American Steven Lobue won a sparkling and competitive Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series Event held over the weekend in Pembrokeshire. Diving last in the final round, he maintained his lead to stave off strong challenges from Orlando Duque of Colombia in second and GB’s Gary Hunt in third.
The scene could hardly have been more stunning for an event making its debut in the UK – the North Pembrokeshire Coastline magnificently disporting as the athletes leapt from a 27m platform built out from the cliff. Below, in the former slate quarry now marine playground to visitors and locals alike known to all as The Blue Lagoon, a deceptively ‘hard’ and emphatically cool surface lay in wait. From this height, the water must be breached feet-first, such are the forces of compression – such are the perils.
Previous venues have included various locations in Mexico, Corsica, the Azores and Croatia. But Abereiddy, this raw yet majestic hunk of West Wales, with its slate long and deeply disembowelled and the sea invited in showed not a sign of awe. Instead, it glinted and it winked its natural glories at the crew, at the crowds. Towards 3,000 paying guests attended over the two days of competition – that figure excluding the flotilla of kayakers and cheapskates who were welcomed in from the accommodating sea.
The four rounds of competition featured two required dives with a fixed degree of difficulty and two optional dives, where competitors struck out for bigger points through increased tricksiness. Many of us would feel familiar in some degree with the characteristic pikes, tucks, somersaults and twists. What make this special is the elevation and the speed of fall.
In later rounds it seemed de rigeur to throw in 3 or even 4 somersaults and more than a full twist before entering the water at 90 kph. No wonder that moment of focussing before the dive seemed so endless and so precious. Onlookers, fortunately, are trapped into this silence, offering the competitors space to do their very particular thing.
Lobue and his smiling but spiralling posse mastered that moment here, seemingly easy with this conflict between sheer spine-chilling danger and counterintuitive calm and body control. All these guys – including the wild card entrant from Leeds on a brave or foolish mission to join the circus – gracefully, fearlessly shared with us their appreciation of this purest of extreme sports. It was extraordinary.