David Colturi, a lab technician and diving coach based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, won the 2012 Winner Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series qualification competition in Cattai, Australia, and was 5th overall in the 2012 Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series. He reveals why he loves the sport, his most dangerous dive, and offers tips for people who think they might want to start cliff diving.
When and how did you start cliff diving?
I started traditional springboard and platform diving at a very young age, committing to year round training by nine-years-old. It's extremely helpful for cliff divers to have a solid foundation in modern, 10-meter platform diving, before making the transition to cliff diving.
I made this transition at the end of my collegiate career by working in Indiana Beach Amusement Resort's water ski and stunt show in Monticello, Indiana. It was at this show where I took my first leaps from platforms higher than the Olympic 10-meter level. After two summers of training around 20 meters, I applied to compete in the Red Bull World Series Qualification Competition in Sydney, Australia, from the nerve wracking height of 27.5 meters.
What is the most dangerous cliff dive you've ever done and why is it?
The most dangerous dive I've ever done is a back armstand, 2.5 somersaults, with 3 twists (degree of difficulty 5.6). Pressing up into a handstand, backwards, 90 feet in the air is a daunting task by itself, let alone pushing off and spinning and twisting your way into multiple rotations. What can make this dive especially difficult are the environmental challenges we face traveling around the world. Whether it's wind, rain, fog, or just especially frigid conditions, there's always something to deal with.
How did you train to make a cliff dive?
Transitioning the skills from traditional, Olympic diving to cliff diving is relatively easy. The aerial aspects of both sports are extremely similar. The biggest difference is the entry, cliff divers always land on their feet as opposed to the hand-first entries seen in springboard and platform diving.
This is due to the severe force of impact, hitting the water at speeds around 70 mph, your wrists, shoulders, and upper body muscles would not be able to tolerate multiple impacts. It's imperative to have solid, feet-first entry drills and lead-up dives on lower platforms before heading up to the cliffs.
Can you give me three or four tips for people who want to try cliff diving?
NEVER dive alone. The slightest miscalculation can have disastrous consequences, so it's always a good idea to have someone nearby for help if needed.
Look before you leap. Make sure to check out every aspect of the potential dive- the structural integrity of the surface you're jumping off of, the path down to the water, and thoroughly check out the landing area below. It's best to have at least 15 feet of water depth for a safe landing, and be sure to watch for tidal differences, running currents, and anything that could be floating or lurking just beneath the surface.
Relax and keep your fear in check. The worst thing you can do is over-think a dive, or go when you're not ready. Be calm and focused, confident but not cocky. None of us dive without fear, it's a healthy balance and respect for the potential danger at hand that keeps you safe.
Start low and be tight on entry. Be sure you can execute jumps and dives safely from lower heights before taking them up any higher. For any huge leaps, it's best to keep your core tight during free fall, and use your limbs for balance to stay upright all the way down. Just before entering the water, bring your arms down by your sides and squeeze your legs together.
Where did get your guts?
My dad thinks I do it because I was dropped on my head too many times as a child, but I really do it for the love of the sport. Diving has been one of my biggest passions in life, and cliff diving has given me a newfound love for the sport I grew up in.
During the competition season is like nothing I've ever experienced before in my life. Traveling around the world to some of the most remote, exotic, beautiful locations to compete in the sport we love is really a dream come true. The tough part is training on your own and staying focused throughout a long off season. With few cliffs to practice from, it takes dedication and a solid work ethic to be ready for each season.
Why Do You Love the Red Bull World Series?
One of my favorite aspects of the Red Bull World Series is the brotherhood amongst competitors and family-like environment throughout the entire organization. As divers, we share some of the most extreme moments of our lives together, going on exotic vacations together with moments of sheer terror, we really get to know each other and I rarely see such love and quality of friendships between competitors and organizers in other sports.This year, there's a Red Bull Women's Cliff Diving Competition for the first time. On the next page, read how cliff diver Tara Hyer responds to the same questions.