This Is Why Cliff Jumpers Throw Rocks

When you’re diving off cliffs, it can be an intense thrill that you enjoy every moment of, but there are things others will do that confuse you. Throwing rocks may be a lot more prevalent in some swimming holes than others, especially if you are constantly looking to find the next big thrilling jump. It’s important to know why you would have to throw rocks into the water before you jump and how it will affect your experience.

The only reason you should ever throw rocks right before you are jumping into the water while cliff diving is to break the surface tension of the water. Lake water can easily become too calm to jump in, causing pain when you hit the water, while river and ocean water will usually not have as much surface tension.

As you become more experienced at cliff diving, you will learn when it is necessary to use rocks, and when it is safe to use rocks. Many cliff divers learn the hard way why using rocks is necessary at some watering holes, while others can go their entire cliff diving careers without ever learning. Knowing everything about rocks before you dive in can make a massive difference in your overall experience.

Where do people throw rocks into the water?

Before we get into what rocks you should be using and why you are using them, you must learn where people are using rocks. People will often go to the wrong places and randomly start hurling rocks into the water because they think it looks cool. By no means are we saying it doesn’t, but there is a danger to throwing them that should be avoided?

People throw rocks in the water that is almost or completely calm, usually in caves, lakes, or tidal ponds that are deep enough to jump into. As the water becomes calmer you need to break that tension or else your body will have to do this, you can see the same thing happening at Olympic pools, where they pump bubbles in the pool to break the surface tension.

There are moments when the ocean or a river could need rocks thrown into them. However, the moving and rough waters of these two bodies of water usually cause there to be almost no surface tension. This is why you won’t see people throwing rocks off cliffs after the first diver, either. Not only would this be dangerous, but their swimming usually causes enough of a surface break to make diving fun.

At what height is it good to throw a rock?

Even when you are jumping into the calmest waters on earth, it won’t always be necessary to throw a rock before you make the jump. Many divers quickly learn what the height is by throwing rocks to ensure comfortable jumps. However, first time divers or rookie divers may still need to play it safe, especially if they are still learning the technique.

Anything from 10 feet above will require that you throw a rock into the water before diving. This is not because you would reach terminal velocity, but because it can cause heavy bruising, jumping into still water from this height. The water needs to be a bit bubbly and rough to ensure even if you get the technique wrong, you are jumping comfortably and not almost breaking a bone.

More experienced divers can easily jump from 10 feet or even 20 feet and not be damaged when they hit completely still waters. However, they have usually perfected the technique and won’t be hitting the water sideways in any way, usually breaking surface tension with their legs or arms first.

What should you look for in the rock you are throwing?

Now, this is important to remember, not just every rock you find lying about will be able to do the work. You may often have a dig around for a short while trying to find just the right rock to break the tension of the water. Some of the funniest dives usually happen when someone uses a comically small rock or about seven times too big.

  • Size: The size of your rock is the most important part of choosing it. Rocks that are too big will be more trouble than they’re worthwhile, and a small rock might as well be left alone. You will need to find a rock you can pick up, usually just a little smaller than a soccer ball, to throw into the water.
  • Weight: Not all rocks weigh the same, and having a rock that is the right size but feels like it weighs a ton is not going to help you dive safely. The rock’s weight is not important, as the size is what disturbs the surface tension, a rock that is too heavy usually causes you to be unbalanced as well. While standing on a cliff throwing a rock over it, the last thing you want is to be unbalanced.
  • Shape: This is an odd thing to say, but the more rock shaped it is, the better as most other shapes will only cause a problem. This is because rocks that are flatter tend to start spinning or simply veering off course. You want the rock to land almost exactly where you are going to be jumping into the water.

What should you look for before throwing the rock?

Choosing a rock is not the only thing you need to consider carefully, with many divers forgetting to check that everything is fine before lobbing a giant piece of earth into water.

Before you throw the rock, there are many things you need to consider, especially if others had done the jump before you did.

  • Other swimmers: Rocks can and have killed people, and throwing them off the edge of a cliff makes them a lethal projectile. If you are about to throw one, it is always important to have someone checking for another swimmer, as well as shouting a warning that you are about to throw it. This ensures that the rock doesn’t hit anyone on the way down.
  • Water condition: While it is always necessary to break the water’s surface tension for the first diver, it may not be required after that. Checking the water and how turbulent it has gotten can save a lot of time and rocks wasted on being thrown in the water. This also lets you double-check on which part of the water it will be best to dive in.
  • Time of day: The sun can be a tricky thing to live with when cliff jumping. Many times jumpers have experienced the sun shining too much to see the conditions of the water. It is usually best to communicate with those below that are already in the water when doing this, as you might throw a rock and exactly the wrong time otherwise.
  • Tide: The tide affects many things, including the number of waves in most large bodies of water. When you are cliff jumping, it is best to wait and see what the tide is doing, as even in caves where you can jump, the tide can affect the overall calmness of the waters. Or wait for the tide to increase, so you can be sure that the water you are jumping into is properly deep enough to be jumping.


Throwing a rock before you jump is part of learning how to cliff jump properly and be one of the most important things you should learn to do. Many cliff jumpers have hurt themselves severely by not preparing the water properly before jumping off heights that seem low.

Just be sure you aren’t diving so fast after throwing the rock that you hit it while jumping, remember, the rock slows down once it hit the water.

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