Jumping Off La Jolla Clam – San Diego Fines

Kurt "Dirty Kurty" Sladler (closest) Eric Powers (middle) and Fost Thompon show how to do a triple sumersault off the clam - Photo by Brian Munoz and used in La Jolla Manazine

Kurt "Dirty Kurtie" Stadler (closest) Eric Powers (middle) and Foster Thompson show how to do a triple somersault off the clam during the Rough Water Drink - Photo by Brian Munoz and used in La Jolla Magazine's write up about the Clam back in 1985

There are only three common sense rules to jump off the Clam.

  1. Be a very good surf swimmer, not a pool swimmer.
  2. Know how to read tide charts, so not to jump at low tide (this is a no-brainer) and never jump when can see the rocks protruding from where you are suppose to land at, this means, it is very low tide. (Humm, again a no-brainer)
  3. Time your jump to hit swell. Does this mean, huh … extra water to land in?

Fact remains, either one of the above is the cause of 100% of all injuries or deaths. Only three rules …  but we all know some people are just idiots or do not believe in common sense.

After 1993 the San Diego City started to enforce a no-jumping law or what many call, Laws for Idiots, which before, the only price jumpers paid for their feat was a few scrapes on the barnacle-sharp rocks and occasional $50 citations from lifeguards. But after the deaths of three teenagers from 1995-1996 and the rescues of many jumpers who required hospitalization, the city has cracked down on leaping from the Clam.

Those who are caught will be required to appear in court, with minors facing the added indignity of having to be with a parent. They will face a fine of up to $280. The penalty, enacted by the San Diego City Council, went into effect on June 27, 1996. As of 2009, I believe that fine is now $500, plus the cost of the emergency service if required,which can be in the 1000s.

When item #1 of the requirements is not followed drowning usually occur  when powerful winter swells slam jumpers against the cliff. Stunned or knocked senseless, the jumpers fall victim to the cold water and the surging swells or a good rip current takes them back out.  Rocks covered with slippery moss also causes hindrances when jumpers are unable to craw out and than panic!

When item #2 or three is not followed, this is where major injuries happened, like a broken neck or back.

Just about everyone during the 60 and 70s knew about jumping Deadmans and the Clam.

In fact, it was being jumped off on regular bases back in the early 30s, but the Meda beach crowd really started to make it popular event during the Rough Water Drink. This was a time when the courage of alcohol got even the most timid primed to take the 20 foot leap.

Did I say, 20 feet? Yeah, only twenty feet and it was not like you were watching the Acapulco cliff divers in Mexico, which I believe the jumps are 60-80 feet or Box Canyon’s, 70 feet or Deadmans  just a little south at, 100 feet.

It has been said, the reason it is called, “The Clam” is because the two main edges of the cliff stick out over the water and round in the middle to form the shape of a clamshell, but according to locals, a name given because it looks like something else when viewing it from the ocean …

…. hummm I wonder what that is???


  1. Cynthia Lou Rudd says:

    I jumped off this cliff back in 1976. When I climbed up and grabbed the robe to pull myself up, the rope came off and I fell all the way down.. There was about 10 of us and a couple I almost took with me. One was in the water when I landed. He pulled me out and carried me up half way. My brother saw it and called 911 right away.
    The paramedics came by boat and took me to the hospital. I ended up with 7 stiches in my left hand… Yes that is it.. a merical. But I have many of them.. I will return one day and jump again.. Love it..

  2. Robert Clark says:

    I spent many years going to the Clam, Deadmans, and even the “slot’ to the left (south) of the Clam. I don’t EVER remember having to wait on the swells, nor did we look for anything but a normal tide! On the other hand, when diving,,( I was scared to jump feet first) off the Ingraham street bridges, it always helped to have someone on the other side of the road, to make sure there were no boats coming!

  3. Jerry Hajny says:

    I came to San Diego from small town Illinois to spend a summer with my cousins Pete and Phyllis in 1969. Pete brought me to the clam to challenge me to jump it. He told me about timing the jump with the waves and to watch out for rocks on the bottom. Being only 13 at the time it was pretty intimidating and 20 feet seemed to be stretched out to 70 somehow. Then there was the ocean itself which I couldn’t compare too well with the Mississippi River or lakes and ponds that I was used to. There were plenty of beautiful California girls standing around watching…some even jumping, so I had no choice. I jumped right after Pete, fortunately at the right time and surfaced right near him. He told me there was a cave inside the cliff we could get into if we dove under the water a bit. I followed him and we wound up inside a split part of the cliff where there were some big rocks that you could sit on. There was a guy sitting on the rocks with really long hair playing the flute. I can never forget the the moment, he was playing Jethro Tull…and it sounded like the actual artist…it was so surreal. That was one of those defining moments in my life that has always been etched into my core. It saddens me that the city is trying to regulate something that should be a great attraction. Accidents do happen but you cannot regulate humans into a safety coccoon. We must have experiences and adventures to define our true nature. To allow us to become our true selves.

  4. lynniep says:

    I jumped off the clam quite a few times in the summer of ’68. You would perch yourself at the edge of the cliff and when the swell was just right everyone would start yelling “jump jump now” and you would do it. It was such a rush. After a classmate of mine dove in and surfaced with a face full of blood, I hung up my cliff jumping for good, but I will never forget it for sure. Also did some 4 wheeling on Cowles mountain (before the fence) and behind the Kentucky Stud in Lakeside. Young people can’t have any fun without breaking some law it seems. What a bum deal, there are way too many rules these days.

  5. Allan jones says:

    The above by me was in 1967 allan jones

  6. Allan jones says:

    Jumped and dove many times thru summer. When tourists would come down to cliff one of us would jump stay under water swim to side climb up and walk behind them and look down at water with them freaking out that you never surfaced. Ha ha. But we were experienced and didn’t drink

  7. good times…in the 70s and 80s jumping! We all knew how to swim and we all jumped year after year!

  8. Ginna Lazar says:

    Yup, did it, summer of ’73! Powered by Michelob! Do they even make Michelob anymore

  9. Jumped many times in the early nineties. Great fun. Those that got hurt didn’t follow the rules, drank. Was a witness to a person jumping in that COULD NOT swim. Darwnism at work. Though threading the needle, was pretty damn dumb… and yes I jumped that one as well.

  10. paul davidson says:

    I think Kurtie spotted a bug. Get’em Kurtie!

  11. Yeah, but Deadman’s was way high. How many feet? You crazies jumped, but it was named so for a reason.

  12. And he never walked the same again….lol

  13. Dan Dameron says:

    Kip was only off by one letter….you should be happy.

  14. Katie Stader says:

    Kurt “Dirty Kurtie” Stader (note spelling) is honored to be in this picture from 25 years ago! Go Kurtie!!!

  15. That is a very cool picture Brian!

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