Pushed to the Edge: The Cliff Dive

You’ve seen those Mexicans plunge 130 feet from the rock face at Acapulco? Surely, only a madman would do that.

  1. Just before the divers at La Quebrada in Acapulco take the long fall from the cliff into the surf, they kneel at a little shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe and say their prayers. It's not hard to imagine what they ask her—I used to know the prayers they know—probably something like, "Remember, O most gracious Virgin, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy intercession or sought thy mercy was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of Virgins, my Mother. To thee I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the World incarnate, despise not my petitions but in thy mercy hear and answer me: Let the water be deep enough, let the current be gentle, save me from garbage on the water, from the rocks, from blindness, from death, and may the turistas drop at least ten pesos apiece into the hat before they haul their fat white bodies back onto the buses."

    I watched them dive half a dozen times one day. I sat on the terrace of the hotel that overlooks the cliff with tequila and beer in front of me, telling myself I was trying to decide whether or not I would do this thing. I knew that the power of prayer wouldn't get me into the air off that rock. I've dived from heights before, but never that high, never out over rocks like those, never into a slash of water as a narrow as that. Still, the only reason I was down there in the good tropical sun was to dive or to come up with an eloquent string of reasons why I hadn't. As it was, eve...

Originally published in Playboy, June 1978