• File Photo
    An outer view of Hell's Gate at Possum Kingdom Lake near Graham.

Cliff Diving: a sport of will and skill

The Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series returns to PK Friday

The sport of cliff diving has evolved out of high diving as an adventure sport. The sport combines aerobics with height and daredevil athleticism. The courageous athletes of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series return to Possum Kingdom Lake on Friday and Saturday.

Cliff diving started as an adventure sport performed by thrill seekers. Today the sport has evolved into a sophisticated athletic competition. Red Bull sponsors the Cliff Diving World Series with nine tour stops from June to October. Possum Kingdom Lake near Graham kicks off the series, and provides the only U.S. tour stop this year. 

The competition starts with a free-fall from 28-meters (92 feet). The men and women of the circuit perform different dives and are judged based on their performance of the dives. There are three rounds. In round one, all divers make a required dive. In round two, there is an optional dive, and then the final round commences. 

Divers are judged from 0-10. The scores go up in half point increments, for example 4.0 to 4.5 to 5.0. There are five judges who give five scores. The highest and lowest scores are discarded, and the remaining three scores are averaged out. The averaged sum is then multiplied by the degree of difficulty of the dive performed, and then points are awarded. The degree of difficulty is calculated by determining several factors of the dive. The type of takeoff, number of somersaults, number of twists, position during somersaults and the position of entry are all factors in the calculation of how the degree of difficulty is applied.

There are 24 active types of men’s dives and 18 for women. There are three main dive positions that the dives originate from, pike, tuck and straight. 

The Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series has been going on for seven years. In those seven years, the athletes have competed in 23 countries in 25 different places and had one million spectators come and watch the sport for themselves.

Gary Hunt from Great Britain was the 2015 men’s champion. Orlando Duque of Colombia was second, and Jonathan Paredes of Mexico was third. Hunt was also the reigning champion in 2014.

On the women’s side, Rachelle Simpson from Texas was the 2015 champion. Ginger Huber, also from the U.S, was second, and another American Cesilie Carlton was third. The 2014 women’s circuit champion was also Simpson.

Hunt and Simpson are both looking to become three-time champions, and the season starts Friday at Possum Kingdom Lake.

The weather was difficult for the 2015 cliff diving stop at Possum Kingdom. In 2016, rain is in the forecast for most of the week. It is difficult to tell at the present time what the weather will hold for Friday and Saturday’s stop.

The event is held on the south side of the lake at Hell’s Gate. The towering cliffs are perfect for the sport and provide a great backdrop for the adventure sport. The event will be open to the public, but Hell’s Gate is only accessible by personal boat or watercraft. The property around the area is entirely private.

The platform heights at Possum Kingdom will be at 28 and 20 meters. The water depth in the Hell’s Gate area ranges from five to seven meters. 

The action kicks off this week at Possum Kingdom with athletes scheduled to practice on Thursday. The divers will have more opportunities to practice on Friday before the first round kicks off.

The first round on Friday is tentatively scheduled to start around 2:45 p.m. for the women and after 3 p.m. for the men. 

On Saturday, the men’s second round action is tentatively scheduled to start around 1:45 p.m., and the day’s action should finish by around 4 p.m.

Coverage from the event will be available on Red Bull TV and on a later telecast from Fox Sports 1 July 9 at 11 a.m. Coverage from the weekend’s action will be available online, and in next Wednesday’s edition of The Graham Leader.

The Graham Leader

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