• Photo By Kyle Borne
    A female diver takes off from the platform at Hell's Gate.

Kyle's Corner: Cliff diving action at Possum Kingdom unparalled

The weekend of June 4 was action packed for Graham and the Lake Country region. After a week’s worth of rainy conditions, the weather cleared out long enough for the Food Truck Championships and Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series to be a strong success. 

More than 12,000 spectators turned out at Hell’s Gate for the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series tour stop, and I don’t think any of them were disappointed.

The action started at Hell’s Gate on Friday. The weather was beautiful, and the energy was amazing. The crowds were smaller on Friday, so I was able to spend most of the day on the media boat, taking photos and really just enjoying the spectacle of the event.

Personally, I cannot fathom diving off of a platform from 50 or 92 feet above the water. On top of that, these athletes perform and pull off some of the most spectacular acrobatic moves you will ever see. Cliff diving started as a daredevil stunt but has evolved into an amazing athletic spectacle.

The athletes performing on Friday and Saturday at Possum Kingdom were internationally renowned and true to their craft. For anyone who missed it, I highly suggest recording the upcoming telecast of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series on FS1. 

Watching the athletes dive off of the platform from the media boat up close really gave a great sense of what it takes to execute the high flying moves and really put into perspective the preparation and mindset it takes to pull off such a daring performance.

I had the pleasure this past week of interviewing the defending women’s champion Rachelle Simpson, this year’s second place finisher Cesilie Carlton and this year’s second place finisher on the men’s side, Blake Aldridge. 

Simpson and Aldridge both talked about the mindset up on the platform, and what it takes to harness the adrenaline and to make a dive from those heights. When watching, one can almost feel the emotion and physicality these athletes go through, and it is pretty amazing from a spectator’s perspective.

Watching from up close, the execution is another aspect that is fascinating to observe. The entry into the water is a huge part of the judge’s scoring criteria. The precision it takes to execute twists, somersaults and flips and then to put it all together with a seamless entry to rip the dive is unparalleled.

Watching from afar at the media house, there was a different perspective offered. At the house, I was more focused on watching the take off and how the athletes left the platforms. The handstand dive is one that I was really fascinated by.  From the position of a handstand the athlete propels off of the platform and into their dive routine. The strength it takes to execute that move is uncanny. 

When you put the whole performance together it goes rather quickly, but in that short amount of time there is so much to observe. The competition was so close this year, and it really did go down to the wire. 

On the men’s and women’s side there were really no favorites on Saturday. Everyone was executing at peak performance, and the margin of error was so close. 

During the men’s championship when Aldridge finished his stunning dive, I thought it was all over. Then the very last competitor, Jonathan Paredes, ripped a dive that was nearly flawless in execution, and that was good enough for the victory.

The home crowd, including myself, definitely was rooting for Simpson in the women’s division to pull off the hat trick and win a third straight title at Hell’s Gate. The women’s competition was also very strong and ever so close. Simpson managed a solid dive on Saturday, but she was unable to make up quite enough points. 

The Australians dominated in the women’s competition and were stunning to watch. Rhiannan Iffland, a wild card, earned every bit of her victory in the competition. Carlton, who currently resides in San Antonio, took second and was within 10 points of Iffland. Another Australian, Helena Merten rounded out the podium with a third place finish.

The Red Bull staff were amazing to work with and truly helped make the event the success that it was. From a media perspective, they treated all outlets with respect and made the event a really fun and positive experience.

Possum Kingdom Lake is a great venue for cliff diving, and Texas is great place to host the U.S. tour stop. Texans can appreciate the athletic, acrobatic and daring nature of the sport. The crowd made for a terrific atmosphere on Saturday. 

Next year’s stop at Possum Kingdom is definitely something I look forward to, and I plan on keeping up with the World Series as they continue onward to their other international stops. 

Copenhagen, Denmark, is the next stop for the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series. The divers visit Denmark on June 18. 

The Graham Leader

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Graham, Texas 76450
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