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JUMP at your own risk

Injuring yourself while cliff jumping is as easy as the sport itself: all you have to do is jump. If you can do it right, however, it’ll open up a whole new world.

Photo by Christian Knight

The Koberg cliffs just east of Hood River offer heights from 10 feet up to 30 feet.

By Christian Knight and Adam Lapierre

News staff writers

July 16, 2005

Of all the outdoor sports in the Gorge, cliff jumping might be the most primitive.

You don’t need to invest in a pair of special cliff jumping shoes that some engineer designed specifically to minimize “water entry impact” to do it.

A pair of old tennis shoes will do just fine.

You don’t need to attend a three-day cliff jumping school. The prodding advice from your buddy, who just jumped six times to show you how, will suffice.

All you really need is a cliff, deep water and an urge – that flash of internal calm that, for a fleeting moment, says you really can abandon the earth for a second or two and be just fine when that cold splash of reality envelops you.

You’ll want to bring one more thing with that towel and sunscreen, however.

Judgment.

The basalt in the Columbia River Gorge has created dozens of cliff jumping spots within bike riding distance of Hood River.

They range in size from five feet to 80 feet; in danger from that of a diving board to that which can kill you.

Every one of these places can hurt you. Even the 10-footers.

Twelve days ago, for example, David Green, a Tampa, Fla., 17-year-old earned a hospital bed at Portland’s Legacy Emanuel Hospital when jumping off a 60-foot cliff known as Lower Punchbowl on Eagle Creek.

The rescue lasted six hours.

Green spent much of that time immersed in Eagle Creek’s icy pool.

If you do it right, however, you can have both the euphoria of falling and a healthy body.

The worst injury Joe Sellars sustained in his 29 years of avid cliff jumping is bruised arms. Sellars, who owns airabovewater.com started cliff jumping as a 10-year-old with his brother and dad at the Koberg Cliffs just a few miles east of Hood River.

He became so zealous about cliff jumping through the years that in 2004, he hosted the first JUMPFEST at Punchbowl Falls on the West Fork of the Hood River.

Forty people showed up, including an entire wedding party.

He’s hosting the event again this year Aug. 13 - 14 at the same location.

“The Gorge is fantastic for cliff jumping,” he says. “We can call it one of cliff jumping’s capitals of the world. It’s beautiful. The Gorge is definitely a cliff jumper’s dream.”

*****

We at the News have tested some of the Gorge’s best cliff jumping spots. Please see reviews of them on pages B2-B3 of the July 20, edition of the Hood River News.

— Christian Knight

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