On cliff jumping
The end of summer was tinged with tragedy in Algonquin Highlands when a 29-year-old man lost his life in a cliff-jumping incident on Raven Lake during the Labour Day weekend.
The man died in what police called a “freak accident”– that is, there was no alcohol or drugs involved.
In the media release, the OPP said they “would like to remind everyone to make safety the No. 1 priority in all your activities whether at work or at play.”
“I believe this was an opportunity for the OPP to discourage cliff diving or jumping, rather than seemingly dismiss it as something that’s not likely to reoccur,” one reader commented on social media.
And perhaps she has a point.
Cliff jumping is an inherently risky activity. It is inherently dangerous. That’s part of what makes it exhilarating.
It doesn’t matter how familiar one is with the area or the waterbody, things can go wrong. Under the water’s surface, there could be logs or rocks where there weren’t logs or rocks before. Even if the space below the water’s surface has been checked (which it obviously should be), other injury-inducing and potentially life-threatening situations can occur.
Hitting the water itself at the wrong angle. Slipping and hitting one’s head. Etc.
But cliff jumping is a cottaging tradition for many, a summery rite of passage that somehow embodies the carefree spirit of being on holidays.
And it’s not just jumping from cliffs.
During a visit to Dorset this summer, I watched two girls jumping from the bridge on its main street into the channel below. Anyone who’s been to Dorset in the summertime knows this channel, which opens into the Lake of Bays, is extremely busy. The girls would wait for boats below to pass before making their well-timed plunges.
Full disclosure: I am a former cliff jumper. When I was a high school student in Lindsay, one way we’d celebrate the end of the school year was to drive to Fenelon Falls and fling ourselves off the cliffs there.
I have jumped off cliffs in the Haliburton Highlands on numerous occasions.
So, clearly, I’m in no position to write that no one should go cliff jumping at any time.
However, the Raven Lake incident is a stark reminder of the inherent risks of the activity.