If Your Friends Jumped Off a Cliff...

by EMILY ORTON

If your friends jumped off a cliff, would you follow them?  If you are in Hawaii, the answer is probably, yes.  One of the most popular spots is on the south side of Waimea Bay, on the North Shore of Oahu.  A black monolith rises 30’ up and pushes 20’ into the Pacific.   That’s where our family, including Rob and Maddie – who have become family – decided to go cliff-jumping.

 Erik from below - to see the view from above, you'll have to climb it yourself

Erik from below - to see the view from above, you'll have to climb it yourself

The Family That Jumps Together

Eli, who knows what he likes, found some shade after watching the others jump.  Erik, Alison, SJ, Maddi and Rob have all done jumps like this, or higher, before.  Erik, Alison and SJ jumped 50’ feet down the black hole of a grotto a few years ago.  Alison and SJ thought jumping this cliff was scarier because they could see what was coming.  

I don’t know if it’s more nerve-wracking to see what’s coming or to go in blind.  I’d never done either kind of jump before.  I was content not cliff jumping.  Isn’t that pretty normal?  In any event, I was towing Lily down the beach, through the water, on a boogie board.  By the time we arrived, Maddi had caught Rob’s backflips and twisty dives on video. The party was over.  In the playback window, my husband and kids looked like tiny daggers dropping into the ocean.  Go family!

 Aunty Maddi in midair - love that hair!

Aunty Maddi in midair - love that hair!

Then Alison said, “You wanna go up, Mom? I’ll go with you.”  Her eyes and smile were wide open.  She wanted to share this.  I decided to go for it. 

When I turned to climb the rock, Lily had already started up ahead of me.  First, how did she suddenly get so fast?  Secondly, she’s sat on the end of many diving boards promising to jump only to walk away.  I didn’t foresee her stepping off a 30’ drop.  

However, She regularly surprises me and Lily has been jumping from the side of the local pool this season.  I didn’t know what would happen.  Instead of shutting her down two feet off the sand, I decided to help Lily explore her options.  We could always climb back down.  

Lily’s Jump

I noticed the south side of the rock had a couple of lower perches, only 5’- 6’ above the water.  I guided Lily over the slippery rocks to the wet sandy ledge.  The family migrated to watch.

Erik waded into the ocean to catch Lily, but she insisted that Rob, who had also taken her surfing, catch her.  Rob waded into the ocean.  

She and I stood on the little perch holding hands.  Erik and Rob beckoned from below.  SJ was a few feet behind them filming with a waterproof camera.  Maddi cheered from shore where she was also filming.  More confident kids queued up behind us.  Lily froze.

Lily perched.jpg

Anticipation is the worst part of fear.


Kids jumped past her on either side.  Twice she determined to climb back down but got intimidated.  Jumping was physically easier.  But jumping was really scary even surrounded by loving encouragement and offers of help.  She could witness kids on either side of her jumping, splashing, and swimming to shore. But that was them.  It’s different when it’s you.  Finally, Lily jumped.

This sequence shows her jumping (No, I didn't push her), uncle Rob catching her, a big splash and triumph followed by the painful realization that she belly flopped.  The seeds of trying again have already been planted.  

We were so excited for her and so proud of her.  Her jump was more dramatic than any of ours for two reasons.  First, it was her first time so uncertainty was sky high.  Second, she was really scared. Those are powerful hurdles and overcoming them is always a reason to celebrate.  

Sometimes hard things are scarier the second time because you really know what’s involved.  Lily jumped twice more.  She found techniques to mitigate her fears – once riding on Rob’s back and once holding both of my hands.  She seemed more nervous each time, yet still determined to jump again.  Each time we felt that rush of excitement for her accomplishment.  

 Lily was totally calm once she outsourced the decisively scary part

Lily was totally calm once she outsourced the decisively scary part

My Jump

After all that, Alison and I climbed to the top for our jumps.  Lily had shown me that anticipation is the worst part of fear.  I went straight for it; jumping at least three times higher than anything I’ve ever launched myself off before.  

Typical of me, an inordinate number of existential thoughts rushed into my mind and I didn’t give one thought to what to do with my body. Alison, on the other hand, pointed her toes and kept her arms close completely prepared for a smooth landing.

I’m not saying you should jump off a cliff just because your friends are doing it.  But if you’re thinking of doing something for the first time or something that makes you nervous, it sure is nice to share it with people who love you. 

Go Lily.jpg

If you think this post might encourage someone, please consider sharing.