Tricks: Jermaine ‘Pong’ Simons spins off a cliff in last year’s Falling off the Rock film. *Video still image by Mike Wilson.
Tricks: Jermaine ‘Pong’ Simons spins off a cliff in last year’s Falling off the Rock film. *Video still image by Mike Wilson.

FRIDAY, JULY 20: Bermuda’s image as a destination for the young and adventurous will take a giant leap this weekend as the fourth annual Falling off the Rock cliff jumping gathering kicks off.

Professional freeskier and adventure athlete Mike Wilson will travel to the island with a bevy of three female gymnasts adding an international element to this growing spectacle.

While cliff jumping has long been a Bermuda tradition, experts warn that it’s extremely important to put safety first.

The Falling Off The Rock film project was started four years ago by Bermudians Andrew Kirkpatrick and Evan Faulkenberry under Burnt House Productions to promote the island in a fresh light.

Potential market

“Bermuda is not just about golf and relaxing on the beach,” said Mr Kirkpatrick. “I know a lot of people think that Bermuda is a place where there is not a whole lot to do, but there has always been these little things we as Bermudians have done. It’s not something typically an outsider thinks you can do here.

“There could be a big market for holding a lot more youth-oriented events here on the island like bringing down the XGames or Red Bull competition — who knows where the cliff jumping will go. We are just always up for promoting Bermuda and showing off our little world here.”

The films, which are all available on Youtube, have gained a wide following with one film edited by Californian production company Shreddy Times attracting almost 750,000 hits.

The private Falling Off The Rock Facebook page has 500 fans and some 400 islanders will be boarding the three boat cruises taking place at the end of the week’s activity.

The Department of Tourism has jumped on board and has used the video to promote its own local video competition encouraging Bermudians to make films to sell the island as a destination.

Minister of Business Development and Tourism Wayne Furbert told the Sun: “The ‘Falling of the Rock’  videos show what a beautiful, exciting place Bermuda is. However, I urge people to take caution participating in such extreme activities, which can be very dangerous. The participants in these videos have years of experience and take precautions to ensure no one is injured. I wish the divers every success and look forward to their latest video.”

Mr Kirkpatrick also warns that while the activity might look fun, there are obvious inherent dangers in cliff jumping and it is not something that should be done without careful consideration and planning.

Just last year carpenter Bilal Furqan, unrelated to the Falling Off The Rock group, died after suffering serious brain and spinal injuries as a result of a recreational cliff jump.

“This is a dangerous pastime,” said Kirkpatrick. “Like anything — whether its wing-suiting or bungee jumping there is always risk and we try to limit those risks. We don’t just go out there and leap off anything — we watch the tides when we are on location, we swim to the bottom where we are going to be jumping to make sure there are no obstructions and to make sure it is deep enough.

“On top of that most of the guys have done lifeguarding or have done First Aid courses. Last year we brought spinal boards and neck braces and other equipment. We try to minimise risk as much as we can. I’m not telling everyone to go out there and do it — this is what we are doing and we are filming it. It is at your own risk. Just take all the precautions.”

Mr Kirkpatrick said this year’s film will focus more on female divers including the overseas gymnasts with professional skills. He will also be experimenting with a shooting method using 30 high definition GoPro 2 cameras attached to a rail. He explained: “The idea is you have all the cameras rolling and you freeze frame them in a particular position, say in mid air, and then you can perspective change almost like The Matrix where you spin around the person.”

Keep an eye out in the Bermuda Sun for updates on this year’s film.

Dr Angela Marini, Emergency Room physician at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital comments about the safety of diving from heights into the sea:

  • “Over the years, the emergency department has treated a number of spinal injuries that resulted from diving into the sea from heights. Because it is difficult to estimate the depth of water and to assess whether there are objects in the path of a diver, there is always a risk of significant injury when diving from any height.
  • “Precautions around diving include doing so with other people, diving only in familiar waters, knowing the depth of the water and taking into account the tide schedule.
  • “Parents are advised to educate their children about the risks associated with diving from heights and to closely monitor their children in any diving situation.”