They take off from a 27m platform high above the open ocean, accelerate faster than a sports car, reach 2-3Gs of force and then hit the water at nearly 90kmph – no one is in doubt that the sport of cliff diving and Red Bull World Series is a pretty extreme spectacle.
Whilst the athletes are freefalling at the speed of a sports car, they’re also somersaulting, twisting and turning, before entering the water pencil straight to gain maximum marks (and avoid serious injury) – the same points scoring system as the sport of pool diving.
Since its inception in 2009, the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series has gathered masses of dedicated fans around the globe – as 70,000 spectators at La Rochelle and tickets to the event in Wales selling out in 24 hours will testify.
And the media haven’t been far behind. The stunning imagery and video of British trio Gary Hunt, Blake Aldridge and Matt Cowen performing death defying stunts has made for great broadcast and online content – injecting readers and viewers with a much needed boost of sunshine-adrenaline on a dreary Monday morning. Something we’ve proudly contributed to this year at Pitch – from photo galleries and video highlights on national and regional newspaper websites to interviews on Sky News and regional radio stations.
But, last week Cliff Diving took its first steps from extreme to mainstream without losing its edgy allure. The FINA World Aquatics Championships recognised cliff diving for the first time in the competition’s illustrious history, and boy was it popular. Thousands lined the harbour walls by Las Rambalas as Britain’s Gary Hunt grabbed silver, the UK’s first medal at the Championships and what proved to be one of only two British medals at the Championships.
And what a difference that FINA recognition made – the BBC loved it, former Olympic diver Greg Louganis called for it to be recognised as an Olympic sport, and even Tom Daley had his say. We did our bit here at Pitch too – a double page spread in the sports section of The Times ahead of FINA and an interview on Garry Richardson’s 5Live Sports Week with Gary Hunt after his silver medal.
The momentum has shifted, now it’s our job to keep it moving.