Cliff Diving: Definitely An Extreme Sport

Diving off 80-foot cliffs into the water is only for skilled cliff divers

A diver jumps off of La Quebrada cliff in Acapulco, Mexico.
Sean Arbabi / Getty Images

If your friend or leader told you to go dive off a cliff as a sign of your courage and loyalty, would you? This extreme sport of cliff diving can trace its origins back to the Hawaiian King Kahekili, who would reportedly command his men to leap off a cliff on the southern end of the island of Lanai, as a test of courage and loyalty to him. Most of those brave warriors would do as they were told rather than risk being shunned from by the rest of the tribe.

Later, King Kamehameha and his men refined the activity further, shifting away from jumping to diving from the same site instead. Today, there are cliff diving competitions held in Hawaii and in a variety of other locations around the globe. Red Bull even runs one of the most dramatic competitions in the world with skilled cliff divers leaping off cliffs or platforms set up to 85-feet above the water below.

Watching Cliff Diving

Most people would rather watch pro divers than try this risky sport themselves. After all, it takes not only skill and athletic ability, but plenty of confidence and bravery too. At La Quebrada Cliffs in Acapulco, Mexico, spectators sit in a restaurant atop the cliff and watch the divers fly over a 148-foot cliff into the sparkling blue water. These divers, who have been part of the evening's entertainment for years, time their entries carefully so they land in the ocean when the waves come in and the water is at its deepest.

Mexico isn't the only place where you can watch athletes take part in this dangerous sport. It is also popular in places like Australia, Greece, and Brazil too. Of course, it also remains both a spectator sport and a participatory activity in Hawaii as well.

The annual Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series competition draws hundreds of spectators to a variety of sites around the world too. These events pit both men and women divers against one another to see who can pull off the most impressive and death-defying fall. The dives are acrobatic in design, and the on-lookers are usually holding their collective breath as the competitors take off from picturesque rocks or platforms set high along the sides of the cliffs.

Do Not Try Cliff Diving Without Proper Training

Cliff divers are highly trained athletes who spend hours preparing their bodies and minds for the sport. Todd Walton, who has been a part of the cliff-high diving world for some 20 years, stresses the need for a sound technical education and extensive training before ever taking that first dive off of a cliff. He suggests starting by diving in pools and gradually increases the height of your dives over time. This not only allows an athlete to slowly overcome any fears they might have, but also learn how to adjust their timing and routine based on the different heights as well.

Control of both body and mind essential elements when it comes to cliff diving. Cliff divers who are highly trained know how to survey their dive sites carefully before ever climbing to the top of the ledge. This includes, among other things, watching the rhythm of the wave action, measuring the height of the cliff from which they'll dive, exploring the depth of the water below, and taking account the rocks and other obstacles that could get in their path. Much of that ability comes through experience and collecting data from local divers as well.

The Highest Dive

The highest cliff dive ever recorded took place back in 2015, when a Brazilian-born, Swiss athlete named Laso Schaller dove from a height of 193 feet. His extreme jump took place in Switzerland and was far taller than what most other divers attempt. On average, most divers leap from around the 85-foot mark, which is still a scary height.

To Find Cliff Diving Information and Pictures

If you want to learn more about cliff diving, visit World High Diving Federation. To follow the annual cliff diving competitive seres presented by Red Bull, and check out photos and videos of the pro divers, visit Red Bull Cliff Diving.

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