Fifteen-year-old Anthony Womack lost his life after cliff jumping off Sunset Cliffs on Sept. 11, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. He jumped off of Pappy’s Point, a popular spot for many cliff jumpers, including those from PLNU.
Womack, a student at Sweetwater High School, struggled in the water for nearly an hour before being pulled out by rescuers, according to NBC7. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.
While jumping from Sunset Cliffs is a common student activity, it is prohibited, and those caught jumping can be cited and fined for doing so. According to Monica Munoz, Media Services Manager for The San Diego Fire Department (SDFD), The SDFD Lifeguard Division has issued 17 citations so far in 2019, up from a total of 13 in 2018.
“Cliff jumping or hiking on unmarked trails is very dangerous,” Munoz wrote in an email to The Point. “The cliffs are unstable and jumpers do not know how deep the water is or whether there is a rock or other obstacle that could cause serious injury or death. There is a reason that the municipal code, the signage and the barriers exist and that is for the safety of the public.”
Senior dietetics major Rose Sellman has lived in the Point Loma area for three summers and regularly would see cliff jumpers while walking the cliffs. According to Sellman, she would often see groups of up to 20 people jumping, many of whom were young adults.
“Every summer, if you walk past that part of the cliffs and it’s a mildly sunny day, doesn’t matter if it’s high tide or low tide, there will be people jumping,” Sellman said. She has witnessed people jump at high tide into parts of the water where large rocks are concealed.
Sellman said she has seen people jump in dangerous conditions. She’s also witnessed lifeguards threaten to cite jumpers if they continue to jump but has not seen them issue an actual citation.
“It basically becomes a stalemate. Whoever leaves first, if the jumpers will leave first, or if the lifeguards leave first, they’ll go back to it,” Sellman said.
According to OB Rag, 24 people have died and 49 have been seriously injured on Sunset Cliffs between 2005 and 2018. Munoz said that “cliff jumping has been minimal this summer,” but Sunset Cliffs remains the No. 1 spot on Yelp for cliff jumping in San Diego.
While cliff jumping can seem like a fun activity for adrenaline junkies, conditions on Sunset Cliffs prevent it from being a safe activity, and one that means legal trouble for those who choose to go anyway.