Push-Back Grows Against Jumping Off Sunset Cliffs

by on August 25, 2015 · 6 comments

in Culture, Environment, History, Life Events, Media, Ocean Beach, San Diego

Sunset Cliffs jumpsiteClose to a year ago exactly, we published a “reader rave” about “Why I Jumped Off Sunset Cliffs Yesterday” on why a 65-year old purported local man jumped off a place along the cliffs called Arches (or just “the Arch”) – the popular spot along the cliffs – on a hot, end-of-summer day.

Currently, the article is getting a lot of hits – and it’s all because the entire “sport” has become controversial.

There’s a definite push-back growing against people jumping off that spot, right now. One report cited a hundred people jumping off Arches.

Here’s a report by Pauline Repard on the growing controversy from the LA Times (actually an update of her earlier article at the SD U-T – definite positive aspect of owning both papers)  and quotes our very own Craig Klein:

The signs are all there, warning that the sandy, ragged edge of Sunset Cliffs in San Diego County is unstable, and that jumping from the bluff into the ocean is illegal.  But social media and scorching weather last weekend combined to entice as many as 100 people to a popular jumping spot called the Arch.

It’s a problem that has been growing across Southern California.

Here she cites people jumping off cliffs at Malibu Creek State Park and a teenage death from  jumping off Inspiration Point in Rancho Palos Verdes last year.  Repard continues:

In San Diego, the city has responded by budgeting for a park ranger to patrol the 68-acre Sunset Cliffs Natural Park, including 18 acres of narrow coastline.

The Arch is a big draw on any given day, especially in the summer when the ocean temperature hovers around 70 degrees while eastern San Diego County tops 100. Daredevils of all ages, but mostly teenagers, get a running start, then hurl themselves off the 20-foot cliff and splash into the sea that churns over hidden rock outcroppings.

Locals have been doing it for decades. Most come out without a scratch.

But then Repard raises the concerns of lifeguards, police and OB community leaders that the internet and videos of jumping at Arches is a huge draw of people coming in from other parts of the county, the state, other countries “who are unaware of the dangers or the city ban on jumping.”

She quotes Craig Klein, a member of the OB Community Planning Board:

“If you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s really dangerous. In winter that area turns into a maelstrom, a churning whirlpool. Or if you jump at low tides, you’re almost guaranteed to hit the bottom. People from outside the area don’t know a 1-foot tide from a 5-foot one.”

Klein also raised the issue that city charge cost-recovery fees for cliff-jumping rescues.

San Diego lifeguard Sgt. Jon Vipon is also quoted:

“It’s against the law for a reason: People get hurt.”

Vipon was probably thinking of what happened on August 7th when a 30-something guy jumped but was knocked out and had to be rescued by bystanders and lifeguards and then hospitalized. Vipon admitted that only “a handful of serious rescues” have been made at Arches over the last 2 years, but by time lifeguards arrive after a report of injuries, the jumpers are gone.  He speculated:

“They know it’s against the law and they’re afraid of getting into trouble, so friends bundle up the injured person and take them home. We’ve responded for no reason.”

Repard describes the spot:

The sandstone formation arcs over the water and forms part of a cove at Pappy’s Point, off Sunset Cliffs Boulevard near Osprey Street. The boulevard is lined with guardrails, chain barricades and signs warning people to keep away from the edge and not to jump off.

She explains the law:

San Diego’s municipal code prohibits jumping into the Pacific Ocean and Mission Bay from a height greater than five feet off a natural or man-made platform connected to land. Boats don’t count. The infraction carries a $470 fine. Parents are held responsible for their children’s violations.

Lifeguard Lt. Rich Stropky also spoke to Pauline and said:

“Historically, it used to be more local kids doing it. Then social media caught on, and people came from miles around to jump. It’s a big issue. Over the last four years it’s become more and more popular.

“Right now it’s crazy. The police get reports of 100 people jumping off the cliffs.”

It’s not just injuries that lifeguards and police are concerned about. Repard quoted Police Lt. William Carter who said that the crowds who accumulate around the spot have made a safety issue for lifeguards “who are heckled if they write citations.”

Police Lt. William Carter said that in the large crowd a week ago, some young people “mouthed off” to officers writing tickets to people who had dared to jump from the cliff right in front of them.

“It wasn’t a bad group of kids, but they were still breaking the law,” Carter said. “We’re working with lifeguards, and we will meet with some community groups to talk about cliff rescues.”

Repard quotes a local who thinks police should be writing more tickets. But lifeguard Sgt Vipon doesn’t enjoy writing tickets, so she reports that uses “a lighter, educational approach.”

“I’ll gather the whole crowd together and give them a mass warning,” he said. “I’ll ask where they’re from. A substantial number are from out of town. They’ve heard about the Arch on social media. A lot of people go in not knowing it’s illegal. They don’t read the signs because there are a lot of signs out there.”

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

jettyboy August 25, 2015 at 1:11 pm

Not to worry, the rocks below have a way to sort it all out.


Disco August 25, 2015 at 6:26 pm

Can we chill with all the anti-civil liberties angst. First it was cervesa on the beach, then it was throwing marshmallows, now we’re raging about cliff jumping. I agree too many people are doing it, but that’s Facebook’s fault.

OB, the Peninsula included, is a cool community that from my perspective is built on a pro civil liberties vibe. When I moved here I was so excited to see a place where people were foot-loose and fancy-free. At the Jersey Shore, you have to pay just to walk on the beach, beer is unheard of, and frisbees are often banned during busy hours. You can forget about dogs at beaches and bars.

It will mellow out when the summer ends. Let it be. Don’t make extra rules aimed at killing fun and freedom over a couple busy weekends. More people get injured tripping over our un-repaired and uneven sidewalks. Report on that, Pauline.


obsurfer August 26, 2015 at 12:01 pm

I get more irritated by the groups smoking cigs, drinking from glass bottles, the size of the crowds. Once the temps cool off they’ll all disappear…until next year.

The only thing that will solve it if police patrol and ticket. Not just once a day but on the hour at least. Also they should set up a camera, watch for a while, take pics then bust groups and ticket everyone that had jumped. People start hearing about serious policing and ticketing they’ll think twice. The police really owe it to our communty to patrol it for alcohol and smoking at least.


rick callejon August 26, 2015 at 12:32 pm

The only feasible solution is to build a 2o’ wall the entire length of the cliffs to keep the undesirables out.


Old Hippie August 26, 2015 at 11:25 pm

Me thinks the city ought to approach the entire situation much differently. Instead of a punitive approach, how about one where the city charges a $5 fee for jumping after jumpers sign a waiver, only allow jumps during high tides, and have the collected fees go towards the para-medic on-site. That would be more of a capitalist approach.


George at the Cliffs September 3, 2015 at 5:20 pm

Many of the same “macho” individuals who jump off this cliff will drive to fast, smoke dope, get into fights, and hurt themselves in other ways. Jumping off this cliff is probably the safest activity they engage in.


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