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Life Lessons Learned from Cliff Diving

Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series

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Jumping off a high-dive is nerve-wracking enough—but off a jagged cliff, overlooking questionable water? It’s pretty safe to say the men and women of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series know a thing or two about pushing past fear. They launch themselves off cliffs (albeit ones already deemed safe by competition officials) over 65 feet high, reaching speeds of 53 miles per hour, all for three seconds of anti-gravity bliss. As they gear up for this year’s competition (which takes place today and will air on Fox Sports 1 July 27), 10 of the top competitors share with Shape how it feels to fly through the air and how their crazy high-adrenaline moments have improved their life back on the ground.

Photo: Handout/Getty Images

Learning to Relax

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“Growing up, I was pretty high strung, but high diving has helped relax me a lot. It sounds weird, but high diving has taught me when to really focus on using positive thoughts and energy. It’s important to do that before you dive, as your life is on the line. Putting yourself at risk like that makes you realize that all the little things you used to stress out about just aren’t worth the wasted energy in the long run. And high diving has definitely taught me to not take anything for granted!” —Ginger Huber

Photo: Romina Amato

Learning to Be Calm

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“Personally, all of the feelings for me happen the moment before I leave the platform and the moment after I hit the water. Before I jump, it's a mixture of nerves and excitement, and after the entry it's a massive rush of adrenaline. I'm afraid every time I go to do a dive, but the empowerment I feel after overcoming that fear every time is addicting! Between the take-off and the impact of entry, I almost feel like a machine. My body kicks into autopilot and muscle memory takes over. That's probably when I'm most calm. I'm dropping so fast, there's not much time for thinking.” —Rachelle Simpson

Photo: Balazs Gardi

Learning New Places

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“I loved diving for a long time, but a platform in a pool is the same everywhere you go. For me, cliff diving brings that challenge of finding great spots that are completely different. It's the same feeling of diving I love, just a lot more challenging. In a dive, everything happens so fast that I have to make sure things are ready. There is no room for mistakes or it’s going to hurt a lot. I try to apply that to my life and make sure I'm ready for whatever comes my way.” —Orlando Duque

Photo: Romina Amato

Learning Reward

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“Cliff diving is like nothing else I’ve ever done. The feeling of standing on the platform just before you jump is one of so many mixed emotions—fear, worry, anxiety, excitement, adrenaline, and total respect for what you’re standing on and about to do. You go through total confusion and fear, and then when you jump, you go through an amazing calming sensation like dreaming you’re flying, followed by complete hell when you hit the water, and then total elation when you surface and realize what you have just achieved (and survived!). It's the most self-motivating and rewarding thing I’ve ever done.” —Blake Aldridge

Photo: Romina Amato

Learning It's Never Too Late

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“I quit diving for 10 years, and I decided to start diving again because I wanted to try something different. I knew I still had talent and I wanted to use my abilities. Cliff diving helped me a lot to grow up as a person and diver, but I also discovered that I can make my dreams come true.” —Adriana Jimenez 

(You can go for it too! 25 Experts Reveal the Best Advice to Achieve Any Goal.)

Photo: Romina Amato

Learning to Master Your Emotions

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“Building up to take off can be a very nerve-racking and terrifying experience, with millions of thoughts running through the mind; however, from the initiation of take off and the first moments of flight, everything disappears and complete freedom takes over. Being able to stay calm under pressure and controlling the fear and your thoughts are imperative characteristics of an elite cliff diver. Once these skills are mastered, the take off and leap from the platform is the single most liberating feeling on this planet. The entire world melts away for a brief moment and it's just you in space.” —David Colturi

Photo: Balazs Gardi

Learning to Prepare

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“It's important to have a mental routine to keep yourself calm and in the moment. Personally, I like to take a few seconds to clear my mind of what I am about to do and just really soak in the beauty of the location and truly appreciate how fortunate we are to be doing what we love. For me, those thoughts create a bit of a Zen-like feeling. After I gather my thoughts, I like to think about one or two physical cues that will help me perform my dive. Once I leave the platform, my body and brain go on autopilot and complex maneuvers just sort of happen. It's hard to explain, but during those few seconds of flight, as I am spinning and twisting toward the water, my mind is totally free.” —Steve Lobue

Photo: Balazs Gardi

Learning to Trust Yourself

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“Jumping off a cliff is a great feeling—a point of no return, a feeling of leaping into space without gravity. I am looking for the same spirit of lightness and easiness in all parts of my life. It always works best following one’s own intuition and then adding a little bit of humor. As Oscar Wild says: Life is too important be taken seriously.” —Anna Bader 

(Hear more from Bader about What It's Like to Dive Off a 66-Foot-High Cliff.)

Photo: Romina Amato

Learning to Work Hard

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“The second before you leave the platform, you're very concentrated on the dive you are about to do. But the moment that your feet leave the platform, you go into autopilot—it's the point of no return. All of your worries and fears about the dive are no longer with you. After years and years of training, your body just knows what to do. I think cliff diving has given me the possibility to push myself harder and achieve more than I ever thought was possible. It has shown me where hard work can get you.” —Gary Hunt

Photo: Balazs Gardi

Learning Caution

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“I have always been crazy about doing dangerous and high adrenaline activities. As a cliff diver, you can feel like Superman—nothing beats that rush of adrenaline, but you become very conscious that a small mistake can cost you a lot. So back in real life, I have learned to be more aware of the risk of any extreme sports and to make sure there's no room for mistakes.” —Michal Navratil

Photo: Dean Treml

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