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Wrecked at Shippies

  • photo submitted by Ken Beckerman

    Justin Beckerman in a back brace after jumping off of the cliff at Shipwrecks Beach.

  • The Garden Island file photo

    The cliff by Keoneola Bay’s Shipwrecks Beach.

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 jelse@thegardenisland.com.

19 Comments
  1. Michael May 16, 2018 2:29 am Reply

    Sorry about your back man. It must be terrible to live with that pain. Please do not consider roping the area off. I cannot tell you how many places are being roped off from the public, from the citizens of Kauai, because of visitors coming to our island and attempting the same things the locals have grown up doing – we know the dangers, and we take the precautions. Some locals come out injured, or worse, but that is the risk we are willing to take. When visitors come to our islands and get injured doing these culturally intrinsic things we enjoy doing, they can often feel that there are not enough warnings or restrictions in place to prevent folks from getting hurt, and they seek measures very similar to the ones you seek. However, I will remind you of this – no one forced you over that cliff. The old adage comes to mind, “if every body jumped off a cliff, would you do it?”. Think for yourself man. And if you really feel inspired to jump off the cliff, stop and ask someone, how might I best do this? What ways do I jump to prevent getting hurt?
    Locals are happy to help you with these questions. Or, they may discourage you from jumping, after judging your character and physicality. Leave the law out of this. Leave off the fences. We are happy that you seek out the same thrill and excitement we find here in our home, however you are ruining our island with fences and restrictions. Aloha.


  2. Steven McMacken May 16, 2018 4:53 am Reply

    Here’s a suggestion: Why not erect a large neon sign that flashes, “Jumping from high places is inherently dangerous! If you were to leap from here, you would hit the water at a speed of about 50 miles per hour. At this velocity there’s a pretty good chance you will sustain an injury to a body part. There are also tiger sharks in these waters just waiting for a succulent morsel to drop into their laps . . . so if the fall doesn’t get you, a voracious carnivore might. We therefore implore you, PLEASE do not walk over to the edge and jump.”


  3. Uncleaina May 16, 2018 6:26 am Reply

    Ah since he hurt himself we need to close shipwrecks. Funny thing, I went to where he lives in New Jersey and decided it was a good idea to wander around inner city Camden at 11 pm. By myself. For the first time I ever been there. I saw some guys handing out at a corner and asked them for directions but instead they beat me and took my iPhone. So I’m starting a cause to put up warning signs and fences in the inner city warning people with no experience to not do the same stupid thing I did. Because it’s not MY fault, it’s the fault of New Jersey not having warning signs telling me not to wander around the inner city by myself at night.


    1. Sue May 17, 2018 10:05 am Reply

      Uncleaina! Great reply!!! Excellent!


  4. dawg2000 May 16, 2018 7:03 am Reply

    Ken, if you love the island then stop trying to get more of it roped off.


  5. gordon oswald May 16, 2018 8:36 am Reply

    Our society has become so weak and diluted of any personal responsibility we’re becoming dangerously close to frustrating millions of years of nature’s guarantee of a species growing stronger and not weaker. Oh, what the hell, let’s just do away with “Natural Selection” all together!


  6. Mark Beeksma May 16, 2018 9:50 am Reply

    Another option is to put chain link fences around all the hotels to keep the tourists safely inside. I would suggest that option be considered before we close off more of our favorite places.


    1. Brandon May 18, 2018 9:52 am Reply

      Best solution proposed so far.


  7. commonsense May 16, 2018 9:54 am Reply

    Justin.
    I am sorry to hear that you injured your back after jumping off the point. I too jumped off that point a couple of years ago and landed a little off and bruised my tailbone. Did I know there was a possibility of injury? Of course I did, but I jumped anyway. Do I blame anyone else or think that a sign would have stopped me? No.

