Falling off the rock when deep water soloing
Falling off is usually to be avoided in climbing but to deep water soloists it's crucial. The difference between falling off with cat-like style or tipping gracelessly like rubble off a dumper truck is the difference between laughing when you emerge or surfacing fully winded, slapped and breathless.
Falling off can hurt if you're not in control when it happens. Here's what you do about it, in order of importance. But bear in mind that a splashdown is not an exact science and anyone who regularly indulges in DWS has to be prepared for the odd knock or two...
Obviously you need to be able to swim! Make sure that you are comfortable in the water, including on rough swell days, because these are still great for DWS activity. You've got to think of the water as your friend - as and when you first inadvertently slip off while climbing, you'll embrace it like a long-lost pal! Basic water-based life-saving skills are also useful in case things go wrong.
The higher you go, the faster and the harder you'll hit the water
Now you need to learn how to get into water at speed. Start the learning process by jumping in, and slowly build up your height you jump from. You'll notice that the higher you go, the faster and the harder you'll touch down on the surface.
The landing is crucial; practise in deep water, and learn to pierce the surface by maintaining a straight line on entry. Your body position must be feet together and arms either pinned to your sides or straight up above your head (the former might be considered easier, at first).
Stay loose and fluid on the way down, and then adopt the relevant position just before entry. This always works best and, in the case of your body rotating either forwards or backwards, you can 'pinwheel' the arms to regain your position. Avoid adopting a position when leaving your 'perch'. Avoid sideways rotation at all costs; it's harder to get back from.
If you want to solo routes with less than ideal depth of water, you need to master the armchair landing. Practise this before you need the skill!
- Find a good spot to practise. The ideal is a promontory 25ft high, with about 5-6 ft of water beneath it, and a seabed that's flat. Check this!
- Drop into the water, and as your feet penetrate the surface, start to lean back, as if you're sitting down in ... an armchair. You will almost certainly touch the seabed, but with luck it should be softly.
- Important: don't assume the armchair position before you strike down! That constitutes a back-flop.
- Practise this skill regularly, until a sixth sense is gained for the timing of your 'armchair'. When you're really proficient at it, a jump from a 30ft-high ledge into just 4ft of water is possible!
The ability to 'stay loose' on the way down, thus acquiring good posture for your splashdown, is very important
The real thing
Now you have to apply these lessons to a climbing situation. This is not easy, as you might slip off, or fall awkwardly sideways. I cannot emphasise enough that practise makes perfect, and this applies to both jumping, and falling whilst engaged in a route. In the case of the latter, the ability to 'stay loose' on the way down, thus acquiring good posture for your splashdown, is very important.