Steven Lobue of the USA dives 27 meters from the cliff face during the first competition day of the third stop of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series, Islet Vila Franca do Campo, Azores, Portugal on June 28th 2013. (Paulo Calisto / Red Bull Content Pool)
To most of us, sitting at our desk jobs, hands soft, with the air-conditioning briskly kissing the backs of our necks, competitive athletes almost seem unreal. The courage, the strength, and the confidence to commit such daunting stunts are beyond our wildest dreams, and much less our day-to-day expectations.
But before being able to compete and travel around to the world, the men of the USA Cliff Diving Team were just a group of, well, ordinary boys.
As we continue our ten-part series focused around the free-falling athletes and the sport they’ve dedicated a lifetime to, we’ll take this moment to introduce the young men that turned dream into lifestyle.
DAVID COLTURI | 26 | LOS ANGELES, CA
Long before becoming the (former) US National 10m Champion or competing as the youngest driver in a full World Series, David Colturi was just a kid who wanted to get involved in anything that kept him moving. Growing up in Sylvania, Ohio, the name Colturi could be found on several different rosters throughout a season; almost as if counting the sports he didn’t play would take much less time.
“As a kid, I played every sport I could. From golf and tennis to football, baseball and basketball. Street and Ice Hockey. Lacrosse. Cross Country. I also loved active games like Capture the Flag, Ultimate Frisbee, and Base Runner. I had trouble sitting still and was always on the go.”
At five years old, Colturi started traditional springboard diving as a summer activity, which later translated into a rigorous year-round training commitment at age nine. “My coaches were like second fathers to me.” says Colturi. “They guided me through the immense fear, frustration, and pain that’s inherent in the sport, and by age of 14, I competed at the national level in all 3 events: the 1 and 3 meter springboards, and the 10 meter platform.”
When the dives of grade school came to an end, Colturi found himself at Purdue University, home to the best collegiate male diving program in the county, along with Steven LoBue and Kyle Mitrione.
“After graduating, I thought I was ready to hang up my suit and head to medical school, but out of curiosity, Kyle and I followed in Steve’s footsteps and took a job at Indiana Beach Amusement Resort’s Water Ski and Stunt show. This was the first place any of us dove from a height higher than the traditional 10m platform, and it’s safe to say we were hooked from the start.”
David Colturi likes to thank his mother, her home cooked meals, and family dinners for giving him the tenacity all divers embody. “Family is everything to me, I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today without their unconditional love, support, and guidance.”
ANDY JONES | 30 | SANTA MONICA, CA
Like David Colturi, and most red-blooded American boys, Andy Jones couldn’t resist signing up for every sport in sight. Growing up in Sandy, Utah, “I was involved in a lot of different sports. Primarily baseball. Others included skiing, bmx, soccer, football, skateboarding, javelin, and pole-vaulting. Participating in other sports helped shape me as an all around athlete.”
For Jones, it all started at age 10. Joining the Atla Canyon Recreation Center, diving with friends had him hooked. Due to the lack of a diving team at his high school, Jones joined the Tuck Diving School to further his practice and experience. And by his senior year, passion met cause, and Jones formed the first ever Dive Team (Jones being the only competitor) at Jordan High School, immediately qualifying to compete in the State Championship and ultimately earning himself a sixth place finish.
Jones matriculated to the University of Utah and signed on with their Swim and Dive team, achieving the Mike Wallace Most Improved Award and Diver of the Year (2007). And like his fellow USA team members, he inevitably joined the entertainment business, putting his daredevilsh acts to the test in Cirque du Soleil.
After stunning crowds for five years, Jones left his career with the Canadian circus to chase the cliff diving dream. “We just want people to see what we do. It is an exciting sport that we know they will enjoy. We spent some time trying to think of ways we could expand our reach. USA Cliff Diving seemed like a good start.”
Outside of cliff diving, Jones enjoys playing softball and surfing, and spends a considerable amount of time training for stunt work in films and television.
STEVEN LOBUE | 30 | FORT LAUDERDALE, FL
If everyone gave up on their dreams the second they came across a roadblock, our world would be centuries behind in advancements we’ve made so far. This is something Steven LoBue noticed early on in life. In 2004, LoBue was given the opportunity to try for a spot on the men’s US Olympic Diving team, an incredible feat for anyone. And after being denied that spot, he decided to show them what they missed out on by exceeding all expectations otherwise.
“When you’re finished with the “traditional” diving path, there are very few employment opportunities in diving. Many people will work in entertainment via Cirque Du Soleil, Cruise Ships, or various other small shows in theme parks throughout the world. All of us at one point worked in entertainment, and that’s where we learned to work our way up higher and start adapting to the new challenges of diving from such a height. I guess as lifelong competitors, pursuing Cliff Diving as a means of employment excited us, but more than that, it’s about loving what we do, facing new challenges, and living our dream.”
After competing in several World Series’ around the world, racking up serious achievements and even more frequent flyer miles, LoBue started to make a name for himself. In 2013, LoBue debuted a new dive consisting of five somersaults, inherently increasing his degree of difficulty.
LoBue dove on the project of a USA Cliff Diving team to help expand the future of the sport. Hoping to make a difference in rules, structure, and format of competitions to come, the team also focuses on educating a new audience on all aspects of the sport and why they do what they do best.
KYLE MITRIONE | 26 | Los Angeles, CA
Have you ever thought, “Damn, that looks fun!” while watching the stunt doubles in an action movie perform their death defying acts? Did you ever Google "how to become a stunt double" after seeing that film? And did you ever train towards that goal in hopes of one day being able to do stunt work for Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible 12? Subtract all the dramatic build-up and replace stunt double with high diver, and you’ve got Kyle Mitrione.
Mitrione, starting at 7 years old, was favored for success as a high diver. Growing up, he spent days training intensely and perfecting the sport while competing in underground tournaments near his home in Haddonfield, NJ, under the sobriquets “Midge” and “Mitch”.
“The four of us started in traditional diving, which would be the type of diving you see in the Olympics. We all started quite early, as young as 5 years old. If you do the math, that puts us somewhere around 75+ years of diving experience.”
After training and performing with Bad to the Bone at the Indiana Beach Resort, Mitrione, as his fellow teammates did, tried his hand in cliff diving in a few Red Bull World Series’. “Getting into cliff diving was very much the same as traditional diving.”, says Mitrione. “Cliff diving looked like a new and exciting challenge that provided all the fun of traditional diving with the promise of new adventures, travel, opportunities and challenges to overcome.”
Between creating exposure for the cliff diving community and being the founder and operator of Perfect Tension Slacklines, Mitrione is immersed in the outdoor lifestyle and the pursuit of expanding the world of these amazing sports.
Over the next several weeks, The Frynge will be producing a series of articles introducing the USA Cliff Diving Team and the sport they courageously adore. Follow along as each article goes into depth about the lifestyle of each athlete, the many facets and challenges of this sport, and the thrilling Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series.
Joseph Miller is a freelance writer based in Richmond, VA. He received his BS in Creative Advertising from Virginia Commonwealth University. In between writing editorials and content pieces, Joseph is currently training for his first half marathon, though his love for snacks may stunt his performance. www.josephhuntermiller.com