Such Great Heights

Tucks, Pikes and Peril at Red Bull’s Cliff Diving Series in Switzerland

Plunging from a height of 26 meters, reaching speeds of 60mph, with just three seconds to prove yourself before hitting the water below: welcome to the bizarre and brutal world of cliff diving. 2010 marks the second year of the Red Bull Cliff Diving Series, which sees the world’s top divers leap from optimum spots (in terms of height and surroundings) around the globe—an antiquated tower in La Rochelle, France; a private balcony in Apulia, Italy; and a naturally formed tropical well in Yucatán, Mexico. Part freefall, part gymnastic routine, cliff divers are a special breed of athlete who, like freestyle motorcyclists and off-piste skiers, thrive on the fear and rush of it all. “Before a high dive you are so nervous and filled with so much adrenaline,” says Gary Hunt, the Brit tipped for the world champion crown, “but the moment you leave the platform, all the feeling goes away; you’re not scared anymore, you go into autopilot, and when you hit the water it’s just such a relief.” The jaw-dropping event is made all the more spectacular with the crowds below who, in each location, have gathered together on boats, yachts, surf boards and even inflatable mattresses for the best diving views, while the jury below awaits to judge between zero and ten on the take off, position in the air and entry into the water (splashes are not encouraged!). The penultimate challenge, shot for today’s story on NOWNESS by landscape photographer Tobias Madörin, took place in Sisikon, Switzerland, where the 370 residents are surrounded by epic glaciers and mountains. Over 3,500 people descended upon this normally quiet village to watch the speedo-clad men leap from the rocks into the depths of Lake Uri. The final, appropriately, takes place in Hilo, Hawaii, on September 12.
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