A birthday splash

Fourth generation Islander takes a leap on her birthday.

Carolyn Stapleton jumped off the Little Bridge 40 times for her 40th birthday, plus one extra time for fun.

People will often celebrate their birthdays with a party, gifts, or food. Islander Chick Stapleton decided to forgo the traditional festivities and instead jump off a bridge.

Stapleton, owner of Island Spirit Kayaks, celebrated her birthday with a splash by jumping off Little Bridge on Beach Road 41 times — once for each year of her life plus an extra one just for fun.

She began her jumps on a “warm” and “absolutely perfect” Saturday at 6 am and finished around 3 pm — 41 jumps in 9.5 hours.

Stapleton, whose birthday falls on one of the Island’s busiest weekends, said she knew she would have to do several jumps between customers getting kayaks. She would rent out a kayak, run across the street to the bridge, jump off, and race back to work.

At the crack of dawn, Stapleton and several of her friends did the first 10 jumps in a row. As the day went on, word spread. Friends and workers — people as young as five and as old as 60, first-time jumpers and seasoned pros — joined Stapleton for her birthday leaps. She also created a Facebook event inviting people to the incredible feat. Friends and supporters driving by would honk and yell “Happy birthday!” if they saw her on the rails ready to jump.

She also made several new friends, and became somewhat of a role model for some of the first-time jumpers. Veronica Buckley, a longtime friend of Stapleton, said many people only jumped because they saw Stapleton. “She inspired people,” Buckley said.

Stapleton got the idea when she turned 39, and has been eagerly waiting to execute it all year. “It just came to me,” she said. “I knew I was going to do it last year.”

When asked why she jumped, Stapleton laughed, saying it was a fun way to celebrate turning 40. “I’m old. I’m 40. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do anything else on my birthday,” she said.