Here I am. My toes curling over the edge of a ten meter cliff. Beneath me, the waves are crashing hard against the rocks. ‘In the water I will smash against the rocks’, pops up in my mind. ‘Come on!’, Andy yells while he’s floating on the wild waves. Ok, here I go.
About twenty years ago, a new sport emerged in Wales: coasteering. Being a combination of swimming in wild wild water, cliff jumping and scrambling along rocky sections while the salty water of the ocean splashes into your face, coasteering is not for the faint of hearted. You move from point A to point B alongside the intertidal zone of a rocky coastline. So basically just above sea level. On Anglesey Island in Holyhead we meet Andy, our instructor. ‘You can put your wetsuit on first, afterwards I’ll give you a helmet, gloves and a life jacket as well. It seems like a lot of gear, but we’ll need it all. ‘Are you good swimmers?’, Andy asks us. The tone of the adventures has been set. ‘We’ll start off at an easy spot, because the water is a bit wilder than in regular conditions. Linsay, I want you to jump right over there.’ We exchange a look. On both sides, sharp rocks emerge from the water level. This jump that barely reaches two meters mainly is a test to see how cold the ocean water is. Seconds later Linsay disappears under water, to pop up quickly, bursting out the salty water. Now it’s my turn. We swim to the closest rock accessible, scramble on it, recovering from the first experience. ‘Ok, now a little bit higher.’ Andy says, leading us to a new spot. I look down and notice that we will have to push our boundaries step by step. Especially when we have to jump off a ten meter cliff…
‘Wait here. When I say when, follow my jump.’ Coasteering is about right timing. See when a swell comes your way and would smash you into the rocks. We see him jumping in the ocean on a location he likes to refer as ‘wishy washy’. The washy part I can relate to, as down there the ocean looks like a huge washing machine in which the ocean in the cove goes everywhere. Waves up to two meter of altitude splashing out on the rocks, where we see Andy struggle to get onto a nearby rock because he gets carried off everytime. Once out of the water, he reaches for a ropes in his small backpack to use an an extra aid for the strong current. After our jump, we make swimming strokes with all of our strength, even though I got the feeling we barely get around. ‘Reach for the rope with both your hands and pull yourself to shore.’
Now it’s time for a real adrenalin kick.’, Andy tells us, while I’m still recovering from the last sip of salty water I engulfed. ‘Your highest jump so far.’ Linsay is the first one to crawl onto the ten meter high cliff. ‘Aim for that spot righ over there.’, Andy says. The deepness and the wild current down there is horrifying and with a little more than a little hesitation, Linsay ventures the jump. When it’s my turn, I understand the hesitation. I don’t suffer vertigo, but the idea of jumping into deep water frightens me more. Convinced of the fact that the longer I hesitate, the harder it gets, I jump into the ocean.
Without doubt, our experience with coasteering has been one of the most adventurous and most extreme ones we’ve ever witnessed. And that means something. Places in the ocean where no straight-minded person would ever go, is what they are looking for up here. Do we consider it a dangerous sport? Yes! But sometimes there’s a thin line between danger and adventure.