Surfing has it's fair share of comic moments, but nothing is funnier than seeing someone screw up a rock jump. That split second when you see it's all about to go wrong, horribly wrong, and you get to watch it unfold in techni-colour & stereo in front of you.
And you laugh. You laugh til the tears roll down your face and your ribs ache. And that's fair. Really it is. Because somewhere down the line you will be the wipee, and others will laugh at you. The karmic circle of surfing says we will laugh and be laughed at. If you can't deal with that, don't surf. And certainly don't rock jump!
Why do we dance with death? Cos we lazy. Mostly rock-jumps are short-cuts to the take-off spot. So rather than a long paddle round the point or up from the beach, we take our chances and dash down the rocks hoping for the best.
Mostly there is (or should be) some form of tactics involved. Like watch the surf for a while to work out how far apart the sets are, and how many waves in a set. Scope out the launch pad area, work out what Plan B could be if A misfires. If you don't do the basics you're a guaranteed youtube clip waiting to happen.
A sensible approach is to watch someone else do it first. Let them be the proverbial sacrificial lamb. Seen a few jumps and no disasters? Ok, you're up.
Pick your path - know where you gonna go. You can't be halfway down and then have to stand there like a schmuck wondering where to next. Best time to make a run for it is straight after a solid set, cos theory says you should get a bit of a lull thereafter. Although the wave gods have a sense of humour and can often chuck out a random set just to crew up the theory.
Nonetheless, once you commit, commit. You don't wanna be caught halfway down the jump rock as a set approaches cos you been dawdling your way down. Don't forget to hold your leash - getting tangled up with that is just plain doff.
Watch out for slippery stuff en route. Black rocks are slippery. Rocks with seaweed on are slippery. Green moss stuff is slippery. You want to try choose a route where you encounter none of these. Keep your feet on top of the rocks. Do not stick your foot in between rocks - that's how you break an ankle if a wave hits you.
Make sure you've scoped out your landing spot. Can't tell you how many times I've seen ou's jump off the Bruce's jump rock and straight onto that rock just under the surface. Look where you leap! And time when you leap too. Good plan is to jump just as a wave washes up at you, so there's some extra water to cushion your landing. Then as you land you should be helped seawards by the suck of the water back off the rock. Jumping off once the wave has already started to suck back is too late.
Try jump out as straight as you can. That's how boats punch through waves - head on - as you have the least chance of getting swept back with the whitewash. Hit the water paddling - paddle hard, paddle fast. Get outta there like your life depends on it.
There is no fail-safe way to rock jump. You will get nailed eventually, and your friends will see it and piss themselves. The level of ragging you'll receive will be proportional to the amount of photographic or video evidence. If you're lucky. no-one got a shot. If you're very unlucky your mate video'd it, shared it on youtube, and it went viral. Like this poor ou....
Laugh. Laugh heartily. Laugh that you cry. Laugh that you wet ya pants. But laugh. Because your turn will come....
Don't think it won't happen to you. It will.
Unless of course you Nathan Fletcher - who acid drops off rocks into waves, and makes it.