POIPU — For the first half of his vacation, New Jersey visitor Justin Beckerman watched hundreds of people reenact Harrison Ford and Ann Heche’s leap from Makawehi Point on Kauai’s South Shore
The actors jump from the 40-foot cliff in the movie “6 Days and 7 Nights,”and taking on the cliff by Keoneola Bay’s Shipwrecks Beach is popular with locals and tourists alike.
But it’s dangerous.
Wilcox Hospital’s Trauma Registry has recorded 16 significant injuries that arrive at the emergency room in the last four years related to that cliff.
Those injuries include including broken backs, broken ribs and limbs, collapsed lungs and ruptured spleens.
Beckerman found that out after judging the jump for a week and finally taking the leap. He spent the next eight hours in the emergency room and the next three months in a back brace.
“There were probably 50 people an hour jumping off,” the 23-year-old Beckerman said. “I’ve done cliff jumping at other spots, but with this one you have to jump further out and I jumped off at a little bit of an angle.”
When he hit the water, Beckerman’s legs buckled and he fractured his T-11 vertebrate.
“I felt it as soon as I hit the water,” he said. “It knocked the wind out of me and I knew I needed to swim out, but I didn’t want to move my back.”
He continued: “I had to deal with the waves and then get to a point where I could stand and then walk out onto the beach. I didn’t want anyone to touch me.”
Now, out of a back brace and back in college as an engineering student, Beckerman says his back still aches.
“It was a really tough couple of weeks and then an annoying few months,” he said about recovering from the injury.
Feeling a little bit more healed, he and his dad Ken Beckerman are now on a mission to help educate others who might be tempted to jump from Shipwrecks’ cliff.
“We’re looking to prevent people from getting hurt,” Ken Beckerman said, “trying to help everyone help themselves.”
He continued: “We’ve been working with the ER and the Hyatt. We want the landowner to put up signs and make it safer, or rope it off. The cliff is on private property.”
Representatives from the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa, where the family was staying, pointed to the safety and security information they include in their rooms.
“CAUTION: Cliff jumping is very dangerous and may cause serious injury or death,” the information packet says about the activity among information on rip currents, ocean safety, fire and advice about interacting with endangered sea life.
Ken Beckerman has also reached out to The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook and asked them to include stronger language about jumping off Makawehi Point for tourists.
“We’re going to include a stronger warning in the revision,” said George Thompson, vice president of Wizard Publications. “Right now it says ‘you often see foolhardy young men jumping off the cliff into the water.’”
He continued: “We neither recommend or discourage it.”
Ken Beckerman said he’s looking for any way he can to discourage jumping from the popular cliff because he and his family “love the island and want to help.”
Monty Downs, former ER doctor at Wilcox Hospital and president of the Kauai Lifeguard Association, said there are several options for making the area safer.
“Options could include restrictive chain-link fencing. This option is not being seriously considered for a number of reasons,” Downs said. “Another option could be installing three to four warning signs for people to read as they approach the jump area.”
He suggested the signs read something akin to: “WARNING: Severe injuries have resulted from jumping off this cliff. An average of 4 people/year suffer severe injuries including broken backs, broken ribs, collapsed lungs, ruptured spleens and others. Also, decades of surf has undercut the cliff, and the edge of the cliff is in danger of breaking off and collapsing into the ocean.”
Wording and other details about the signage are being discussed, Downs said.
Justin Beckerman said breaking his back upon impact from the jump has changed his perspective when it comes to living life on the edge.
“It’s made me rethink cliff jumping,” he said.
Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or email@example.com.