This Thursday a group of nine top cliff diving athletes launched simultaneously from a monolith of volcanic rock 22 metres above the Atlantic Ocean to celebrate the return to the World Series' most pure venue. The crater walls of an almost perfectly round islet in the Azores archipelago some 1,400km west of the Portuguese mainland are the natural playground for the cliff diving elite during the season's third stop. From spots called 'snakehead' and 'kitchen' the brave athletes dive directly off the cliff to hit the water at speeds of more than 85km/h only three seconds later. An integral part of this prestigious series of competitions, the islet offshore from São Miguel hosts the 14 male and 9 female athletes for the fifth consecutive time this weekend.
"It's definitely one of the highlights of the year," says Gary Hunt, five-time World Series champion, expanding he goes on, "it's really bringing it back to the basics. You have to improvise; it's really natural." For the Brit, who rediscovered his winning form from 28m in the previous stop, the volcanic crater walls make for the toughest competition of the season. Two victories in this location (2015, 2013) have proven he can do good dives from the rocks as well, but will he once more be the most versatile and adaptable athlete to win in Portugal?
The season's second winner and current leader of the World Series, Jonathan Paredes of Mexico, is definitely one of the athletes to watch out for this season. The 26-year-old is eager to extend his lead and will use his diving perfection to score another victory, the first one in this venue.
The women will open their arms to the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean this weekend as well. In the lead-up to the ladies' second off-the-cliff experience after the premiere in 2015, the excitement especially among the newcomers to this location was high. After a historic victory for wildcard Rhiannan Iffland in her first ever World Series appearance in the opener in Texas, the 24-year-old Australian comes to Portugal as the leader. Facing the challenges of this unique competition, it might open the door for the more experienced divers, such as two-time Women's World Series champion Rachelle Simpson (USA), who has unfinished business on the Azores after a moderate 5th place from 20m in 2015.
In a competition where the athletes propel themselves into water from almost three times the Olympic height from the pure cliff face in the required rounds, it will be experience and mental strength that count in a venue the locals call 'Princess Ring'.
Watch it Live
This event will be LIVE on July 9 from 11.20 AM (GMT) on www.redbullcliffdiving.com and Red Bull TV. 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.
Note that the live webcast and replay is geo-blocked in the US due to an exclusive broadcast deal with FOX Sports. The event will air on FS1 at 6pm (ET) on August 14.