    We can’t sterilize and attempt to make safe every natural area. This is Kaua’i with beautiful, natural landscape and yes, some unsafe areas. It is up to individuals to think for themselves before undertaking a possibly dangerous activity. There is enough signage on this island already and no one needs to make it their ‘mission’ to ‘educate’ people about possible hazards at an obviously hazardous area. Enough information is given about Shipwrecks that another sign or two will make no difference at all.


  8. Sue May 16, 2018 11:10 am Reply

    The sign isn’t posted there for your reading enjoyment, it is there for a reason. Suggest you obey those signs in the future. You aren’t going to receive much sympathy here on island.


    1. Sue May 17, 2018 10:08 am Reply

      … I meant the sign in his hotel room…..


  9. Knowitall May 16, 2018 7:18 pm Reply

    Seriously 50 people an hour and 16 injuries since 2016?! Safer than driving to school or crossing a crosswalk. Stop suing for everything. People have fun, they choose to take risks and some people are injured. Facts of life


  10. Lori May 17, 2018 2:35 am Reply

    I see signs warning of danger all over the island. At Queen’s Bath, at Waimea Falls saying not to hike to the bottom, and red flags always at Shipwreck Beach warning you not to go in the water. And yet I see people engaging in these activities every year I’m there. This would be yet another warning sign that is ignored. Really, you need a sign telling somebody jumping off a cliff is dangerous?!


  11. m May 17, 2018 11:04 am Reply

    How’s about you use common f’n sense? I think that’d be a great place to start. Nothing has to be done here. We don’t need ignorant and entitled tourists telling us what needs to be dealt with. Respect the island, respect nature, and nothing needs to be changed. You’re not above it all just because you’re on vacation.


  12. David Koloa May 17, 2018 12:35 pm Reply

    Aloha,

    I’ve been diving off that cliff for 40 years, 50 now. Plenty times every year. Never feet first, only dive.
    Sorry you don’t know how.
    Don’t know how.
    Leave it alone.

    Dave


  13. Ken Beckerman May 18, 2018 1:52 am Reply

    Thank you for your comments and well wishes regarding my sons broken back. The goal is to post signs warning of the danger and the height of the jump. You will still be able to walk the cliff & jump.


  14. Frank Silva May 18, 2018 4:03 am Reply

    It’s a cliff…its inherently deadly, don’t chain or gate off nature because you got hurt, next time learn that cliffs are dangerous don’t change Kauai into a safezone


  15. My Two Cents May 19, 2018 5:49 pm Reply

    I was gonna JUMP on the band wagon and give him a piece too.. but looks like you guys covered all the bases.. carry on.


  16. JG June 27, 2018 2:10 pm Reply

    I’m a photographer I admit I have shot pics of jumpers here and elsewhere. I also see TONS of pics of guys jumping off waterfalls, cliffs etc all over facebook and Instagram. It is OBVIOUSLY dangerous. That’s part of the thrill. HOWEVER, i think if you post a pic of “look at me being awesome” you should say something like this as a warning:
    “I have been doing this for 10 years since I was a child and have had a few injuries and DO NOT recommend this for the INEXPERIENCED or first timers. Don’t do what I do! SERIOUS injuries happen frequently doing this. Get your stunt double to do it for you.” I always write a similar warning if I post a similar photo.
    Social media, guide book gurus and egomaniacs have caused everyone to want to do what they see on their phone. It’s a World Wide Wild West out there. So, Beware.
    If you just want to do something safe on Kauai, take the Fern Grotto tour. But please hold the hand rail and wear a life jacket. Otherwise, use COMMON SENSE and don’t be tempted to risk injury.
    Hawaii loses dozens of visitors every year drowning, falling off cliffs hiking and doing dumb stuff above their pay grade. Don’t be one of them. As they say on TV “Don’t try this at home (or vacation).”
    The solution is NOT to close off all “dangerous” adventures. Too many previously accessible areas are now closed, fenced, patrolled, otherwise off limits.


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