Beginners Guide to Sea Cliff Climbing

June 19, 2019

There is something entrancing in defying gravity.

When combined with the safety of a deep body of water beneath you and the beauty of a rocky landscape, thrills are guaranteed (and spills are pretty likely!).

Sea cliff climbing first appeared in the late ‘70s in the Balearic Islands, Majorca to be exact.

The area was packed full of bouldering and climbing spots attracting scores of amateur climbers.

This forced an ardent climbers to seek alternative challenges on the nearby sea cliffs!

Ever since, sea cliff climbing has gained enthusiastic supporters all around the world, with certain spots, like the river cliffs of British Columbia, the shoreline of Dorset, and the lakes of Austin attracting attention as ideal for the sport.

If you love climbing but have started to find indoor challenges a bit boring, maybe a sea cliff venture is just what you need to rekindle the excitement.

Below you will find all you need to know before trying it out for the first time.

Find a Suitable Nearby Spot

Not all sea cliffs are suitable for solo climbing.

You need to find one matching your skills and experience, with a body of water underneath with adequate depth and free of rocks or anything else that could cause an injury in the event of a fall.

Look online and you will find several suggestions from seasoned sea cliff climbers.

It would be great to find a day route, with a fairly easily accessible climbing zone.

The closer to home you are, the better, allowing you to sharpen your skills and gain valuable experience without having to travel a long way to do so

Also, look for popular cliff jumping sites with ladders. These provide easy access out of the water, which can be a life-saver after a hard day’s climbing!

Mind the Surroundings

Evident as it may sound it is something we need to point out: coupling your climbing experience with water (be it the ocean, a lake or a river) complicates things.

You need to consider several added factors and variables, such as the tide, the wind, the water depth and, in some cases, even the local wildlife.

When considering a cliff above a lake or a river, make sure to ascertain the water level at specific dates and hours and verify that it will be safe for you to drop down from the highest point of the cliff.

Take into consideration your weight and ask the locals about the fauna or marine life of the area.

There are stories about sea cliff climbers falling into the water and coming face to face with a local shark species!

This isn’t climbing but check this out…

The shark wasn’t that interested in this case, but it’s better be prepared for anything that might pose a threat.

Never Try It Solo

The golden rule in sea cliff climbing is this: never try it alone.

Especially when you plan to visit a spot you have never been before or explore a fairly gaunt or uninhabited area.

There are some great locations for sea cliff climbing where you can find nobody for miles; this is hardly the place to get in trouble without a friend beside you.

Especially one that knows what to do in case of an emergency.

You have probably guessed by now that, for sea cliff climbing, proper spotting is of the essence, determining whether this will be a safe and fun experience or a venture to trouble.

The climber must always be in view of the spotter and constantly communicate with each other, especially when other factors, like waves, animals, swimmers etc. may complicate matters during the climb.

Spotting deep and shallow spots underneath the route you have picked is also very important, even in an area where you have never been before!

Bear in mind that water constantly changes the sea bed or the boulders underneath the surface.

Make sure you have with you a trusted team of fellow climbers and take care of each other’s safety and well-being.

Proper Equipment

Having with you the proper gear is equally important, including an extra set of clothes, shoes, sun protection, food and a first aid kit – as well as a bag to keep these all safe and dry.

Being an experienced climber (we hope) you probably know all about climbing gear. Just bear in mind that you won’t need crash pads, ropes, clips, and carabiners.

There are cases when extra gear is required for accessing certain locations rather than the sea cliff climb itself. Such equipment may include a kayak or a personal watercraft.

Don’t forget the waterproof camera too! Rest assured you will get some of the greatest shots and videos of your life.

Falling is an Art

Sea cliff climbing will often turn to sea cliff jumping so make sure your falls are as stylish as it gets.

Falling flat on your back or belly will add nothing more than pain and embarrassment to the whole venture, or even cut your sea cliff climbing session short.

A bad fall could lead to major injuries, like a perforated lung, a broken rib or a large aching bruise.

Falling is an art, and you need to master it.

Since you won’t have any crash-pads and spotters, learning how to fall into the water is essential.

The best way to do it is to understand when you are about to fall and eject your body a split second before the gravity pulls you down; this way you have full control of your fall.

You can actually practice your jumps close to the spot you will be climbing to get the hang of it and make sure the water is safe.

A few cliff jumps are always the best way to kick off your sea cliff climbing session.


Sea Cliff Climbing Essentials – British Mountaineering Council

Approaching the route

Conditions and decision making

Abseil, retreat and escape

Fixed gear

Rock quality

Medicine and emergencies

Safe climbing!

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