Cliff Divers’ Debut Leap into Indian Waters

Rhiannan Iffland
Iffland and Duque dive into historic Toorji Step Well in ‘Sun City’ of Jodhpur

Never walk if you can dive – staying true to the cliff divers' motto, Duque and Iffland chose the acrobatic freefall from up to 20m down to the pool of water, which was originally a drinking source for the city when the step well was built in the 1740s. The duo used the layers of stairs winding around hand carved treasures only for the way back up into the warm Indian sun. With the first-ever professional cliff dives on this subcontinent, the sport's trailblazers rounded their unique years out in style just to herald a new cliff diving era.

A much-traveled man, recently retired Colombian cliff diving legend Duque, has previously dived from headline grabbing locations such as an iceberg in Antarctica or in front of the Statue of Liberty in New York City; now he added the rose-red sandstone gem, the Toorji's step well, to his exclusive list.

"It's my first time in India and I am really excited about the location. It combines everything: a little bit of history, a beautiful location, really tricky, too. It's a very small area for landing," explained Duque, the only person who dived from locations in all seven continents. "Amazing. One of the best locations I have seen so far."

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Orlando Duque added the stunning Step Well to his list of global diving coquests. Photo: Dean Treml/Red Bull Content Pool.

After more than 20 highly successful years in the competitive side of the sport, the 45-year-old shifted his priorities towards the adventurous aspect as well as continuing to push the sport to higher goals. With the end of the 2019 season, Duque handed over the reins to the next generation.

The torch of success is nowhere in better hands than with the undefeated four-time overall champion Iffland from Australia. Only moments after Duque bid farewell during the final in Spain in September, the 28-year-old became the competition's first diver, man or woman, to win all stops in a season and remain unbeaten all year.

For the most decorated female in the sport's history, the experience in India was the cherry on the cake of an incredible year.

"I have not really experienced anything similar to India. It's got its own flavor and it's so busy but the people at the same time are so peaceful," described Iffland, "it was such an awesome experience to dive in there and after the first, second dive shook off the nerves and it was so much fun I was keen to go back and do it again."

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Rhiannan Iffland rounded off an incredible year with a few leaps in this special location. Photo: Dean Treml/Red Bull Content Pool.

Located in the so-called 'Sun City' or 'Blue City' of Jodhpur in Rajasthan, the exceptional diving venue itself was built almost 300 years ago by Queen Maharaja Abhay Singh's Consort, who continued the age-old tradition of royal women letting build public water works. A recent restoration process uncovered over 200 feet of intricate carvings of dancing elephants, medieval lions and cow waterspouts, as well as niches housing deities long gone. Today the Step Well serves as Jodhpur's unofficial local swimming pool, frequented by children and some adults who enjoy having a dip and a dive into cool waters.

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No cliff diving experience is complete without taking in a little local culture. Photo: Dean Treml/Red Bull Content Pool.

Following these final feats from the heritage monument in the heart of India, the World Series moves into its off-season preparations and will be back mid-May with the first of eight competitions in a brand new original location in Indonesia. In its 12th year of dives from up to 27m and speeds in excess of 85km/h the champions will be crowned on Iffland's home soil in Sydney, Australia, for the first time.