How to build a new dive

Gary Hunt warms up prior to the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series stop in Bilbao on Saturday, September 20, 2014.
From the idea in your head to a leap of 27 metres...

Have you ever had the idea to do something that nobody else has done before? Have you ever been the first one to do or create something? Something you didn't know how and if it would work until you'd tried it?

Russian cliff diver Artem Silchenko, the reigning World Series champion, knows how it feels to take a brainchild to the 27-metre platform and to be the first person on earth to perform a particular high dive. It's a challenge; that bit of extra motivation, which inspires you and it's the driving force in a sport that does not seem to stop progressing.

"Cliff diving in itself is an amazing feeling. But to go up there and do a dive nobody else has ever done and step into the unknown and come out the other side... you've believed in yourself and you've conquered it, that feeling is immense," describes 2008 Olympic finalist Blake Aldridge, "nothing I have ever been through feels like doing that." Taking that actual 'leap of faith' from the eight-storey-high platform is just the cherry on top of the icing, as coming up with a new dive is a long process.

From the idea in your head to the side of the pool, thousands and thousands of repetitions in your mind to launching from the edge of the platform – that's how the athletes of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series build a new dive. Knowing when you're ready for a new dive is very subjective and while some athletes do a couple of lead-ups from lower heights, feeling comfortable and confident right away, others take a whole year to perfect things. Yet you have to be realistic about what you can do at all times, stresses kick-off winner Blake Aldridge: "It's very easy to watch what other guys are doing and say I can do that, but to learn it, you have to really believe in yourself, and your body and mind really have to work together."

To break the whole process down, it all starts with an idea. "First of all you have to understand what you want 100 percent. First of all, your dive has to be in your mind," explains the inventor of at least five high dives, the most popular of which is the 'back triple triple', with three somersaults and three twists – Artem Silchenko. Additionally, you need to know your physical capabilities and you need to look to your strengths. The new dive needs to fit your style of diving – do you like somersaults or are you a twister? When your idea is in line with your strengths, you can start breaking the skill down and work your way up from the ground. "You have to choose your dive, choose how to split the dive up and go back to basics and really start at the low boards and work your way up to 10 metre," says Gary Hunt, who has introduced the 'forward three somersaults with three and a half twists pike' in his own very individual interpretation this season, "as the dives get harder and harder, even the 10 metre isn't really enough to split the dive into two, you have to split the dive into three, maybe even four parts."

And, as soon as you've mastered the physical requirements, you have the correct speed at the correct time, you feel the dive and know where you are in the flips and twists, it comes to the famous mental fortitude, the mental battle. The keywords are 'self-assessment' – you have to know in your head that you can handle going up to the 27-metre platform, that you can control the fear and the uncertainty that just overwhelms you when you step to the edge before doing a new dive. The USA's David Colturi, only the second diver to successfully perform Hunt's 'triple quad' gives details: "Even if it's just a simple required, just the flying somersault, if you've never done it before from that height, it's absolutely terrifying and obviously the consequences in this extreme sport are very dangerous. It's that balance of controlling the overwhelming fear inside of you, trying to calm it with your own confidence and determination to do this dive and do it successfully."

When the moment has come in which to put all the small parts of the dive into one big one and you're taking the step into the unknown, the feeling once you come out the other side overwhelms you with joy. You've just done what nobody else has ever done before. Artem Silchenko describes it as "a crazy feeling, you only want to scream. It's fantastic!" You have to challenge yourself to do new dives, as this is what has to happen for the progression of the sport and for the progression of yourself. Learning a new dive with all its months of physical preparation and mental testing for Blake Aldridge is "mastering the art of cliff diving!"

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