July 13 2009 by Casey Bower
If you enjoy the thrill of cliff jumping into deep water, rock climbing, or any combination of these two activities, read on.
I'm a baby when it comes to rock climbing in the heat. When the temperatures rise up into the mid 80's and beyond, I lower and call it a season. There are however, a few exceptions to this yearly summer climbing hiatus. One exception is deep water soloing, a summer activity that is quickly gaining popularity and for a good reason. It combines the challenge and thrills of climbing with the excitement and anticipation of cliff jumping.
Imagine climbing up a wall above deep water, each move is just within your limit and you are getting higher and higher up the cliff. You can see the top now, it is 10 feet away but the next move is difficult. No matter how hard you try you can't seem to get a good grip on the hold... if you could just reach a little higher you know that there is a good one. Now you are losing your strength, you look down and all of a sudden it seems like a huge fall to the water below. You decide to go for it, you muster up your remaining strength and make a big, committing move for the hold above... You feel your hand close around it, and for a split second you think you made it. Then gravity takes hold. The downward momentum rips your hand from the hold and sends you on an arm flailing fall from the cliff above. Your body's natural reaction is fear; you are falling... then, SPLASH! You break though the cool water and swim to the surface with a huge grin on your face; you're hooked, and ready to go again!
That is deep water soloing, or DWS for short is simply the sport of climbing over water. This can be a very fun activity if done safely.
There are 4 main safety concerns to keep in mind:
1. Make sure it's deep. Also check that there are not any obstructions below the surface where you will be falling. Dive down and spend some time inspecting your "landing zone." You will thank yourself when you are high up on the cliff facing a potential fall.
2. Only climb as high as you are comfortable falling. Remember that the higher you climb, the bigger the fall. Falling is different than cliff jumping, you never know what angle you are going to enter the water at and you don't have as much time to prepare. There is no shame in 15, 10, even 5 foot climbs. Some of these can be the hardest and most fun.
3. Make sure that what you are climb is slightly overhanging. It doesn't do you any good to climb over the water if the wall that you are climbing is a gradual slope, a fall will send you rolling and bouncing down the slope until you make it to the water. Make sure that a fall will always deposit you into the water and not the rock below.
4. Check the rock. Make sure that you are climbing on solid rock. If you find yourself in a situation where the rock that you are on might break, do yourself a favor and retreat (jump) to the water below. Loose rock comes in all shapes and sizes, I have seen rocks the size of refrigerators that can come down if you were to pull on them.
Lastly, remember that climbing can be a dangerous sport. When you decide to start up a climb, you are taking on the responsibility of your own safety. Keep your eyes open, make smart decisions and you are sure to have a fun and cool summer climbing season.
Watch this video of Chris Sharma, one of the world's best climbers taking DWS to a whole new level. It is sure to get you excited about the endless possibilities of DWS.