Red Bull Cliff Diving, Boston

I witnessed a Cliff Diving Event in Boston yesterday.  Where are the cliffs you ask? At the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) on the Boston Harbor.  For real!  The cliff was a specially constructed platform atop the ICA some 92 feet high that jutted out into the Boston Harbor.  The ICA hosted the 2nd annual Red Bull International Cliff Diving Competition, the only U.S. stop on the circuit.  And what an experience!

Olympic diver Greg Louganis served as one of the judges, one of the greatest Olympic divers of all-time and an accomplished platform diver.  Platform cliff diving is no easy feat.  92 feet is equivalent to 28 meters.  As you may know, the Olympic diving platform goes only up to 10 meters.  That’s it.  Anything over that would not be survivable head first, which is why the cliff divers land feet first.   As the divers plunge at 55 miles per hour, there’s no margin for error, none whatever. A belly flop might prove deadly; head first, a loss of consciousness and likely death from blunt trauma.

The crowd some 20,000 strong watched these divers perform amazing feats of gymnastics from triple twisting doubles to the handstand inward twisting free fall in the pike position, or whatever it’s called; I mean I don’t even know the names of these dives but it was all bordering on Circ Du Soleil acrobatic  insanity.

For me, a successful dive was one in which the diver survived.  But I was also thinking to myself, they may have survived the dive, but what are the long term effects of exposure to Boston Harbor water, which is not known to be the most pristine.  I hope the guys took a decontamination dip immediately following the event.  Maybe all that Red Bull they’ve ingested over the course of the competition boosted their immune system.  One thing was clear: Red Bull did seem to give them all wings.

Diving Highlights

Olympic Cliff Diving Trials

Diving for Gold

Diving is a pretty crazy sport; it is.   I watched some of the Olympic Trials this afternoon and wondered what would possess someone to jump off a platform and do four and half flips.  That’s complete lunacy.  And the handstand into a four twisting double reverse inward triple in the pike position – come on, the name for these stunts, and they are stunts, are difficult enough.  The divers who don’t make the Olympic team I think could make a good living in the circus, the best of these might even get a gig with Cirque du Soleil some day.

Photo by Bjorn Christian Torrissen

I want to know what happened to the cliff divers?  I was hoping to watch the Olympic Cliff Diving Trials, but was deeply disturbed to find out there are none.  Now that’s a sport, both entertaining and dangerous – Close to the Edge – I guess you’d have to be a little edgy to jump off one too.  Not sure where the event will be at the London Olympics, maybe the Cliffs of Moher; careful on those jaggedy rocks, Eugene.  Though the Irish might have the home cliff advantage in the Olympics, I think the flying Dutchmen might just have the edge.