Cliff Jumping 101

2010_07_10-10_49_07-1371_Zadar

I was recently in Zadar, Croatia, a coastal city in which a lack of sand – give the stones a few more million years of erosion – has given way to an impressive concrete beach scene. I´m aware that the term “concrete beach” might bring about a dissonance, let alone a desire to go anywhere near the place, but I must say I found the place to be in good fashion. I think that, when designing the place, the project planners recognized that they were already playing with a significant handicap, so they stockpiled the place with a surfeit of enjoyable services. The beach is brimming with basketball, volleyball and tennis courts, water polo arenas, restaurants, shops, swimming lanes, wading pools, and my personal favourite, a series of diving towers.

I hadn´t seen many people venturing to the highest of the three towers, and if they did, they inched their way to the edge, had a cautious peek, then hastily returned to the ladder. The tower was high enough where someone’s presence would bring about the curious gaze of onlookers. You see, people love the possibility of someone injuring themselves, or even more so, killing themselves.  So upon summiting the behemoth tower, you had a few seconds to yourself, before rapturous shouts would indicate that there was a fool atop planning to jump. Within seconds you would have yourself an audience of hundreds of people, all of whom are hoping for an impalement.

So when I reached the windy summit of the top tower I was surprised to be greeted by another being. He was roughly my age, and build, but his demeanor didn’t indicate much in regards to his intentions. I quickly joined him on the far side of the tower which concealed us from the sight lines of the spectators.

Instantly we started chatting, because if we´re chatting, we can´t be jumping, so the banter benefited the both of us. Eventually, the conversation turned to the jump, as was inevitable. He asked if I´d jumped off yet and I said that I had, rather proudly too.

A little while earlier I had climbed up and jumped off without so much as a concern towards the consequences. You see I was trying to impress a girl. This is one of the sure-fire ways to get me to do things I would by no means be doing under normal circumstances.

So when the fellow up there with me told me that he had previously performed a back flip off where we were standing, I became concerned. Not that he was lying, hell no, people don´t lie about doing flips off a tower they´re still suspended on. What worried me was that the girl I was trying to impress might see this acrobatic display of athleticism and thus recognize this fellow for the superior being he was. We couldn’t have that.  But at the same time, I wanted to see a backflip, or better yet an impaling.

You see this fellow was the last type of personality in my list of cliff jumpers, he was fearless.

You can learn everything you need to know about a person by placing them on an elevated perch above water and telling them to jump. You really can. If there were ever a place that exposes the discrepancies in human personality and thought processing, it´s a dive tower.

For simplicity´s sake let´s narrow the wide variety of jumpers into five distinct categories.

  • Number One won´t even consider jumping, but will gladly encourage you to do so.
  • Number Two wanders up to the tower or cliff in question, takes a peak, and instantly decides against it.
  • Number Three spends a great deal of time planning to jump and eventually does.
  • Number Four recognizes the presence of discomfort and fear but pride reigns over so he jumps.
  • Number Five is not subject to fear, he jumps without question.

Most people fall into category Number Three. They will in fact jump, but only after a period of time spent agonizing and playing out every possible mishap in their heads. Number Three, is actually, ironically, the most irrational. You see person Number One has his priorities straight from the get go. Number Two is curious but still sensible. He won´t let peer pressure dictate his actions. Number Four may have faulty motives but he spends a fraction of the time agonizing. Number Five is just born with an inherent lack of concern for his wellbeing. You can´t punish him for it no more so than you could punish him for his blood type, it´s intrinsic.

The trouble with Number Three is that they will end up jumping, and they know that. So why not omit all the suffering and agonizing and jump right from the get go. The hardest part of jumping off a peak is the time spent before jumping. Once you´re in the air, the suffering ceases, the adrenaline kicks in, and time passes slightly slower while you descend through the air, and plunge into the water. Upon surfacing, you are happy, and you admonish yourself for all that time spent scrutinizing. This is a fact. This will happen. I am just as confident in saying this as I am in stating that the sky is blue.

Unfortunately, the following is a fact as well – This isn’t news to people. Everyone knows they will jump and everyone knows they will suffer for longer than they should beforehand. It just can´t be avoided. It´s just of humanity´s quizzical quirks.

So with that setting in let us return to the top of the dive tower in Zadar.

We were still standing about, I was hyping up my newfound friend to attempt another flip when I heard a shouting from the water below.

“Hurrrrrrrrrry uuuuuuuup.” It was my friend Tijana, or more appropriately, the girl I was trying to impress.

I followed the love-stricken urge all the way off the end of the tower and soared through the air with limbs flailing and a smile on my face. When I surfaced I didn’t have time to savor the moment, rather I was more concerned with maneuvering Tijana back towards our towels and away from the tower. Not for safety´s sake, rather to steer her away from my friend the badass. All was going well until she caught glimpse of a bystander pointing towards the tower. She turned around just in time to witness the miraculous display of acrobatics from my newfound friend. With grace and refined skill, he entered the water flawlessly. It really was quite a feat.

“Wow, he´s crazy” she pronounced.

“Yeah, yeah he is…”

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