Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

These are the three most extreme water sports in the world

Posted on 22 March 2019 by Connor Woolley

Today is world water day. A day that higlights the imprtance of sustainable management of fresh water resources. To celebrate we look at three extreme water sports.

  1. Cliff diving 

Originally a niche sport, cliff diving has been popularised in recent years thanks to Red Bull’s Cliff Diving World Series in 2009.  

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Professional Red Bull cliff divers jump from heights of around 27 metres (89ft) into the sea below. Getting it wrong at that height can result in serious injury. 

The World Series takes place between April and September each year. The men’s tour stops in seven countries and the women’s stops in five. One city in each country every month. 

There are 10 permanent men’s Red Bull divers and 4 wildcard divers. The women’s event has 6 permanent competitors and 4 other wildcards.  

The current reigning men’s World Series champion is British diver Gary Hunt while the current women’s champion is Australian Rhiannan Iffland. 

Divers must prove themselves over four separate dives split across two days. The winner of an individual stop is the diver with the highest points from all four of their dives. 

Scoring is based on a dives degree of difficulty and points are awarded by five judges. The highest and lowest scores are disregarded and the middle three are then added together. This total is then multiplied by the degree of difficulty. 

To be crowned World Series champion divers must accumulate the most points across each individual stop. 

  1. Psicobloc, a.k.a. Deep Water Solo 

Climbing is another extreme sport that has exploded in popularity in recent years. 

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Thanks to the award-winning documentary Free Solo the most extreme avenues of this sport has gained publicity. 

Psicobloc is basically free solo climbing above water. It is usually practiced on cliffs over hanging water but can also be done over lakes, rivers, reservoirs and swimming pools. 

The sport originates from the Spanish holiday island of Majorca when local man, Miquel Riera, became frustrated with established climbing routes. The name literally translates to ‘Psycho-Bouldering’ in English. 

You would be forgiven for thinking that Psicobloc (pronounced sic-o-block) is safer than free solo climbing because of the water below, however, that is not the case. 

A fall from height for a Psicobloc climber could knock them out and result in drowning. Scouting out what is below the surface is important as landing on a rock could kill a climber.  

  1. Ice freediving 

The innate sensation of a fear of being trapped under ice is juxtaposed with a spine-tingling sense of serenity when watching these divers. 

Freediving, now well known to most people, involves diving without breathing apparatus to set depth or distance records.  

Holding your breath underwater while swimming is known as dynamic apnea. Being able to dive under ice when your whole body is screaming for you to keep your head above water is no easy task.  

In freezing cold temperatures, the body uses more oxygen and muscles contract, making it harder to swim, free divers must combat this by training their bodies to withstand the icy waters. 

In April 2015 a Russian man, Konstantin Novikov, dove 65 metres under the north pole to set the men’s depth record. The woman’s world record is currently held by Johanna Nordbald. She went 50 metres under the Lake Päijänne in her native Finland. 

There are currently two people aiming to break both these records. Ant Williams from Torquay is trying to break the male record and Amber Fillary is attempting to break the women’s record.