It’s been a while since I’ve had a can of Red Bull. But this summer I did find myself on the Red Bull events website from time to time seeing if I could get to any of their crazy adrenaline fuelled events.
After a couple of close calls, I was able to make it to the cliff diving event in Mostar, Bosnia.
Now we’re all familiar with Red Bull cliff divers, but for some reason, I always thought of it as some sort of a promo event that happens once in a blue moon. Turns out there is an actual series of events every year!
Arriving in Mostar on the morning of day two (was supposed to arrive 24 hours earlier), I headed on down to the famous Mostar bridge to watch some flips and shit.
The following are some of my thoughts from the day. I also left with some questions that I’ve managed to figure out a rough answer to thanks to the big G.
I’ve embedded the Mostar event highlights from Red Bull at the bottom of the post.
How On Earth Do Cliff Divers Practice?
When you’re hitting the water at an average 85 km/h, your body will be in pain every day even with the perfect entries. Bruises would be common in this sport surely?
Turns out, there is only one fixed platform that is 27 meters high in the world. That platform is located in the Austrian mountains that can be used in summer. Therefore most of the year, competitors practice from 10 metres (Steven Lo Bue said this in his reddit AMA).
Captain Obvious here, but that’s slightly different to executing a jump at 27-28 metres (21 metres for females). Therefore, visualization is a massive part of the sport. They then break the jump into three parts:
- Take off
They practice these separately before putting it all together under pressure at 27 metres. Many pro athletes say you can’t replicate competition conditions in any practice. That’s certainly true here.
The Bond Between The Competitors Is Tight!
The 2017 Red Bull Cliff Diving season has 16 permanent divers (10 men, 6 women) who are joined by 6 wild cards (4 men, 2 women) at each event.
You could tell right away as the divers were being introduced on top of the bridge, they were all doing something they loved as they interacted with each other.
Fast-forward to the prize giving when Cesilie Carlton was awarded the gold medal, you could see the joy of her competition, so happy she won. She was also ecstatic and may have shed a tear or two during the anthem.
It also helps most of the competitors stay on the tour for several years, and with such a small group, you can’t help but form a bond with one another.
This was confirmed to me in a NY Post interview with the following from Steven LoBue: “…I would also say the camaraderie is something that is pretty unique, all of the guys have such respect for each other and we are all the best of friends.” (a href=”http://nypost.com/2014/07/15/this-is-without-a-doubt-the-most-dangerous-job-in-the-world/” target=”_blank”>source)
Are The Cliff Divers Full Time Professionals?
This is the main profession for some of the Red Bull cliff divers, but most of them work jobs outside of the diving season from what I gather. The winner gets ~$6,000 for winning an event and there are overall season prizes for the top divers but it’s not a massive amount of cash. Red Bull look after them when they travel to events no doubt.
I’d imagine they’re all insanely passionate about diving so they aren’t too concerned about massive prize pools. Yet.
Ahhh Drones, You’re Changing Things
Before each jump, a bell would sound when the diver is free to jump. Each ding of the bell there were 10 or so people that’d hush as everything went silent.
Everything except for the loud hum of the large drone above. These drones are capturing epic video and photos of the divers yet it made me laugh.
Imagine that happening in golf with a drone hovering above Dustin Johnson on the 72nd hole of a tournament facing a 5-foot putt to win. That wouldn’t go down so well.
Obviously Red Bull know what they’re doing but in a sport that requires so much concentration and visualization pre-jump (like golf), I couldn’t help but be impressed even more by the divers.
Should Cliff Diving Be An Olympic Sport?
In my opinion, no.
There has been a push for cliff diving to be made an Olympic Sport over the last decade to varying degrees. You could justify this by saying that diving has been in the Olympics since 1904, which is longer than basketball (1936) which now has a variation in 3×3 basketball joining the Olympics in 2020.
But for me the lack of formal competitions outside the 9-events held by Red Bull each year is the biggest hurdle. There’s no clear pathway on how to become an Olympic cliff diver at this point. I can’t see any sports organisation funding cliff divers anytime soon either.
