was mug-city. I gotta get in the water, and if I go in here and cool off, I won’t have to deal with the sand. And most importantly, it was high tide.

Besides, maybe in a few years, due to erosion, this outcropping where people jump won’t be here anymore. I had known Needle’s Eye – a beautiful set of stone out in the ocean with a huge “needle’s eye” not too far away – before it crumbled into the surf decades ago.

I pulled into the small parking lot, pulled on my suit, grabbed my flipflops and towel and made my way down the short distance to where people jump off.

There was a bunch of people already there. Young men and women, some Anglos, some Latinos. When I reached the edge, I kiddingly told two young women there that I’d go after them as they were there first. They good-naturedly told me that I had to go first.  Two young guys stood by encouraging me.

One asked how old I was.  65, I said. He said, wow, I hope I can jump off this when I’m 65. Wow, did that make me feel good.  I edged over closer to where people leap.  I looked down. It was further than I wanted it to be. I feel slightly squeamish, and moved back.

Two Latina women had just jumped a few minutes before and they were making their way back up to the top – where we were all standing. I asked them how they got back up, as I wanted to be sure that I went the best way. The older one showed me how she had gotten up on a shelf that was just below the water level, as the waves surged in and out of the small alcove of land and water.

Finally, I turned back to the edge, moved up – and jumped!

I landed feet first – which stung abit, went down some – felt no rocks or bottom, came back up to cheers from above.

I splashed-swam over to that shelf, and tried to get up. But the waves – not large by any means – kept surging and knocking me back into the water. I started to swim around the point but noticed that the place where I had been – the shelf – was the best place to get up. So, I tried it again, got banged around some, but finally stood up. I looked up and those 2 young women had both jumped and in the meantime, and like seals, they were up on the rocks already – while I had been foundering around.

I grabbed onto the natural hand holds in the rocks and pulled myself up and was able to begin the slow scramble back up, and I then noticed some small bleeding abrasions on my legs, and a cut on my foot.

But I had made it. It felt refreshing, and youthful. The jump itself is the easy part. It’s getting back up on the rocks which is the difficult part. No one should attempt it unless they’re good swimmers – and it’s high tide.

So, why did I do it?

Was it a foolish attempt to relive my youth? Was it an unlawful, foolhardy thing to do, at all, no matter someone my age?

Hey, I did it for all those guys and women my age who drive by everyday and secretly wish they could jup off too. I did it for my generation. I did it for all 65-year olds, the grandparents of the kids who jump. I did it to show the kids that they’re not the only ones who can jump.

And hey, it was hot and it was muggy. And this way, I didn’t have to deal with the sand.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

want2surf September 10, 2014 at 1:33 pm

Like me, you’ve lived near, on and in the water your whole life; you probably know and respect the ocean, its beauty and its sheer strength. You likely (I hope) also respect your obligation not to just enjoy and take advantage of what the ocean offers, but to care for it and help keep it clean.

Having said that, you are unlikely to be amongst those for whom the fire station, ambulances and helicopters have to come rushing to save any time it’s warm out because you jumped off the arch and got yourself seriously injured. The jumping visitors to the Cliffs don’t understand or respect the ocean, which is why they’re getting hurt, and it’s also why there’s so much trash and so many cigarette butts thrown around our neighborhood there. There’s no stopping them, it’s just sad.

OK, Rant’s over.
Wish you the best waves and aloha in the line up. Congrats on your leap.


Frances O'Neill Zimmerman September 10, 2014 at 1:59 pm

Hope you don’t get a bacterial infection from those scrapes on the rocks. I know a strong bodysurfer who got banged up on toxic 5rocks at Boomer south of LJ Cove and he ended up very sick and in the hospital for a long time. Keep an eye out, Gramps.


gristmiller September 10, 2014 at 2:49 pm



John September 10, 2014 at 5:38 pm

Good Going! Sometimes you just have to do things like that!


OB Mercy September 10, 2014 at 5:50 pm

Thanks…now I don’t have to!


John September 12, 2014 at 2:33 am

20 years ago I jumped a few times from the street side cliff. The one thats about a 35ft+ drop and if you dont clear a dozen feet of rocks at the bottom you go splat.
Live. Dangerously.
The cove at the foot of santa cruz street is also good. Less obvious but more conducive to diving. Just watch the waves when you swim in. They will push you to the left and pound you. Nearly drowned there one time. My friend was standing on the rocks with a beer in his hand as I raised my hand for the traditional third wave, sending the signal I was about to give up the fight.
He yelled “SWIM!”.
Thank goodness he was there for me.


Andy August 4, 2015 at 2:06 pm

The hardest part must be jumping off while holding your Selfie Stick so you can post your video on Twitter:


Frank Gormlie August 4, 2015 at 3:19 pm

Nice. This could be the first selfie here.


Geoff Page August 4, 2015 at 3:23 pm

NOW, I see why he had so much fun. Clever old dude.


Geoff Page August 4, 2015 at 2:50 pm

The only part of this story that puzzled me was “when I used to surf the Cliffs.” You’re only 65 years old so why aren’t you still surfing? That’s the best way in the world to enjoy the cool, beautiful ocean along Sunset Cliffs. I’ll be 65 next March and I have no idea when I’ll stop surfing and there are a lot of older guys and women out there than us. Grab a board my friend and get back in the line up.


Frank Gormlie August 4, 2015 at 3:20 pm

He admitted to me that he actually uses a boogie board and fins and goes to what we used to call “South Beach” – between Towers 2 and 3.


Geoff Page August 4, 2015 at 3:24 pm

That’s cool, as long as he’s enjoying the waves.


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