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Big waves and even bigger rocks

by Gary Hunt

Gary Hunt saw off the challenge of Orlando Duque and Jonathan Paredes to pick up his first win of 2013 in one of the toughest challenges the cliff divers have ever faced this past weekend in the Azores.


We've just finished the third stop of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series in Portugal and I managed to come away with my first win of the Series!

It was a competition a little different from the others. The setting was the beautiful circular shaped islet just off the coast of the largest of the islands in the Azores. We had to battle with the waves this time and the first day of training was cancelled for this reason. Due to the waves we had to have the competition very early in the morning. We were up at 5am and set off for the island at 6. It's the first time we have had a competition so early and the challenge was getting the body awake and aware enough to jump from 27m.

The first dive of the competition was performed directly from the cliff. To avoid hitting the rocks we were forced to change our take-off position and jump out. I started off the competition well and got into the lead. My second dive was a little too splashy and allowed Jonathan Paredes and Orlando Duque to overtake me. The first two dives were both done on the first day as we didn't know if the waves would be too big to dive the next day.



The day of the competition started out a little shaky - during the training the American diver Kent De Mond unfortunately hit the crest of a wave as he entered the water and so didn't have enough time to fit his dive in. He hit the water with his chest stuck out and was left unconscious. The scuba divers reacted quickly and got him onto a stretcher and into the boat where he regained consciousness.

When somebody has an accident during a competition or in training it really confronts us with the risks that we are taking and it is hard to get up on to the platform after seeing something like that. You really have to try hard to put it out of your mind and just focus on what you need to do.

I finished my training session and after the presentation the competition started. I was partnered with Kent and as I was in first place after the first round that meant that I was the first diver. I started with my hardest dive, the back triple with four twists. I got decent scores of 7.5s but I wasn't very happy as I knew that it would leave the door open a little and meant that I would need a very good last dive to take the win. After the penultimate round I was in first place but only by a small margin. Artem Silchenko was right behind me and Orlando Duque was close as well.

I couldn't hear the scores the other divers got but when Orlando hit the water the announcer went wild and so did the crowd so I knew his dive was a good one. This spurred me on and I said to myself "if you want to win this one, now is the time for a perfect dive." Perfect my dive was not but with scores of 9 and 9.5 I had done enough to secure my first win of the Series and as Artem was in fourth position, that meant that I am now leading in the overall table.
The result is exactly what I needed and I couldn't be more motivated to continue on in the same fashion. The next round is in Malcesine a place that we've dived before. I ended up on the top of the podium the last time and I'm going to do everything that I can to be up there again.