Whether you're new to Red Bull Cliff Diving or a seasoned fan, this 7-part Deep Dive series, with Gary Hunt, Orlando Duque and Rhiannan Iffland will immerse you into every aspect of one of the world's most fascinating sports. Over the next two weeks, all episodes will be released here along with a story related to each title.
Watch Episode 2: The Perfect Take-Off above, and read on below to find out more.
The bell rings, the crowd falls silent and the cliff diver steadies themselves on the edge of a 27m high platform. After all the training and hours spent at the pool and in the gym, this is it; the moment that everything must come together perfectly. And it all begins with the take-off. Ask any cliff diver and they'll tell you the most important part of a dive is that split-second when they press down and explosively launch into the air.
"The take-off of a dive is like the foundations of a house," explains Gary Hunt. "If you don't have that strong take-off the house is going to collapse. With a bad take-off, it's very difficult to get a good entry."
Considering the amount of action that follows the launch, when divers twist and contort themselves in an acrobatic freefall before lining up the their bodies for a perfect rip entry into the water, it may seem hard to understand why such importance is placed on the take-off, but Red Bull Cliff Diving's expert commentator, Joey Zuber, explains further:
"The speed needs to be perfect, the jump has to be perfect, the mind has to be ready," says Zuber. "You need that fear and control in check and of course a lot of preparation and training and that helps you become calmer when you're standing on the platform."
And of course, each location offers its own unique challenge when it comes to executing that perfect lift-off. From the windy Atlantic conditions off the coast of western Ireland to the raw and uneven rocky perches in the Portuguese Azores, the divers have been tested to the limit during the last 12 years of competing all around the globe.
"I think one that stands out for me is definitely in Portugal in the Azores," says Rhiannan Iffland, "where for the women's take-off it's not exactly even so you may spend like a couple of minutes up there just feeling around and finding the right spot to do a good and steady take-off."
From a purely technical point of view, there are five possible take-off positions - forward, back, inward, reverse and armstand - and the divers need to be able to show a range of these during each competition. Most divers have a preferred method, and deliberately avoid others. "Inward is my favourite take off," says Iffland, while Orlando Duque admits "That is terrifying. I don't do it inward."
Physically, the take-off involves leg, arm, stomach and back muscles. Strong legs are needed for a powerful leap. Swinging the arms add to that and help create the rotation, while the stomach and back help to bring the legs up and get the body in the right position for the dive. Although there is some room for adjustments and correction in flight, once a diver has left the platform they generally know immediately if things are going well or not.
So, to make sure you enter the water in the right way, you better start well. "How you start is how you finish" is a saying in Russian diving, and it is understood by all divers no matter which language they speak.