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The best way to enter a swimming pool is head first, not feet first. Or so divers think.

So next time you go to a pool, plunge in RIP (that's "without making a splash" in diving lingo). After a few lessons, you may be ready to add a somersault or a twist after springing off the board.

Diving today is one of the world's most popular sports, according to the Canadian Amateur Diving Association. Divers jump off springboards or towers into pools from as low as one meter to as high as 10 meters, doing twists, pikes and tucks all the way down until they plunge into the water.

A new form of diving called synchronized diving is expected to add even more pep to the sport. Divers spring off the board, doing reverses and twists, as a pair. This March, synchronized diving was added to the Olympics 2000 roster. Diving has been an Olympic event for men since 1904, and for women since 1912.

Ben Nuttall is a student at Florida State University. He says there are six groups of dives you can learn: forward, back, reverse, inward, twist and arm stand dives. Plus, he says there are four different positions you can master: tuck, pike, layout and free (when you use a combination of the others).

Bev Boys competed in the 1968, 1972 and 1976 Olympics. She thinks diving is one of the most beautiful sports in the world, and believes it is gaining popularity because of its dramatic movements.

Adam Marsh agrees that diving is becoming more popular. The biggest sign is people's reaction when he says he is a diver. Before they thought he meant underwater scuba diving. Now, they even know what a springboard is.

Thousands of people dive every day in some form in almost all of the world's countries. Hundreds of pools across Canada and the U.S. host diving clubs or school teams, according to CADA. Amateur diving is the organized sport in which athletes compete at swimming pools around the world.

In amateur competitions (or meets), divers compete against members of their same sex. There are junior competitions where age matters, and senior competitions that are open to all ages. In addition, there is professional diving, where divers are paid to perform by jumping off a cliff, for example.

Boys recommends taking lessons at a local pool facility or club. It can be dangerous to start diving without learning proper form.

"Diving is only dangerous if you don't know what you are doing or if [you are diving in] unknown waters," says Marsh. You can easily break your neck if you dive in shallow waters, for example.

Although Marsh has never been seriously injured, he has experienced the "sting." This is what happens if you land flat on your back in the water. "It is going to sting a little, but it is gone in [a] matter of minutes."

Nuttall says learning to dive is a multi-step process. "You don't start by jumping off the highest board. You learn all the basic techniques first, which make it much easier to perform the harder dives and to perform them safely."

Of course, there is the possibility of hitting the board, like American diver Greg Louganis did in Seoul in 1988, but Nuttall says this is rare. "The design of the diving board and proper technique will ensure you don't hit the board."

Even with training, Nuttall has injured his wrist and shoulder. "Most diving injuries, in my opinion, result from the repetitive nature of the training. Wrist injuries are very common from hitting the water numerous times a day, every day," he explains. His shoulder injury was due to incorrect technique.

Eryn Bulmer finds diving less taxing on the body than gymnastics. She should know. Before diving, she was a gymnast, but had to quit because of bad knees. Diving is much more forgiving to the body, she says.

While you don't need to be physically fit to try diving, you should be in good shape to compete. Marsh says the most important thing is to be mentally fit. Divers need to have focus and concentration before every dive. "It takes a lot of thinking and split-second decisions," says Marsh.

Bulmer says training in diving consists of much more than practice jumps off the springboard. Divers also jump on trampolines and lift weights to condition themselves. In total, the amateur divers spend about 20 hours per week conditioning themselves for competition. Eventually, divers compete at the local, state and national level.

Getting Started

Diving is cheap. The only equipment you need to get started is a swimsuit. Of course, others may say it's expensive, because you need a pool. There are, however, plenty of pool clubs you can join for a minimal yearly or monthly fee. The other cost will be for diving lessons at a local club. Cost will depend on the experience of the instructor.

There is some money in amateur diving, says Boys. The other benefit of becoming a diver is that you get to travel around the country. Should you become an expert diver, you can also coach Olympic hopefuls or judge Olympic events, as Boys will do in 2000.

Maybe you only want to get your feet wet occasionally. You could become a certified lifeguard at a beach during the summer or at a pool year-round. Some amateur divers also turn to professional diving, entertaining crowds for money.

"I would not say that diving has changed my life. Rather, I say it has shaped my life," says Nuttall. "It taught me how to set goals and achieve them. Diving allowed me to see other parts of the country and of the world. Diving teaches you self-discipline and how to motivate yourself." Quite simply, he says, diving builds character.


U.S.A. Diving, Inc.
430-201 South Capitol Ave.
Indianapolis , IN   46225


Inside U.S.A. Diving
Check out the Driver Spotlight Series


U.S.A. Diving Online
Find a club in your area

World High Diving Federation
About cliff divers and extremely high divers

U.S. Masters Diving Home Page
This page includes information about the degree of difficulty of dives, as well as many links

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