When you stand at the edge of a cliff, everything in you will tell you not to jump. Don’t look down. Look out at the horizon, where the blue sky and blue ocean meet. Let the breeze blow over your face. Have a moment with the island. Breathe deeply. Step one foot over the other, until gravity takes over.
For me it was the South Point Cliffs, an iconic 50 ft. cliff dive at the southernmost tip of the Big Island in Hawaii. I stopped there with a friend on our road trip from Hilo to Kona. It’s in a surprisingly desolate part of the island, 12 miles down a one-lane road off the highway, and surrounded by fields of cows and windmills and tall yellow grass. The drive down from Hilo was dynamic, undulating through the island’s narrow roads and different stages – through coastal towns and coffee farms and miles of cooled black lava. When we arrived at the cliffs, it felt like the very edge of the world — nothing but a red rocky lot, fields of dry grass and the seemingly endless ocean.
We watched people jump for an hour, drinking warm rosé as I built courage. The top of the cliff leaned out into the water enough so there was no chance of hitting the sides of it. People jumped, happily, again and again, and then climbed up a narrow rusted ladder that hung from the rocks and swayed in the water. When I stood on the plank, waiting to jump, a woman told me she’d pray for me. I stared out at all the cliffs, standing stark against the water. The wind blew slightly. The ocean churned below me while the waves grew tall at the bottom. Asian tourists cheered and waved their phones at me. I closed my eyes and said “just jump” until finally I was able to, stepping one foot over the other, until I flew into the air and quickly toward the water.
It felt incredible. There wasn’t a decision left to make.
There wasn’t any worry, nothing I could do but float and wait to crash into the water. Do I regret it? Not at all. Should you just jump? Yes. But keep your body straight like a pencil. Keep your arms tucked tightly to your sides, your legs together and your toes pointed. Let me be your cautionary tale.