In 2007 members of the Forum started a project to jointly consider the risks arising from the activities of Coasteering and Tombstoning.
There was increasing concern regarding the number of emergency call outs and serious harm involving both activities, compounded by the perception that these were increasing trends along with the possibility of a disproportionate response. A number of issues the project aimed to address:
- No risk analysis taking into consideration both the benefit and harm, compounded by poor risk information
- Lack of joined up and proportionate messages
- Lack of clarity regarding the standards and governance involving commercial Coasteering
The critical difference between Coasteering and Tombstoning is the informal nature of the latter. The obligations on land managers and duty holders are different from the organised and often paid for activity of Coasteering. In determining the response Forum, members took into account these differences. It is also guided by the principles for managing water related risks.
To address the issue working and stakeholder groups were created, involving some 120 members. These represented participants, safety and rescue organisations, industry bodies and activity providers.
Coasteering is a popular emerging activity that involves traversing along the intertidal zone, using a combination of scrambling, walking, and swimming to complete the journey. It often involves a series of jumps into deeper water. The inital project period (c. 2007-2011) focused upon the commercially occurring activity, with the aims of:
- Bringing together the providers, industry associations, safety and rescue organisations and regulators - providing a mechanism to resolve potential safety issues or concerns
- Establishing an agreed set of operational standards
Minutes and other documentation can be accessed from the project home page.
The National Coasteering Charter (NCC) was formed in 2011; it is a voluntary association of Coasteering providers whom oversee the creation of collective advice for its members. Principle among these are:
- Safety advice for coasteering providers (3rd Edition, November 2015)
- Training advice for coasteering guides (3rd Edition, November 2015)
Coasteering providers can find out more, and join the NCC by visiting the website.
It is important to recognise that Tombstoning is an activity, which has occurred around the coast for generations, unfortunately over recent years it has gained attention for the wrong reasons, with a number of people killed or seriously injured. The title was adopted because of the way a person falls and plunges into deep water, in a similar way a stone would. Tombstoning is typically undertaken by individuals, with varying degrees of planning and formality attached. Quite often, the media will use the tag Tombstoning to describe a wide range of activity where people jump into the water from height.
In terms of managing the risks from Tombstoning activity, the response can be summed up into two primary activities:
- Understanding the level and type of harm in context.
- Developing an agreed proportionate response. This primarily entailed providing balanced advice regarding the risks and benefits.
The key messages can be seen below.
A further element (not completed) was to identify locations and approaches used to manage the risk, which have worked well, or otherwise.
Key (agreed) messages:
- Don't - jump into the unknown
- Tombstoning involves jumping or diving from a height into water. It is a high-risk activity, which is unregulated and undertaken by unsupervised individuals
Tombstoning can be dangerous because:
- Water depth alters with the tide; the water may be shallower than it seems
- Submerged objects like rocks may not be visible; they can cause serious injury if you jump onto them
- The shock of cold water may make it difficult to swim
- Strong currents can rapidly sweep people away
- RoSPA leisure safety web pages
- MCA Tombstoning and Coasteering advice
- RNLI beach safety pages
- National Coasteering Charter