Photo Provided by Purdue Athletics
A tiny crowd gathered as the former Purdue diver climbed up to the top of the diving platform planted inside a makeshift pirate boat located to the side of the boardwalk at Indiana Beach.
David Colturi plunged 21 meters with a flip, a twist and a swing of the hips to get his feet beneath him for the feet first landing in the cold water of Lake Shafer.
Colutri, Steve LoBue and Kyle Mitrione are former divers at Purdue and are the only Americans on tour in the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series. Platform diving is done on a board that is typically 10 meters high whereas in cliff diving competitions, divers jump from platforms that are 26 to 28 meters high. Heights aren’t the only attraction of the sport; the venues and structures where the events are held draw interest as well.
LoBue’s specialty dive is a quint half pike; a dive with five somersaults and a half twist in the pike position. It’s a dangerous dive that only LoBue has successfully performed. LoBue added that divers have to be mentally prepared for every dive they perform or risk getting seriously hurt.
Colturi said the mental aspect of cliff diving is what separates cliff divers from platform divers. He believes there many capable platform divers, but the fear of being up so high keeps regular platform divers from taking the plunge.
“It’s definitely nerve racking going up there for the first time,” Colturi said. “You got your knees shaking and your hearts’ pounding, but once you get used to the height and and start doing some normal dives it really kind of comes together and you go with it.”
LoBue’s thought process as he climbs up to the top of the platform is to think of one or two things he needs to do to have a good dive.
“Depending on the dive, (I’ll think to myself) ‘chin up, strong jump’ … and then those are the only two things I’m thinking (about),” LoBue said.
Colturi has never suffered any serious injury, which he said is very lucky. The worst that has ever happened to him was not being vertical enough on the landing and slamming his chest and throat into the water, leaving him sore for a couple days. LoBue, however, had a pretty serious incident when he was trying out for the tour in Australia.
“I don’t think I respected the height as much as I should have (and) I landed past vertical and I actually fractured my tailbone on the day before competition,” LoBue said. “The danger is all there and if you don’t respect it, its going to hurt you.”
In the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series, divers travel around the world to different destinations, to dive off various structures, each one posing its own unique challenge. The crowds that attend these events are comparable in size to those attending professional football games.
Last season in Boston, the competitors dove off the Museum of Contemporary Art which boasts a cantilever roof that shoots out over the Fort Point Channel. High above, divers can see the entire Boston skyline and 50,000 people gathered below to watch the competition.
On the Azores Islands of Portugal, divers make use of an ancient volcano. Next to the volcano sits a monolith, a large cliff-like structure that jets out of the water, where divers returned to the roots of cliff diving and dove in sans platform.
“You have to take into account the cliff and you have to lean forward and jump out a little bit further than normal, “ Colturi said.
In Oman, located in the Middle East, divers face what could be one of the trickiest challenges of the tour. In a Wadi, a cannon-like valley, divers jump out into a thin stretch of water that can disorient divers from 27 meters up.
“The visuals were really weird because when you stand up on the platform and look down it really looks like there’s 10 feet of water in front of you and you can’t lean out and jump too far,” Colturi said.
All three divers got their start in cliff diving performing with the Indiana ski team, a stunt team that performs at Indiana Beach. However, Colturi took just one year of cliff diving before he submitted an application to try out for the Red Bull tour. LoBue did stunt diving in China for a year and then spent time on a Royal Caribbean cruise where he did high diving.
LoBue joined the Red Bull tour in 2011 and Colturi and Mitrione joined the tour in 2012.
In the 2012 season, LoBue finished third in the series and won the cliff diving event in Wales. Colturi finished fifth and his top finish was third at the Boston event. The top five divers are automatically on the tour for next season and Mitrione is a wild card entry for the 2013 after he finished outside the top 10.
In the first stop of the 2013 season in France, Colturi finished seventh and LoBue finished eighth. The divers left for Denmark Tuesday for a six-week trip through Europe for different dive competitions.