Cliff diving is a pure sport. Intense. Extreme. Emotional. And cliff divers stand on the edge of the platform all by themselves. They take a lot of crucial decisions within the blink of an eye. Every time they go up to the 27m-platform and take the 'leap of faith' and aim for the unforgiving waters below, nobody's there to hold on to. Honestly? It's obviously true when it comes to the actual dive, but the athletes' confidence and strength, motivation and energy is influenced and boosted by their loved ones – family and friends. Onsite or at home doesn't really matter; what is important to know is that this support is genuine.
"Support from family and friends at events is massive for me. It really gives me a kick in the back; it motivates me to want to deliver a good performance. So it's just an extra motivation for me to go up there and try and put the nerves and pressure away and do it for them," says Blake Aldridge, the former Olympian who's been competing in the World Series since 2012. Travelling around the world for most of the year only to dive from stomach turning heights with huge complexity for the sake of it – that's not for everyone. Relationships are difficult to maintain, keeping in touch over laptop screens or video calls on the phone and not to forget the worrying and scaring moments for the parents. "I was very worried as a mother. It seemed so high and it seemed scary to me. But he's done very well; he had a very good diving background," explains Denise, mother of David Colturi, "I am very proud of him. He is the youngest of four and all of my children have done very well. And just to see him live the dream this is what he's always wanted to do and to love what you're doing and to be able to travel and see the world and love what you're doing and feel good about that. Mothers always want their children to be happy and he is very happy."
America's Steven LoBue also tells us how thankful he is for this kind of support: "I don't know where I would be without the support of my friends and family. I feel genuinely fortunate every time I speak with my parents or my friends. They are following along with what I love to do and that for me is really cool. It just means a lot that my parents have been supporting me since I was aged 7 in diving and they thought it was scary then when I was flipping back towards the board and now it's like 'come on, we're watching cliff diving competitions'. Having their support continually throughout my entire career has been monumental."
However, it's not just the parental support, but also the encouragement of the significant other can make a big difference. Having travelled the world as the sport's ambassador for almost 20 years, Colombia's cliff diving legend Orlando Duque has lately been accompanied by his wife. A super huge plus, as he puts it: "In those moments when I'm tired, when I'm not feeling good, she's always there to support me and then workwise, she's also helping me a lot. So that frees my time to concentrate on training, to focus more on competition when she can take care of a lot of more things for me. I couldn't ask for a better partner. She's taking care of a lot of stuff. A lot of times I give her too much I think, but she loves it. She loves the job, she loves being with me, she wants to be around."
Cesilie Carlton, winner of the first female off-the-cliff competition in the Portuguese Azores in July 2015, has her husband in her corner: "I don't know, we just click and it's really easy. She knows I know how she feels when she is really scared. I know when to push her and help her get over the hump; at the same time I know when I got to pull back," says Jason Carlton, a professional diver.
It's definitely an athlete's determination, which takes him or her to new heights, but the success wouldn't be anywhere near as good as it is when it can be shared with the loved ones. Something Artem Silchenko, the 2013 World Series winner from Russia, has learned lately: "Diving for me has always been a very egoistic thing. I did it for myself. But now I have a real family. I have my beautiful wife and my son, it's a complete circle. I cannot dive, I cannot live for myself any longer. I live for me and for my family."
So in the end and with all the success that comes with it, the individual sport of cliff diving really is a family business.
Click here to watch the full video about divers and their support.