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 1: The Fascination of Cliff Diving above, and read on below to find out more.
Leaping off great heights with no protection other than concentration, skill, and physical control; in less than three seconds reaching speeds in excess of 85kph, and punctuated by awe-inspiring tricks – that's the essence of cliff diving. A highly skilled, but ultimately basic formula, and one that for the past 12 years now the world's best cliff divers have been dazzling and delighting fans around the globe with.
Through the eye of the beholder, the fascination of cliff diving is obvious. The globetrotting nature of the World Series has given countless thousands of fans an opportunity to witness a spectacle that isn't as readily accessible as the more mainstream sports. As exciting as they are, anyone can purchase a ticket almost year-round to watch their local football team, catch a basketball game or enjoy a bit of hockey. But how often do you get the chance to stand maybe just meters away as divers hurl themselves from almost three times the Olympic height before piercing the water below with barely a ripple.
For those who can't be there in person, watching the action unfold on TV is just as compelling. The diverse and flexible nature of the sport means that one week you're transported from the sofa to an exotic location in south-east Asia, and the next a bustling European beach or harbour. It's an escape. It's that wow factor. It's also seeing something that the majority of us would not dare to even dream of attempting.
Which brings us to the divers themselves. What drives them to compete in such an extreme and challenging sport? What is the fascination of cliff diving to them?
"Some people don't understand why we go up 27m and jump off, go back up there and do it again," says Gary Hunt, the 8-time Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series champion, now of France. "It's fun, it's extreme, and it's work – but it doesn't feel like work."
'Fun', or words synonymous with it, are regularly uttered by the divers when describing their passion for cliff diving. The platforms are their 'playground', and adrenaline is their drug. But fun only arrives through fear, it seems. Without fear, there is no adrenaline, no raised heart rates, no thrill. A controlled fear, but fear all the same.
"The best divers learned how to use that fear to their advantage," says Hunt, "and to make that fear become your weapon and to make sure that that keeps you on your toes."
Freedom is another popular word with the athletes, and perhaps the most exquisitely articulated definition comes from David Colturi:
"Why we do this," explains the American, "is that freedom, that liberating experience of jumping from that rock, flying through the air, nothing attached to you, no mechanisms and no joysticks, you are flying, your own body mastering gravity on the way down, flipping and twisting. It's such an existential experience that you get to have with yourself and connect with the environment around you."
Like the complex manoeuvres of a cliff diver in mid-air, the fascination of cliff diving is multi-faceted. For fans, it's the jaw-dropping spectacle, the breath-taking locations and the unique chance to witness one of the world's more extraordinary sports. For the athletes, it's fun, fear and freedom all rolled into one. Or, more simply, as Andy Jones once put it, "it's pretty badass!"