Taking diving seriously
By Kylie Robertson
I have an infinite amount of respect for Alexandre Despatie.
For those who have no idea what I’m talking about (and I’m guessing that’s probably the majority), think way back to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Canada won silver in the three metre springboard diving competition and Despatie was the man who did it.
Springboard and tower diving is definitely something that you love or hate; that you can either will yourself to attempt or that you avoid like the plague. There really is no middle ground with this sport – you cannot simply pick it up on a whim like a casual game of basketball or soccer…or at least, not without risking serious injury.
Everyone has the requisite cannonball to bust out when they’re at the pool and sometimes there’s even a jump off the edge or board head-first involved as well, but beyond that diving is neglected – spare the kids at the pool who recklessly throw themselves off the board to twist and flip in every direction. That scares the hell out of me!
I must admit though, I do have a bias. My aunt competed as a diver in the 1971 Pan American Games and won gold, and went to the 1972 Summer Games in Munich. I was born into a family that takes the sport very seriously.
So it should come as no surprise that I have been diving on and off since the age of 13. I reached the pre-competitive level as a teenager and bowed out; I was unable to handle the intensity of reaching the competitive level so close to when I began the sport.
When I re-entered the diving world about five years later, I realized that the passion doesn’t die. I am still very passionate about the sport, even to this day. I’ve once again enrolled in lessons through the Rocky Mountain Diving Club.
But let’s face it: diving is scary — terrifying, really. The passion may not die, but the fear doesn’t either. Unfortunately, some muscle memory does. Since enrolling in lessons, there have been some spectacular smacks from my face or thighs hitting the surface of the water instead of my hands or feet.
It’s difficult to be spatially aware of your position in the air. Not long ago, I was attempting an open pike front flip; basically, you fold yourself in half at the height of your dive after leaving the board, and do one full rotation so that you land on your feet in the water.
This is what I attempted. What I actually did was an open pike front flip to face-plant landing. I threw my arms too hard after leaving the board, and over-rotated the flip. Not pleasant.
This sport is different from others in many ways; for instance, it goes against every baser instinct that we possess as human beings. The sport demands that you hurl yourself through the air, off a fiberglass-covered wooden plank. Up into the air, I must note, not out. That’s one of the hardest concepts to grasp at first: that the board will, by design, throw you out and you basically just need to get as high as possible.Then, once in the air, you must contort and twist your body to make it move on one or more planes, both the horizontal and vertical.
If you refuse to allow the physics of it all to sink into your brain, this can be the most exciting and the most frightening experience. The feeling of nailing a dive is akin to hitting a home run, scoring the winning goal, or sinking a three-pointer. Hitting that water perfectly vertical and hearing that pleasing “rip” sound that your hands or feet make, just before your ears go under, is thrilling.
However, in my opinion, the sport is woefully under-recognized. More often than not when I mention that I have a diving class, the response is “Scuba?”
So, to all the braver Calgarians out there, I suggest you give the sport a whirl!
Summer sessions are set to begin through Rocky Mountain on July 12 for all ages, from children to adults. Check out the website for more information: www.rockymountaindiving.ca.
After all, it’s just water, it won’t bite…but it might smack.