Since 2009, the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series has provided a platform for aesthetic action and dives of incredible complexity from heights of up to 27m. In the last nine years, the panel of five international judges have pulled out their scorecards a total of 17,620 times, but the top score of 10 has only been flashed on 98 occasions. In a sport where the tiniest of mistakes can be the difference between a high score and a low one, between winning and losing, and between champions and runners-up, what does it actually take for a cliff diver to hit that perfect dive and nail the magical 10?
"One dive is one million details," explains Russian wildcard and 2013 World Series champion Artem Silchenko. "You have to know all the details. If you have a small mistake it's already not a 10. The judges want to see everything, but mainly it's the take off, what you do in the air; all your positions, all your technique, all your lines and of course a rip entry."
Six-time champion Gary Hunt of England echoes Silchenko's words about what is needed to secure a 10, and also explains the psychological side of it:
"The most scary part in a dive for me is the build up to the dive," says Hunt. "Then you have the take-off, where for me everything just is a big relief, you jump and then there are no doubts. Then you have the most important part, what you're doing in the air, making everything look good. Then to impress the judges you have to enter the water without a splash."
As the men prepare to compete from La Salve bridge at the second stop of the season in Bilbao this weekend, a location where Silchenko has the honour of being the only diver to score the top note back in 2014, the aim will as always be to tempt those top marks from the judges. But what is it that makes those men and women holding the cards pull out the big one?
"It's a wow-factor," says Australian Steve Foley, who has been a part of the judging panel since 2011. "It's a dive that almost gets you out of your chair, you want to start clapping and applauding because it's really exciting; it's just grabbed your attention and it's got all the aspects you want, the great take-off, the power, the aesthetics, the beauty and of course the great rip entry."
"To me, it's a dive that just moves you when it happens. It's a quick moment that it happens in; if you ponder too much and think about things you probably never give a 10."
Stats behind the perfect 10
- 3524 men's and women's competition dives to date and only 98 scores of 10
- 17,620 score-cards shown - only 0.56% of all scores were 10s
- Most 10s in one dive: Jonathan Paredes (Texas 2016) and Artem Silchenko (Copenhagen 2013) – 4
- Most 10s scored - Silchenko (36), Hunt (25) and Duque (14)
- Silchenko scored the only ten ever in Bilbao in 2014
- David Colturi picked up the last 10 to date in Mostar 2016
- Ginger Huber earned the only women's 10 in 2016 in the Azores
Although we are just two cards shy, it seems that the landmark century of tens might still be a long way off. Amazingly, it's been two years since we saw that 98th one; scored by American David Colturi from Mostar's famous old bridge in 2016. Orlando Duque of Colombia, the most experienced cliff diver on the tour, thinks he knows why:
"A few years back the focus was fully on quality," says Duque. "Quality meant everything. It showed up in the results. So I think that's why we saw a few more 10s. What's happening in the last few years is that the focus has been difficulty and when you raise the difficulty of course smaller mistakes do show up and the judges pick it up immediately, then it goes down to 9 ½ and to 9.
"Even on a good dive, you can see that the take-off was not right, in the air it can be perfect but the entry not so. With difficulty sometimes you sacrifice a little bit of the score. The degree of difficulty works out in the end, but then we lose a bit of the quality."
10s by location
- Texas – 7 tens by 6 different athletes scored in 2014
- Oman – 7 tens by 3 athletes in 2012
- Copenhagen – 5 tens by 3 athletes in 2016
- Wales – 5 tens by 4 athletes in 2012
The most important thing in the athletes' minds this weekend in Spain of course will be to secure as high a finish as possible. But after a stunning first stop in Texas, where the quality was exceptional and nines were being flashed freely by the judges, it's certainly possible that this could be the competition where the century of tens is finally hit. And how fitting that would be in this landmark 10th anniversary season.
Watch it Live
This event will be LIVE on June 30 at 6:15 PM CEST (4:15 PM GMT) on www.redbullcliffdiving.com, Red Bull TV, Facebook, Youtube, & Twitch. Red Bull TV is available on connected TVs, gaming consoles, mobile devices and more. Find out more at about.redbull.tv
If you miss the event or simply want to watch all the action again, the replay will be available on demand a few minutes after the event.