Effect jumping off Durdle Door shows it is never worth it (2023)

'Tombstoning' is when thrill seekers jump vertically from a cliff or pier into the sea. It is extremely dangerous and has led to deaths on the Dorset coast.

Unfortunately one of the county's most stunning landmarks and beauty spots - Durdle Door - has become a hotspot for the potentially deadly activity. In 2021 a video, showing a man recording his own jump off the limestone arch with a head camera, was posted to YouTube.

In a caption posted to the video, user AdrenalineWings wrote that it “goes without saying” that this is dangerous. But the emergency services would say this was a stupid thing to do, setting a terrible example.

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A total of at least 20 people have died after tombstoning since 2005. Many more have suffered serious or life-changing injuries.

Every incident - particularly at Durdle Door - creates hazards for other people, too. Members of the public have been known to try to rescue tombstoners who don't resurface from the depths, putting themselves at risk in the arch's choppy waters, too.

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And if an air ambulance has to land on the small beach, crowd control is needed to make room. Trained rescuers may end up putting themselves in harm's way as well.

There are loads of reasons not to tombstone but here's what happens to your body if you do.

The dangers of tombstoning at Durdle Door

Broken legs, cardiac arrest or being swept out to sea - just some of the risks which come with tombstoning, according to official advice.

Jumpers often overlook how deep the water is and what is lurking beneath the surface. Hidden rocks often cannot be seen until it is too late. Leaps are easy to misjudge and often lead to horrific injuries as jumpers hit debris below the waterline.

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Another factor tombstoners forget is the impact of hitting the water itself. The higher up you jump from, the harder the impact of the water will be.

A jumper's weight, speed and the distance of the leap can combine so it feels like hitting concrete when you land, not water.

There is also the threat of plunging to the bottom of whatever you have tombstoned into - this can easily break legs if you have pencil dived in.

The shock of slamming into cold water can also cause breathing difficulties and make it a struggle for even strong swimmers to move in the water. That makes strong currents, deep water and rip tides the next danger.

Swimming in the sea with waves and currents is very different to a swimming pool and should not be done lightly. This is particularly true at Durdle Door where the sea can be surprisingly deep and rough, even in the beach areas.

Even confident swimmers can get swept out to sea. If you have been hurt in the fall but find yourself far away from the beach, you could then be in real trouble.

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The Coastguard has the following advice: "Think before you jump: don't let alcohol, drugs or peer pressure affect your judgement; even if you’re jumping safely, children may be watching and try to copy your actions."

Since 2004 the Coastguard has dealt with more than 200 incidents, with 70 injuries and 20 deaths. Of those injured the youngest was 12 and the oldest was 45.

Around 20 per cent of injuries are spinal and there are people who have been left paralysed by tombstoning. Belly flops into water from a great height can also cause deep bruising to internal organs, which can lead to serious medical complications.

What has happened at Durdle Door in 2021?

There were a number of near misses on the cliffs around Durdle Door or at the arch itself during the summer of 2021.

On June 2, a man who tombstoned off of Durdle Door into the sea had to be airlifted to hospital with a dislocated shoulder. A woman then died later in June after falling from the famous landmark but this was not tombstone related.

The woman had been climbing down the 150ft rocky cliffs and suffered fatal injuries when she fell onto rocks below the cliff that overlook the Man o' War beach. It shows that even those not looking for a thrill can be at risk on the coast.

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In a different call out for emergency services, a 14-year-old boy had to be rescued after becoming stranded on a grassy slope at the landmark.

This was also in June and again led to safety warnings for people to stick to paths.

This article was original published in July 2021 and updated in August 2022.

What do you think of tombstoners? Comment below with your view or email news.dorsetlive@reachplc.com with your pictures, information and news stories.

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