“So that’s what 41 feet looks like,” I thought to myself. I took a deep breath to gather my nerve, jumped up and out from the platform and watched the water come rushing up towards my feet before straightening up and extending for a perfect entry. Kind of. Well, not even really kind of, but I plunged into the pool without feeling like I’d splattered on concrete. Good enough for who it’s for, at least. The 12.5-meter platform I’d just plummeted from was the highest the public is allowed to jump from at the High Dive Experience at the Utah Olympic Park (UOP) in Park City, and I was secretly happy they wouldn’t let me go any higher.
“That was much better,” Owen Weymouth, said from the side of the pool while flashing a thumbs up. Weymouth was lying. It was perhaps marginally better, but I’m quite certain the professional high diver for Red Bull and the British National Team giving me tips would be unimpressed by anything I could ever do off a platform. Nevertheless, I appreciated the positive feedback along with the instruction that kept me from imitating a bug hitting the windshield.
I’m not a complete stranger to dropping from heights. Like many of you probably did, I sketchily leapt from the rim of janky rock quarries after a couple beverages during my younger days, but the romanticized notion of risk-taking fades when you’re rapidly aging with a kid at home. I was thrilled at the opportunity to take the leap while trading in the DIY aesthetic for some lifeguards on the side in case I really messed up.
The High Diving Experience is a one-of-a-kind chance for regular folks like me to jump from towering platforms under safe, controlled circumstances. During a 90-minute session, participants learn the basics to safely jump into the water. Divers start from a three-meter platform, then move through five, seven and a half, 10—that’s the Olympic high diving standard—and ultimately 12.5-meter platforms after performing two successful jumps at each interval. Having world-class athletes like Weymouth on hand giving feedback helps divers improve a touch each time while providing a bit of a carrot to at least act unafraid. Professional high divers are psychotically talented and unintimidated by heights—Weymouth does multiple flipping twists from the 27.5-meter (that’s 90 feet) platform while starting from a handstand—so it’s best to act cool when they’re watching you jump.
Did I feel any apprehension while climbing the towering scaffolding structure knowing I was going to jump off when there was a perfectly good staircase I was already using? Probably, but I was going to bury that fear way down. And when a wayward thought of hesitation snuck in, it was easy to catch inspiration from seeing freestyle skiers toss implausibly technical tricks off the ramps at the other end of the pool. The UOP is filled with all manner of world-class aerialist athletes at any given time, so even the fearless, kinesthetically-aware among you will find a welcome bit of awe and something to aspire to while there.
The High Diving Institute has found a perfect partner with the UOP. CEO Ellie Smart—a professional high diver herself—worked tirelessly to find the right spot to host a world-class facility so high divers in the United States could train. UOP, which already has many ties to Olympic athletes, was a natural fit as high diving gains in popularity and pushes for future Olympic inclusion. The 10-meter platform is already part of the Games, but the High Diving Institute has their sights set higher. The women compete from 20-meter platforms and the men from 27-meter platforms. Both heights are absurd, especially when you’re standing on the edge looking down. Just walking out to the end of the 27-meter platform was enough. I was glad they cut me off at 12.5 meters, which is still higher than any other platform for public participation in the country.
You can sign up for the High Dive Experience online. All it takes is $85, a couple of waivers, and a willingness to take the leap. There are very few places on earth you get to feel like a kid again while getting coaching from world-class athletes. If you want to take things up a notch, you can join a high-dive camp to push your skills, learn some flips and really get after it. Three-day camps start at $295 per person, and five-day camps start at $425. The experience and camps are suitable for all skill levels and ages as long as you’re eight or over. No excuses. Visit the High Diving Institute website for full details.
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