So at this stage, I’m going to say that it shouldn’t be added to the Olympics. Honestly, I can’t see that changing. X-Games? For sure!
RELATED POST: CLIFF DIVING MADE MY SPORTING EVENT BUCKET LIST
Best Place To Watch The Cliff Diving In Mostar Is?
Having had a long journey of hitchhiking and bussing from Belgrade, I arrived in Mostar mid-morning. After checking in and cleaning up at one of my now top five hostels ever (Golden Bridge), I wondered on down for the 1 pm start time. In hindsight, I should have got there well earlier.
With an estimated 17,000 people watching on the day, trying to find a good view wasn’t easy.
I went down to the beach after watching the first few jumps from the bridge further south. The beach was chaos!
In hindsight, I should have stayed on the eastern side of the river and sat on the rocks. I chatted to a couple people and they had a good view from there. While I had a good view eventually way back, there were so many people moving around it wasn’t the most comfortable place.
I was planning to move to various spots but the event as all over before I knew it.
Is It Time To Make An Entrance Fee For The Event?
Leading on from the previous question, given the limited space to sit and the sport seemingly gaining more recognition thanks to social media and the incredible feats of the competitors, maybe they need to introduce the tiniest of entrance fees?
I’ve got no idea on how all these things work, but one thing I did hear others was most of them only stayed for a few jumps before leaving. The most frustrating part I found was the two-way foot traffic of people coming and going from the beach, it took a while.
How about making the event free for locals (showing ID) and a gold coin donation for tourists. That’d be enough of a turn-off to keep some away who are just there for a quick nosey, making it less chaotic and enjoyable?
The people who paid for a private kayak to sit near the bridge made a good investment I feel (saw them advertised for 30 euros/person).
My tip? Arrive a day early and figure out where you think you’ll want to sit. Then head there at least an hour before the event starts.
How To Ensure Amateurs Aren’t Idiots When Cliff Jumping?
The dangers of cliff jumping are pretty obvious and Red Bull don’t take any risks with their events. They scout locations out a year in advance with at least five metres of water required. However, I’ve noticed cliff jumping is gaining popularity around the world with travellers and when you’re high on life you can sometimes forget to stay safe.
Red Bull can only do so much, but the more awareness they and the divers can bring about being safe when cliff diving the better.
I’ll reach out and see if any of the cliff divers want to chat more about this, in the meantime, this article covers most cliff diving best practices.
The Crowd Respect Was Nice When Required
When Sergio Guzman took his final jump of the day, he was still in with a chance of making the podium. I’ve got no idea on his thought process up there, but after his take off, the next three seconds likely felt like a lifetime for Sergio.
To me everything seemed ‘normal’ until I heard the water breaking with an ugly slap unrecognisable from the previous jump. It was a bad landing. When Sergio didn’t come up straight away, I’m sure the crowd all was worried for his safety.
The safety divers got Sergio riverside right away, and he was taken away in an ambulance a few minutes later (he is ok, based on his Instagram).
The best part was the crowd respect when it was clear he might be injured. The MC requested the crowd to not take video or photos during the time and from what I could see, everyone respected that. There was also quiet too, followed up by a round of applause as he was taken away in the rubber ducky to the awaiting ambulance. This just made me happy.
The Crowd Applause Could Have Been Better
Having seen someone just jump over 20 metres from a platform, I was surprised at the lack of applause from the crowd. I was certainly impressed and did my best to acknowledge the divers from afar. It wasn’t like there was a dive every 30 seconds, every applause should have been massive.
Maybe it was a lack of knowledge from the crowd that was worried about applauding a bad dive? Maybe the MC needed to give the crowd more encouragement? Maybe it was because I was further back in the crowd? Maybe I’m thinking too much?
Is A Red Bull Cliff Jumping Event Worth Going To?
Hell yes! What did surprise me was the events were all over in less than 2.5 hours. For some reason, I thought they’d have been jumping all afternoon. In saying that, I also assumed there would be more jumpers.
If you happen to be anywhere near one of these events next year, I’d recommend making the little bit of effort to get there. Watching the cliff diving in Mostar was insane and something you’ll hear me mention in the future no doubt.