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Red Bull Cliff Diving: Taking the Leap of Faith

Last Updated: July 1, 2023
Red Bull cliff diving serves as an outlet for thrill seekers to conquer their nerves and overcome their fears through breathtaking jumps.

Even in the heart-stopping realm of extreme sports, few experiences rival the thrill of Red Bull‘s Extreme Cliff Diving Series. With its blend of raw athleticism, bravery, and sheer audacity, the sport is awe-inspiring enough to capture the imagination of any adrenaline junky.

The Red Bull Cliff Diving series attracts athletes from around the world, showcasing its global diversity across over 16 countries. Making an opening series stop at the Boston Seaport last weekend, divers embarked on a quest to win the coveted King Kahekili trophy. Vice also reported that divers earn $37,497.32 per event, plus bonus money for winning events and the comprehensive world series.

The history of cliff diving dates back around 250 years to the Hawaiian Islands. Companies like Red Bull have since elevated the sport, putting on an annual international series to showcase the world’s best performers. Alongside cliff diving, Red Bull has also invested in breakdancing and other extreme sports. In the process, they’ve become a mecca for adrenaline enthusiasts and competitors.

But how does one transform this difficult feat into a regulated sport? It involves applying safety measures, scoring criteria, and a competition format including the world’s best athletes.

Red Bull Cliff Diving Competition Format

  • Ahead of each competition, a draw determines the diving order for the first round.
  • Divers hand in four planned dives the day before the first day of competition.
  • Each tour stop features up to four wildcard divers; their results are identical to any permanent divers.
  • To be included in the final result, a diver must perform at least one dive in the competition.
  • Points are awarded from first to last place by five judges. These experts are chosen based on the geographical location of the event and availability.
  • The panel judges examine divers on their execution of acrobatics and artistic moves during the dive.
  • Male divers jump from a platform of 27 meters (88 feet), while women competitors jump from 21 meters (69 feet).

Training and Overcoming Fear

Upon approaching the diving platform, the human brain begins processing alerts to help maintain balance and calm the inescapable stomach knots. However, even seven-time Red Bull series Australian champion Rhiannan Iffland succumbs to the natural fears of diving. Despite securing 36 podium placements in 38 series events, she admits that the unknown evokes a natural fear in her that cannot be erased.

“With the dives, you never truly know when you are ready,” Iffland told Boardroom. “Trying a new dive at that height is a terrifying process. A goal of mine is to learn to overcome that. It varies by dive. For a front takeoff, I might stand there [at the end of the ledge], look down, and visualize what I’m going to see. I try not to complicate it.”

For Colombian diver and 10-year veteran Miguel Garcia, overcoming the self-tricked mind is a feat in itself.

“When I get up there, the mind starts saying, ‘Don’t go up there. Don’t do it,'” he explained. “My mind asked, ‘Why didn’t you study or pick a different career sitting in an office with everyone else?’ Why jump so high?'”

To allay those fears, divers draw on their countless hours of mental and physical preparation. Despite the incredible physical strength needed for jumps, they seemed to agree that cliff diving is around 20% physical and 80% mental.

“You have to be crazy but also become crazy at the moment,” Garcia said. “Every day, you have to push the limits of becoming more strong, more confident.”

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For Garcia, prayer, deep breathing, and repetition are vital factors to calm the mind for a successful dive. After diving beyond an admitted comfortable height of 10 meters (32 feet), Garcia, like other divers, prefers changing elements such as rain or wind to become uncomfortable. That way, he can adjust to attempting higher dives, knowing what he’s capable of in bad weather conditions.

Implemented safety measures support alleviating fear for competitors who worry for the safety of their competition and themselves. However, the brave jumpers understand that vaulting from an 88-foot-high platform is a calculated risk. To reduce such risks, scuba spotters, and rescue divers remain alert because brief blackouts when hitting the water is common.

In the grand theater of cliff diving, every daring dive is a testament to the triumph of the human spirit. Athletes soar through the air with grace and precision, defying the limits of what is possible. Once the mental battle settles, the physical performance kicks in. When it’s all put together, cliff divers deliver a breathtaking leap of faith for thrill-seeking spectators.

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