The man, who is about 25 years old, climbed up a cliff alone sometime last night to watch the sunset, fell down and broke his left ankle at Lands End, according to Division Chief Art Kenney.
The rescue proved to be a difficult one for fire crews, and the man spent more than 12 hours out in the cold.
"That cliff was straight up and down," Kenney said. "It was a pretty good hike to get there."
The victim did not have a cell phone and called out for help. Hikers on a nearby trail heard his cries.
Firefighters responded at 7:55 a.m., Kenney said.
Rescuers left their trucks and engines at 32nd Avenue and El Camino Del Mar and made the roughly one-quarter mile trek to the ailing man, fire official Garreth Miller said.
Assisted by hikers, crews found the victim seated on top of a rock at the base of a 350-foot cliff, Miller said. The rock was about 20-30 feet above the shore.
The man had taken off his shoes and was climbing down toward the water when he fell from an unknown height, Miller said.
"There may have been some alcohol involved," Miller said.
Firefighters used trees to anchor the ropes and initially considered lowering a basket down to the "loopy" victim, firefighters said.
"That really frightened him," Miller said. "He was shivering and having difficulty speaking."
Waves were crashing on both sides of the rock, but firefighters were able to pull a Jet Ski up to the rear of the rock, where the water was calmer and deeper, Miller said.
"We maneuvered the watercraft right up against the rock," Miller said.
The victim was secured in a harness and a helmet and transported to a rescue boat by Jet Ski, Kenney said.
"It turned out to be the best method," Kenney said.
He was rescued by 9:30 a.m. and transported to a hospital. During the rescue, a firefighter lost his footing.
"One of the rocks gave way and he twisted his ankle," Kenney said.
The victim, who spoke with a foreign accent, also suffered from hypothermia.