Rainbow off Maui
High on Adventure


One of Red Bull's Extreme Sports
Story by Steve Giordano, Photos as attributed
  Red Bull cliff dive  
Click on the photo for an awesome 3.5-minute cliff diving video
Photo by Romina Amato, courtesy Red Bull

Cliff diving has a world series?

Yes, Red Bull has seen to that, with its penchant for elevating extreme sports into popular spectator sports, at least on film and video. Also important to Red Bull is to act environmentally responsible and to increase the awareness for the sustainability of our planet.

Since 2009, the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series has provided a platform for aesthetic free falls and dives of ever-growing complexity. Divers launch from rocks, historical bridges or next to waterfalls in exceptional locations around the world. Artistic moves are performed during the dive and are judged by a jury to select the winner.

This year, 24 of the world's best cliff divers - 12 women and 12 men - are again leaping, twisting and somersaulting from heights of some 88 feet and at speeds of over 50 mph, with no protection but their concentration, skill and physical control. There are eight venues on this their 13th world tour. The quest is to win the King Kahekili Trophy as the best cliff diver in the world.

  Rhiannan Iffland dives fromm the Tall ship Christian Radich   Five-time Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series champion, Rhiannan Iffland from Australia, adds yet another pinnacle moment to her outstanding career, as she performs a majestic maneuver from the center mast of the historic Norwegian tall ship Christian Radich in front of the Oslo Opera House. Courtesy Red Bull  

In the lead up to two consecutive World Series stops in Scandinavia in July and August, the sport’s most decorated female athlete got a taste of the North following the season’s first two stops in Boston and Paris. Iffland is also the first person ever to perform a high dive from a moving hot air balloon.

  Rhiannan Iffland dives fromm the Tall ship Christian Radich dives from the tall ship Christian Radich   To kick off this year’s debut World Series stop in the Norwegian capital city of Oslo on August 13, the Australian athlete showcased her diving skills from the full-rigged historic ship. “Let’s be real, I was a little bit nervous and super excited at the same time. Sailing over here I was just thinking this is a magnificent experience and just a beautiful place to dive, and that’s ultimately why I love this sport!”, said Iffland in a first statement. “Those opportunities, and the opportunity to push my boundaries as a diver, and as a human being. So, super cool!” On August 13, the sport’s female headliner will dive for real from platforms mounted up to 88 feet high on the roof of the Opera House. Courtesy Red Bull  

The science of cliff diving

Like many sports, cliff diving is often called an art by fans who appreciate the training and discipline. But, behind the art lies a whole lot of science and numbers. Height, speed and g-force, as well as aerial awareness, timing and physical strength all play a huge role in creating the most perfect, aesthetic and, of course, safe dives.

Here are a few fast facts about the science of cliff diving:

• Take-off jump - Up to 2.6 feet
• Rotation speed - 2.4 per second
• Vertical velocity - 50 miles per hour
• Time in the air - 2.6 seconds
• Water entry - Up to 53 miless per hour
• Impact deceleration - 10 Gs
(a gravity force equal to 10 times the person's weight)

When it comes to constructing their dives, the athletes spend many hours experimenting to find the right formulas for their skillset. A choice from five dive groups governs their take-off stance, while an array of dive positions and components – such as pike, tuck, somersault and twist – can be drawn upon on the way down to impress the judges.

How are events scored?

Each dive is scored from 0 to 10, in half-point increments, by a panel of five international judges. The highest and lowest scores are discarded, while the remaining three scores are added together and multiplied by the degree of difficulty (DD) of each dive.

Scores from all four rounds of diving are cumulated for the final competition result, with championship points awarded based on each athlete’s overall position in the final event standings.

Where did cliff diving begin?

Although the World Series has only been in existence for 12 seasons since 2009, the sport itself actually originated hundreds of years ago in Hawaii. King Kahekili, after whom the champion’s trophy is now named, was an Hawaiian chief who first leapt from the holy cliffs of Kaunolo in the 1700s.

The old Hawaiian principles of 'mana' and 'pono', power and balance, were crucial when lele kawa, which loosely translates as 'leaping feet-first from a high cliff into the water without making a splash', was born on the islands in the midst of the Pacific in the 18th century. These are principles that have been upheld and are today prerequisites for the sport of cliff diving.

Where to cliff dive

A pure extreme sport, Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series is hosted in exceptional locations where athletes launch from rocks, historical bridges, iconic buildings or beside waterfalls. Since the inaugural competition was staged in La Rochelle, France, back in 2009, the cliff diving elite have displayed their skills across the globe, ranging from paradisiacal spots in Hawaii, Thailand and the Philippines to urban centers like Dubai, Bilbao and Cartagena.

2022 will see the World Series break new ground in Paris and Oslo, along with a surprise new stop for the grand finale, while fans can also look forward to old favorites in Mostar, Polignano a Mare, Sisikon and Boston.

For more information, visit these websites:


https://www.redbull.com/int-en/event-series/redbull-cliffdiving/stops for videos of diving.

About the Author

  Web manager Steve Giordano, past president of the Society of American Travel Writers, is a veteran ski and travel journalist & photographer whose work has appeared in newspapers, magazines, books, radio and television and many places around the Internet. He's written numerous travel books. Steve is the designer and technologist of HighOnAdventure.com and was the online and guidebook editor of SkiSnowboard.com. He is a member of the North American Snowsports Journalists Association and can be reached at rsgiordano@gmail.com.   Steve Giordano