Blake Aldridge cliff diving ()Blake Aldridge cliff diving () © Copyright

Falling at 55mph

Diver Blake Aldridge partnered a young Tom Daley at the Beijing 2008 Olympics, and has since gone on to enjoy a successful career as a cliff diver. We find out what it takes to dive into open waters from 30 metres

At what point post-Beijing did you move to cliff diving?

I continued Olympic diving until 2010 but 2009 was the defining moment because I started to do a little cliff diving from a bit lower – from 20 metres – and I won the European Cliff Diving Championships in Ponte Brolla in Switzerland. I went back and won it in 2010, and again 2011.

What skills could you transfer? What was different?

Technically it’s very similar to Olympic diving in terms of take off and the platform, the positions and twists, and movements in the dives. They’re almost exactly the same. The main difference is the height. Olympic diving is only 10 metres and I’m now diving three times the height. I’d spent my whole career going head first into the water and now I am entering feet first: that was the toughest thing to adapt to.

Does the fact that it’s outdoors make it any more difficult?

It’s massive, we’ve had it all, except snow: hailstorms, 75km winds, four-metre swell waves. The waves are the worst, if you have three or four metres of swell and you hit the top of the wave you’re a lot less high. Thirty metres can become 27 metres and you can’t really judge that. The rain can be a problem as well. I do a dive with five twists and I’m dropping at 90km [55mph] and spinning, so the total speed is really fast; it hurts in the rain, because we dive with our eyes open, and you can lose vision.

Blake Aldridge cliff diving ()

 

How can you simulate the dive in training?

I still do most of my training off the 10-metre board. There aren’t really any facilities in the UK for cliff diving; there’s one in the mountains near Innsbruck in Austria, which is 27m high above a man-made lake. But it’s only hot enough to dive there in the summer, and we’re normally competing then.

What is the biggest shortfall of training in a pool then?

Well you only get to do the whole dive when you arrive at the location. During my career as an Olympic diver I was up on the 10m board every day doing the dives over and over. Now I have to get to the location and really believe in myself and believe in the preparation.

How do competitions work?

Two days: we do one dive on the first day and three on the second day. Two easy dives with a set degree of difficulty and two harder ones with an open limit, but you have to show the judges the harder dives before the competition. You can’t just get on the board if you’re losing and say you’re going to add an extra twist today; that’s to keep it safe. When you’ve got so much adrenaline running through your body, you can start to think that you’re Superman. 

The dives are judged with half points out of ten. There’re five judges, after each dive the top and bottom scores are removed, the other three are added together and multiplied by the difficulty, then that’s your score.

What are you judged on?

Take-off, flight and entry. Also the aesthetics of the dives, how high you get, how easy you make it look. But the entry is a big factor because it’s the last thing that the judges see; get a good entry and you’ll normally get a good mark.

What conditioning do you do?

Lots of bodyweight stuff, pull-ups, pike-ups on the wall bars, work on the trampoline in a harness, somersaults on the ground off a box. Then in the gym, squats, front squats and deadlifts. I’ve done a lot of stuff with nutritionists and conditioning coaches in the build up to Olympics. As a cliff diver I am more self sufficient.

What are the key physical attributes?

You need to be strong all over because you’re hitting the water very hard and you’re getting a massive compression. If your arms aren’t locked then your shoulders can go, ankle and knees can be injured in the impact too. You hit the water at 90 kmph [55mph] and you stop within five metres.

What’s the worst injury you’ve ever had?

I just had a crash in France. I do the second hardest dive in the world at the moment, which is a reverse double with five twists and I came out of the twist late. The tide change was massive, about two metres lower than I judged and so I cartwheeled at the end. I yanked my shoulder, got bad whiplash, bruised my coccyx and bit through both sides of my tongue. But it’s a hard dive and I was going all out; you’ve got to push the limits.

Blake currently tours with the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series, which concludes in Dubai (28 Oct)

Images: Red Bull Content Pool

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