When I was a kid, my parents did not jump off cliffs. Now that I think about it, I’m practically certain that they have never jumped off cliffs, and have no plans to do so.
In contrast, I have jumped off many cliffs… into water.
Not really big ones like the guys in Mexico. Those guys are definitely missing the parts of their brains that tell them not to smash their heads into a wall of water at 100 miles per hour.
I have jumped off cliffs into the Puget Sound, the Pacific Ocean, Nada Lake, some lake up in Canada, Firehole Falls in Yellowstone, Pine Creek in Zion National Park, and a bunch of other places. It’s exhilarating. It’s fun. It’s the kind of thing that make your endorphins do a Hoochie Coochie dance.
My son is the kind of kid who does not jump off cliffs. He is cautious. He is intelligent.
So, I had to work really hard to convince him to jump off a cliff.
The cliff in question is perfect. It’s located on the Columbia River between two dams. The water is deep, cool and beautiful. The basalt cliffs are easy to climb up, and they shoot down 30 feet vertically underwater.
AJ and I put my 14 year old son, Jay, in the boat and headed up river. We motored up to the rock wall, and killed the engine. Gorgeous day.
AJ and I went first. We climbed up to a ledge about 20 feet above the water. AJ did a beautiful dive. While I watched him, I thought to myself, “Dern, I wasn’t planning on diving from this high up, but I guess I have to now.”
My dive was less than attractive, but my shorts stayed on and I didn’t do a back flop, so I counted it as successful.
Next, I climbed back up with Jay alongside. We stood at the 20’ ledge and looked down. Jay decided we were insane and climbed back down to about 12 or 14 feet.
That’s my boy.
After a bit of calm cajoling from me and AJ, he stepped out into the air and splashed down a long moment later. I saw the smile coming to the surface before I spotted his blond hair. He had swallowed the fear and felt like a million dollars. I was a proud papa.
One week later, we were back at the Columbia. Jay asked if we were going back to the cliffs. I figured he wanted to tackle that 14 footer again. We convinced my friend and his son to join us. At the bluff, Jay was the first to volunteer. He climbed up to the 20’ ledge and looked down. Then he climbed several feet higher! With only a brief pause, he launched out into mid-air with a big smile on his face.
I couldn’t believe he just jumped off something that would have scared the shorts off of me! My cautious son. My risk-adverse son. What have I done? Is he going to drop out of school, buy a Speedo and move to Acapulco?
As he accelerated toward the water, Jay’s smile turned into a look of pure terror. It was a long drop. There was enough time to regret the decision.
Upon making contact with the water, we heard the slap of his feet and arms, which must have hurt. He surfaced quickly. He was not smiling. He looked shocked and a bit relieved.
A few minutes later, Jay climbed up again for one last jump with my buddy’s son who is only 8. They were about 10 or 12 feet up. Jay expressed no interest in going back up to the high ledge.
A week has passed since that jump. Normally, the kids are disappointed when we don’t go to the river for the weekend. But this time, I’m pretty sure Jay’s reaction to the news was that of relief.
That’s my boy.