Inside Cliff Diving with Orlando Duque - Part 1: Impact

Orlando Duque
The Colombian legend chats to his fellow divers about the effects of water impact

Orlando Duque, the highly decorated cliff diving legend, began his first season as a wildcard last weekend as the 2019 Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series got underway at the beautiful lagoons of El Nido, Philippines. Here he kicks off a series of interviews with his fellow divers, designed to give us a deeper insight into the world of cliff diving.

Part 1: Impact

Hey everyone,

What an amazing event to kick-off the new season. This is what you should think about when you think of cliff diving; beautiful water, good weather, nice rocks. It was just cliff diving paradise. 

This season I'm hoping to compete as a wildcard at as many stops as possible. Away from the platform, I'll be spending some time with my fellow athletes at each stop to discuss a variety of cliff diving topics, to give you fans a deeper insight into the world of cliff diving. In the Philippines, I sat down with Jonathan Paredes, Michal Navratil, Gary Hunt and Rhiannan Iffland to ask them about the effects of impact. Hope you enjoy the interviews and the clip above.

Jonathan Paredes

When we talk about the impact with the water – is it a good feeling or is it a bad feeling?
When you hit the water with a good dive, it's always a good feeling. Talking about myself, I never had like a really bad entry, sometimes a little bit over, sometimes a little bit short. It hurts. No matter what, it hurts. I've been really lucky with the good entries.

If you say you've been lucky – is it something that you train everyday? Is it something that is natural or automatic? Is it talent from the day you can remember or how do you get those good entries?
I think it's a bit of everything you said. Sometimes it's lucky, sometimes it's the training, sometimes it can be the experience. I think I've just been lucky, I did not specifically train my entries. However, I remember when I started doing diving shows at the age of 14, 15, we used to play a lot. We battled who would rip more and I remember that I was almost always winning.

How is the impact when there's a good entry? What do you feel?
Many people keep asking that. As I said before, even if you have a good entry, it's going to hurt a little bit. But the feeling is totally different. It's relief somehow, once you get into the water it's a huge relief. To me, the best feeling comes right after the entry when I see the judges and good scores, that's the best feeling.

Orlando Duque has been a good friend and mentor to 'ripmaster' Jonathan Paredes during their time in the World Series. Photo: Dean Treml/Red Bull Content Pool.

But do you know when you're in the air this is going to be a good impact, everything's going to be fine or is there still a chance that something goes wrong?
Most of the time, when the dive goes well, when you have a good take-off and everything is on time, you know that it'll be a good dive. Sometimes there can be a small mistake at the end, but most of the time you can feel it and know it's going to be a good dive.

What was the worst impact you had in one of your dives? What did it feel like?
I remember Malcesine 2013 pretty well. I just landed a bit over. It was at the beginning of my career and it felt like I was about to die and maybe never walk again, but it's not cool. It hurts, it feels weird like something you're not used to. It's just painful.

When you think about it, are you afraid of heights or are you afraid of the impact with the water?
I think I'm afraid of the impact. I'm more afraid of getting lost in the air or making a huge mistake in the air that can be horrible.

Michal Navratil

When we talk about impact, what comes to your mind?
If think it's the most dangerous part. When I land, this is the biggest pressure on the body and the 'bones apparatus'.

I've known you for a long time and you've been really consistent in the last few seasons, but also you're probably one of the guys that train the body the most, if not one of the strongest ones. Is that to handle the impact? Do you feel that there is no big issue when you're standing on the platform because you know you trained your body?
For sure it helps on the platform to know you're stronger, because I know I prepared my body for the hard impact and I know I can handle it; but also it was the many years of diving and figuring out the technique. I've been with the World Series since the beginning in 2009 and I had a lot of bad landings and I just tried to make my body stronger and even dive when the landing was bad. That's why I got even stronger. Over the years, I managed to land better and this is maybe the reason why I'm still diving in the World Series.

Are you afraid of the height or are you afraid of the impact?
When I'm up on the 27m platform looking down, it's the time when I'm afraid of the height. I'm kind of always afraid of the height, even if I'm in high buildings I'm scared looking down. The impact comes after the whole diving rotation, but first of all I'm afraid of the height.

Michal Navratil works hard to keep his physique primed for the constant water impacts. Photo: Damiano Levati/Red Bull Content Pool.

When you take off from the platform and you start to fall, do you know it's going to be a good dive and a small impact or can you identify something went wrong and you have to do something to avoid a bad impact?
Yes, straight away from the take-off I feel the dive could be really good and I could play in the air with the dive, but mostly I have the feeling it's a bad take-off and this gives me the adrenaline rush to fix it in the air. This is why I started to train my body being into it, that I can feel my whole body until the entry. When I'm focusing that much, the body keeps tightening and tightening, so I can manage to sometimes have really good entries.

