On a beautiful Saturday two weeks ago in downtown Boston, locals and tourists watched as a series of young men and women flung themselves off a platform into the waters just a stone’s throw from the Ted Williams Bridge.
But it wasn’t a stunt, nor thrill-seeking social media influencers trying to hype up their clout on TikTok or YouTube. Instead, Red Bull kicked off its annual Cliff Diving World Series, showcasing some of the best diving talent on the planet.
in Boston, United States veteran Ellie Smart took on a field of half a dozen other countries, including Adriana Jimenez of Mexico, Maria Paula Quintero of Colombia, Molly Carlson of Canada, and Rhiannan Iffland of Australia, the defending Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series champion.
In the end Carlson bested Iffland on points in the final round, snagging her first World Series win and the first contest of the series.
“Approaching that last round in a tie (with Iffland), I knew it would be very close,” said Carlson, 23. “I just had to trust my dive, enjoy the process, and just let my feet hit the water. And so I was very happy with today.”
When I asked Carlson what it’s like diving and tumbling from 20 meters, the Montreal-based diver, who studies psychology and counseling as a full-time graduate student, said it’s a mental game.
“Mindset and focus is important in diving, as with each round of competition the pressure builds.”
But Carlson also said training and prep are a big part of the physical side of cliff diving.
“I’m lucky that in Montreal we have the only indoor high diving 20-meter (platform) in the world. So, I’m fortunate that I get to train all year long on that,” Carlson said. “It gives me an edge, and I get to practice and visualize each dive, and work on form, and come to these competitions ready to perform.”
Aidan Heslop of Great Britain was the winner of the men’s competition at Boston, June 4, 2022. In similar fashion to Carlson, Heslop also knocked off a defending world champion and world no. 1, Gary Hunt of France, in a close contest won in the last round.
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Heslop’s appearance in Boston marked his first-ever trip to the United States, as well as the defeat in competition of his diving mentor. When asked about his big weekend in the US, Heslop gave a thoughtful and measured response.
“I was definitely a bit nervous approaching the competition today, but I believe I’ve earned my stripes with a lot of the divers over the last few years,” Heslop said. “But I really had to prove myself in this conception. This is where I belong and where I should be, and I think I (showed) that today.”
Established in 2009, Red Bull’s annual international cliff diving competitions make stops in some of the world’s most picturesque locations, in both major cities and serene coastal areas.
After this weekend’s tussle in Paris, the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series will hit Copenhagen, Oslo and Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina this summer, before finishing up the final three dates in September and October, in Sisikon, Switzerland, Polignano a Mare, Italy and then finally in Sydney, Australia.
Red Bull Cliff Diving runs with an established set of “permanent divers”—in a way similar to how golf’s PGA Tour has members that can play in any PGA Tour event with their tour card. There are also up to 12 “wildcards” or divers that compete to qualify in each World Series event in the days prior to competition.
VIDEO: Molly Carlson jumps off cliffs and bridges in Bosnia
In the final rounds of each Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series event, 12 athletes jockey for the win in both the women’s and men’s competitions. Most divers are in their twenties and some in their early thirties. Many of the divers hail from Olympic-style programs, but their experiences are as diverse as their countries of origin. But Heslop hints that no one as a leg up upon entering Red Bull Cliff Diving’s circuit of competition.
“The best way to mark your mark,” and become one of the permanent divers, Heslop said, “is to get on the podium.” Heslop had his first big win in Abu Dhabi in 2021, at the FINA World Cup, and credits that performance with setting his “name in stone” among the world’s top divers and as someone with the resume to compete at in the Red Bull World Series .
Before going into Paris this weekend, both Carlson and Heslop emphasized that past performance does not always carry over to the next competition, and that each stop on the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series presents its own challenges.
“I like to take every competition one event at a time,” said Heslop, who also said this weekend’s event would be his first trip to Paris. “I will be thinking about my dives. I’m not there in Paris for a holiday—I’m there for work.”
Carlson concurs that the next stop will be all about work, but hopes to project some of the French capital’s beauty in her own performance.
“Paris is gorgeous. There’s definitely going to be some distractions there,” Carlson added, “but hopefully the Eiffel Tower and I can put down some good dives.”