Groups of people encircle a pool of pale blue water with their eyes set eagerly to the manicured cliff that stretches from the sea. At the edge a brave soul steps up to the challenge and launches off into the cove flailing their arms in hopes of somehow finding balance. Onlookers hold their breaths partly hoping for a clean entry but curious to see what a cannon ball would look like from a 40 foot jump. The diver splashes clean through the water creating a ripple of white sea water and then pops to the surface with a grin, if not a smile. The hearts of viewers dance with emotion as they contemplate tossing themselves off the cliff as well. The thought alone puts sends the senses of many to a state of vertigo.
At Rick’s Bar in Negril, Jamaica cliff jumping isn’t just an activity, it is a proving grounds, not to the people who encircle the natural pool, but yourself.
“Whoever decided to put a bar around one of the best cliff diving spots in Jamaica was both a fool and a genius,” I think as I step towards the ledge. I look down to see lower “cliffs” at about 8 feet (2.5m), 27 feet (8m), and the popular 40 foot (12m) jump. Without a second thought I knew which jump to do. But as my feet sliced through the salty water my adrenaline glands could help to be pushed farther. I climb back to the top and I see it, a billboard another 10-15 feet higher. “I have to jump it.”
Every now and then someone with a slight tendency to the suicidal makes the jump for the billboard – only locals were seen jumping from it while we were there. The true test, however, isn’t so much the jump but the climb. After scaling the rock face on the other side of the pool, you have to climb a tree, bounce your way along one of the rickety branches and then pull yourself up to the top.
I take a bit of a running start as I fly into the water based pit below. I have every intention of yelling the word “Jamaica” as I fly down, but my lungs can instead only press out the word “Juuugghhhhh.” I flap my hands on the decent somehow thinking that will control my flight. The soles of my feet finally slap the water with a heavy thud and I push my leg foward as to no dive too deep. I can feel the rush of white salt water race along the smooth skin of my back now charged with energy. From below the sea’s surface I see the rays of the sun creating a path of light through the waters. My feet scamper as I push through the salt film surface and stretch my head into the setting sunlight. I look up to the crowds looking for symbolic pats on the back in the form of clapping hands, but the air is silent. I realize though, as usual, the true respect I wanted to gain wasn’t from the crowd, but from myself.
(I want to thank Reid from Dotting the Map for the images from my jump)