The wind picks up a little. His flesh is chilled and goosebumps start to form despite the warm June afternoon. It is a day to be lazy, to lounge in the sun with your back to a warm sheet of shale. The heat of the day has built up gradually and it beckons us to test the cool ocean waters pulsing between the natural rock formations into the small coves that scattered the French shoreline. He is a few meters above the water, on a flat ledge of a large boulder that was only a short wade through thigh-deep water from the shore. The boulder is in full view of a small cove and walking trails that litter the face of the rocky shore. The man is the lone figure on the boulder. He stands, scrutinizes, measures, backs off, peers over the edge and thinks.
The callanques are busy, but not crowded, with a blend of local youth and young tourists who are enjoying the fruits of the hour-long hike and postponing the hour-long trek back up the cliffs. The cliffs are pocked with small alcoves and boulders, worn down by centuries of salt water, each with enough room for a few friends and nothing more. Contentedness and satisfaction stretch along the shore, lingering in sun-teased skin and crusty salt from forays into the ocean.
The boulder is only a few meters from the shore and reachable for those who brave the shock of frigid waters lapping at their legs. An algae-covered rock lingering just below the surface serves as the stepping stone for those who choose to climb the boulder. He knew that the algae has lost its slipperiness from the relentless tread of eager feet soon to encounter the harsher ridges covering the surface of the boulder. The man tremors, he might have been chilled by the wind, or thinking of the upcoming jump.
He steps cautiously towards the jutting ledge, peering down at the mottled blues where sea grass has colored the water. A smaller ledge posed a hazard just below his feet, an obstacle that he would have to clear. Earlier in the day, the boulder teemed with eager bodies, ready to embrace the weightless thrills and the icy disorientation as gravity brought them back. It was an odd lull in the day where there was just a single person on the rock.
My attention is drawn towards his movements, as are a few others along the cliffs. The man steps to the ledge and then retreats again. A wiry man easily picks his path up the boulder to join the prospective jumper. The newcomer is familiar with the rocks and has jumped multiple times from different ledges. As the two strangers meet, they exchange words that could not be caught by the growing attention of their observers.
It is apparent that the jumper is hesitant. He moves forward, then back again. The expert steps back, leaning and absorbing the warmth from the boulder. The man steps forward again, this time quicker. He retreats with doubts. Maybe he won’t jump, maybe he shouldn’t. Words of encouragement are flung out from the shore, not knowing if they fall upon deaf ears.
The man runs forward, hurtling off the ledge and tucks into a back flip to smash our expectations and the surface of the calm waters. We let out stunned gasps and small cheers. A couple people clap to show their enjoyment. Soon, the boulder becomes home to excited bodies again and the lazy heat washes over the cliffs, as I start to relax once again by the French shoreline.