The tombstoning question, is there a better way? webpage:

All over Tenerife, from the harbour walls in Garachico ( and Los Cristianos, from every rock and specially constructed key side, adults, children and teenagers share the joy of jumping into the water, a joy we here in England seem to confuse with the potentially hazardous sport of 'tombstoning'. Without harm or injury thousands daily take the plunge and no one seems to think anything of it.

Tombstoning: describes the exhilarating and addictive "...practice of jumping from great heights into the sea or similar body of water from a cliff or other high point such that the jumper enters the water vertically straight, like a tombstone." The higher the jumping point the greater the waters depth needs to be. The RNLI advise: "As a rule of thumb, a jump of ten meters requires a depth of at least five meters". ROSPA's advice makes sense: "Don't jump into the unknown. Consider the dangers before you take the plunge." Of course jumping from low walls or rocks into deep water presents a fun alternative with low risk and should not be confused with real tombstoning.

When it comes to swimming, Spanish parents hold hands with their youngsters and keep a close eye on them and on other children at all times as they play. When splashing in the sea, mum dad and big brother are there to lend a helping hand and so the need for lifeguards is minimal. Children seem valued and loved by all and yet when it comes to water they enjoy much more freedom than most British youngsters. With a relative at their side a six or seven year old will swim way out of his or her depth, having been taught how to swim by the family. Babies swim in rubber rings, toddlers in water wings, two at first, then just one until, whilst still tiny, they swim confidently within an arm's reach of safety.

Not all resorts in Tenerife have big enough beaches to cope with demand and so many have created swimming and sunbathing facilities on rocky outcrops and quaysides. When the weather is hot, young boys and girls inevitably gather to jump into the cooling waters, and they develop all kinds of flight techniques with arms and legs posed as they show off to their family and friends. The lifeguards do not try to stop them; it's a natural thing to be doing at the seaside. Why then do officials get so hot under the collar when children start jumping into water in the UK?

I have read several news stories recently which have encouraged members of the public to report any instance of jumping to the police in order to protect youngsters from danger, yet the pictures accompanying these articles sometimes show children jumping from heights of less than three feet. No one wants swimmers to get hurt but surely children can jump from walls onto grass from that height without serious injury, let alone into deep water? Of course increased height raises the risk as highlighted in the RNLI statement on tombstoning, but surely all jumping can't be bad.

There is a difference between tombstoning and the innocent pastime where children and teenagers and adults enjoy jumping into water having checked its depth and assessed the risks.

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