What's the worst impact you had? What did that feel like?
I had couple of them. One was from 15m when I did handstand preparation for 27m – handstand back 3 ½ somersaults – and I just wanted to feel the rotation. The whole 15m I was holding the somersault position until the entrance and when I opened the somersault and didn't have the height I landed short on my chest. I was coughing blood for one week.

That moment, what did you feel?
I felt completely empty. All the air/breath went out, I lost all the power. Left it in the water and just floated with my body on the surface.

Gary Hunt

You're the multiple champion, probably the most versatile high diver we had. Is there a secret to minimize the impact? It seems like you make it look so easy.
Every diver has to learn their capabilities. When you start you want to do hundreds and hundreds of dives and you learn that the day after a training session can be very painful; it's not obvious how many dives you're capable of. Also, it's about preparing yourself 100% before actually going for a dive. You learn in the first few years that the preparation is so important and that's better to do hundreds and hundreds of lead ups before actually going for a dive. Making this new dive perfect or as close to perfect as possible on the first try rather than just going up there when you're not fully ready for it.

Does that mean that even on a good dive the impact can affect the body of a diver or on a good dive you're pretty much safe?
If you're not physically prepared for it a good dive can hurt you. You need to be physically ready for the impact because obviously when you're not vertical it's going to hit you hard. A vertical impact it's a lot of pressure on your body, so it's a sport that you really work all year round for.

What's the most important part of the body to work on? Of course, you need overall strength, but what would you say are the key parts to work harder to make sure to minimize that impact?
For that would be the mid section. You need strong legs for the jump and for the impact; but I'd say most of the injuries come from not being tight enough in the middle. When your legs hit the water and you're not tight in the mid section your body can keep moving and you bend yourself in half basically. That's what keeps everything together, that's why they call it the core muscles. For me that's the most important.

Gary Hunt warns that even a good entry can hurt if the body isn't well prepared for the impact. Photo: Romina Amato/Red Bull Content Pool.

I remember standing on a podium next to you and you've just had a crash and still made it to the podium. So that tells you how good you are. I don't know if that was your worst crash but did you feel you can remember that? I crashed a couple of times and I forget completely what happened. 
I did lose my memory at the crash in Italy you're talking about in 2010. It was a new dive, I'd done it just once in training. I was the last diver in the competition and from the time the accident happened until they put me on to the jetski, I got to the shore and was hunted by journalists right away and then straight on to the podium ceremony. It was only after that that I tried to look back and think about what happened, I couldn't remember how I got back to the shore. I kind of remember the dive, but everything after happened so quickly that there's a big chunk of memory that I don't have any more.

Everything cannot be bad. Honestly, the impact is not that bad, that's why we keep doing this, but what does it feel like when it's a really good dive and the impact is like soft? 
It's really intense. It's a lot of force going through your body. On bad dives you get a punch on a certain place in your body. On a really good dive it's all spread throughout your body. If you think of the Indian guys who'd lie on a bed of nails, they can support it because the whole pain is throughout their body. So I'd describe a perfect dive as really intense, but if you get it perfectly right it's just your whole body that feels it that one second. If you're strong enough it feels great.

Rhiannan Iffland

Talking about the impact, you had pretty good entries in the water, but what I want to know is you've been performing at circus, at ships, portable shows, cliff diving, high diving, helicopters – does it change the impact depending on where you're diving, the size and type of water?
The impact is one thing that really intimidates me, the rest of the dive is really enjoyable; the flight, the take-off, I love it, but when it comes to the impact, that's one thing that scares me the most. I actually do find that the impact does change from place to place; depending on how cold the water is. Sometimes I find that in a smaller pool or a smaller body of water it's a bit more firm hitting the water, but I prefer to dive in warm conditions, salty conditions it feels a bit more aerated and soft when entering the water.

Any tips, secrets to minimize that impact? I see you entering the water slicing through, but then I see there's actually some pain. What do you do to make sure to minimize that impact?
Sometimes you do a perfect entry and it still feels super painful and feels like you've landed wrong but you've gone straight through it. In the beginning I had a lot of problems with my groins and legs, because of that impact. I just wasn't used to it. The more high dives that I did, the better I got at dealing with that impact. One tip that I do have – and I learned it from Ginger Huber – she told me, when it's hard or you're having problems entering the water, is just to go as deep as you can. Obviously that varies from place to place. If you're in a shallow pool, then you can't do that, but that's something I usually try and focus on. A lot of repetitions from 10m, 15m it really helped me.

Even three-time champion Rhiannan Iffland knows how brutal an impact can be when it goes wrong. Photo: Romina Amato/Red Bull Content Pool.

Even if it looks beautiful on the water, in the water it can be a different story.
Exactly, you enter perfectly and you never know. In Bosnia I did this dive where I injured both of my knees and I sliced through the water. It was probably one of the best entries I've ever done and my legs just went out from underneath me. It was probably my worst injury I've had yet in high diving.

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