To no one’s surprise, it’s illogical to believe diving from an outdoor 28-meter cliff into natural running water comes with zero consequence. The hundreds of ways for potential danger are almost unavoidable, especially when Mother Nature is at hand. Though much precaution is taken during competition and practice dives, all great divers know with this talent comes some serious battle scars; think anywhere from bruising to head trauma.
Romina Amato / Red Bull Content Pool
At every competition, or when the USA Cliff Diving Team is out and about diving for fun, there are many safety precautions that are checked and checked again to make sure controllable factors are squared away. This includes lining up competition dates with tidal frequencies, securing diving platforms, measuring water depth, and gathering scuba divers to standby in the water in case of emergencies. And while these checks are thorough and well managed, there are some unforeseeable difficulties that can be added to a day of diving.
When cliff divers travel all over the world finding new spots to practice their trade, they will sometimes be faced with learning a new skill to complete their overall task.
“We occasionally have sketchy ascents to the platform that involve various types of rock climbing that we’re not 100% trained to deal with.” – Kyle Mitrione
Dean Treml / Red Bull Content Pool
Apart from unsteady footing, weather plays a huge part in competition days. When traveling to Northern countries, like France or Norway, the temperature can be a bit more frigid than tropical. Cold water and air can make it difficult to stay warm and loose up before a jump. In locations like the Portuguese Azores, water swells make it strenuous to line up an entry at a perfect, vertical angle. And because competition dates are chosen in advance and allotted a small time frame due to tidal differences, storms are no exception.
“High winds, torrential downpours, thunder, lightning, and even hail are no strangers to cliff diving competitions. Only the mentally strong are able to compete well in tough conditions.” – David Colturi
And then, the toll it takes on the human physique. Hitting a body of water at 60mph will always hurt. Though, depending on the way you land, it may hurt less. A more vertical entry will allow the body to “rip” into the water, creating less backsplash and risk of injury.
Predrag Vuckovic / Red Bull Content Pool
“We hit the water going around 60 miles per hour and we decelerate from 60 to zero in just one second,” says David Colturi. “If one of your legs isn’t in tight enough, the water can rip it to the side and pull muscles. If you come up a little bit short, you can take it on the chin and get knocked unconscious — the consequences are tremendous, if not fatal.”
The men of the USA Cliff Diving team frequently see these common injuries: torn muscles/ligaments, chronic “all over body” pain, broken bones, bruised organs, and more. Two of the more serious injuries of teammates were attributed to Steven LoBue and Andy Jones. In 2015, LoBue smacked his head on the diving platform while performing a twist through a somersault (he completed the dive and landed safely). In 2013, Jones “got lost” in a twisting dive in Thailand, slamming into the water horizontally, causing bruised ribs and a ruptured testicle. (Yea, you read that correctly!)
While these injuries are serious, daunting, and may frighten someone from ever putting themselves in a similar situation, the USA Cliff Diving team keeps climbing those cliffs and jumping right off.
“You have to step to the edge of the platform and battle your own fears. A good rule of thumb for any sport is to focus only on what you can control, [and] in our sport, it’s the golden rule.” - Steven LoBue
Dean Treml / Red Bull Content Pool
Part 6 marks the halfway point with the USA Cliff Diving team! Make sure to check out our apparel & gear, where 10% of every item purchased will go to the USA Cliff Divers and 100% to your fresh new look!
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