The very thought of standing on the edge of an eight story building makes a mere mortal shake in his boots. Imagine leaving this point with a lot of speed, spinning, then breaking the water’s surface at almost 55mph, without any protection. This is cliff diving -- a sport most don't understand.

To most, cliff diving is merely an event where men with the biggest balls jump off a cliff, twist in the air, crash through the waves below, and onlookers applaud. But there's more to it, especially when it's Red Bull Cliff Diving -- the ultimate cliff diving series in the world. Cliff diving takes skill, hard work, and yes, very major cojones. To understand what each diver goes through before, during, and after a dive, pay close attention to the following.

In each heat the athletes have to show their skills by performing stylish as well as complex dives, executed perfectly in order to impress the judges and to experience the “unbelievable feeling of relief after a difficult, but safe dive,” to express it in divers’ words. The three most important criteria for divers and judges are drop, position in the air, and dive, counting one third each. To get full scores the divers may not touch the platform during the dive or plunge into the water in a non-vertical position. Ordinary viewers would never recognize the subtleties that distinguish a perfect dive from a failed one; only specialists can tell and judge.

The degree of difficulty of a dive is evaluated on the basis of these figures: takeoff, number of somersaults, number of twists, position during the somersaults and entry into the water. Within the six different groups of dives, twists are rated highest. However, only perfect dives get perfect scores. To back this theory up: only one diver has ever earned a perfect “10” from all judges to this day – the Colombian Orlando Duque during the world championships in Hawaii ten years ago.

After the take-off we have about 30 to 40 feet to do all the somersaults and all the twists. After those 40 feet you gain a lot of acceleration and you are going really fast.

The higher the platform, the more difficult the dives; this can be taken as a rule. Although the divers will have finished their figures after approximately 50 feet, the height gives them the chance to perform the dive even more exactly and prepare for an excellent straight landing. And as tradition plays an important role in this adrenaline sport, “Lele Kawa” is always present in the divers’ minds.

“After the take-off we have about 30 to 40 feet to do all the somersaults and all the twists. After those 40 feet you gain a lot of acceleration and you are going really fast. At that point you try to spot the water and prepare for the entry,” says Orlando.


Dives are classified in six main groups: front, back, inward, reverse, twist, and arm stand.

•    In the front group (group 1), the diver takes off facing forwards and rotates forwards
•    In the back group (group 2), the diver takes off with his back to the water and rotates backwards
•    In the reverse group (group 3), the diver takes off facing forwards and rotates backwards
•    In the inward group (group 4), the diver takes off with his back to the water and rotates forwards
•    Any dive incorporating an axial twisting movement is in the twist group (group 5).
•    Any dive commencing from a handstand is in the arm stand group (group 6). The arm stand can be executed from either the forward or backward direction.


During the flight of the dive, one of the four positions may be specified:
•    Straight – with no bend at the knees or hips
•    Pike – with knees straight but a tight bend at the hips
•    Tuck – body folded up in a tight ball, hands holding the shins and toes pointed.
•    Free – some sequence of the above positions.


A twist is any movement during a dive that occurs when the diver rotates around an imaginary vertical axis that runs from the head to the toes of the diver. Twists are performed in competitions up to four revolutions and can be added to dives in the forward, back, reverse, inward and arm stand categories.

One somersault forward rotation with a 1/2 twist. Used as an entry maneuver, it gives the diver the best view of the water.

The last time the diver sees the water is at least half a somersault before entry and lines up “blind”.


Interrupted dives incorporate a straight position after no less than one complete somersault in either tuck or pike position and must be followed by at least one additional somersault in either tuck or pike position.

“Fly” describes dives consisting of at least one complete somersault and performed in the straight position for no less than 90°. The straight position must then be followed by either tuck or pike position.

Do you think you can cliff dive? Check out all the videos from Red Bull Cliff Diving and see if you have the cojones.




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