Tombstoning: Know the dangers. Know the risks. Know the consequences.


The new hard hitting campaign comes alongside a programme of activity for young people.

Partners in Plymouth are joining forces to warn of the dangers of tombstoning – which comes with the risk of broken limbs, life changing injuries, cold water shock and death.

Plymouth City Council has teamed up with Devon and Cornwall Police, RNLI, HM Coastguard and the Plymouth Waterfront Partnership to deliver a new campaign to educate people about the dangers of tombstoning. Young people at risk of tombstoning in the city are also being encouraged to take up other activities such as coasteering.

Cabinet member for Customer Focus and Community Safety, Councillor Sally Haydon, said: “It is important that we educate people of all ages on the dangers of tombstoning. It is essential that they understand the gravity of injuries they could receive, be that severely broken a limb, or spinal damage. Cold water shock is a particularly dangerous risk for activities in open water such as lakes or the sea, creating difficulties in breathing and body movement.

“Reports of tombstoning increase during the summer holidays, so we must do all we can to dissuade people from participating in this potentially deadly activity. We do understand that people see tombstoning as fun or thrill seeking without really thinking about the dangers, we encourage those who may be considering tombstoning to look at other adrenaline filled activities that can be done safely. We’re working with young people who have engaged in tombstoning to take up alternative activities such as coasteering through our Summer Mix programme.”

Dangers of tombstoning include:

  • tides changing dramatically, affecting how deep the water looks, as well as obscuring rocks and other debris that can cause serious damage
  • spinal injuries; 20 per cent of tombstoning injuries are spinal – often with life changing consequences
  • cold water shock, which can affect your breathing, restrict your movement, and leave you helpless in seconds
  • drowning; 400 people drowned in coastal related incidents in the last 30 years
  • lack of easy access points to get out of the water – can people get to you if you need help?

Inspector Robin Loveridge, who is responsible for policing the Hoe area said: “In recent years Plymouth has seen tragedy as a result of what some consider a fun activity. This includes the death of a man when he hit the rocks jumping from the Hoe foreshore and other tragic incidents where many people have been seriously injured.

“A 17-year-old received life changing injuries and a 14-year-old was described as being ‘lucky to be alive’ after diving headfirst onto rocks and being rescued by the coastguard. I would urge parents to speak to their children and get them to understand that it is a very dangerous activity to take part in and just not worth the risks.”

Sarah Gibson, Waterfront Manager and Chief Executive of Plymouth Waterfront Partnership, said: “Plymouth Waterfront Partnership is pleased to work with partners at the council, police, Coastguard and RNLI to encourage people to stay safe.

“We want all our residents and visitors to enjoy the waterfront and have fun but it’s important that people know how to do this safely, so please do be aware of the dangers of tombstoning.”

Piers Stanbury Duty Controller for HM Coastguard said:  ‘Tombstoning into the sea from rocks, piers or other structures can be extremely dangerous and always carries great risk. The depth of water can dramatically change with the tide and what was a deep pool at lunchtime might be a shallow puddle by teatime.  You also don’t know what hazards may be lurking under the surface until you are hurt or worse.  The shock of cold water may make it difficult to swim to safety and strong currents can quickly sweep people away. If you do want to jump from height into the sea we would advise people join a coasteering group with a professional and reputable adventure centre.’

As ever, our message is, ‘Keep safe, but if you see anybody in trouble or if you get into difficulty, call 999 and ask for the Coastguard’.

Area Lifesaving Manager for the RNLI Simon Crayfourd said: “Conditions can change quickly and anyone considering jumping into the sea from height should always check for hazards in the water like submerged rocks, check the depth of the water as this changes with the tide, and know where the best access out of the water is.

“It’s really important that people think about the possible dangers. People should never jump while under the influence of alcohol, drugs or peer pressure. Coasteering with a registered company may be a safer alternative.”