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High Times: The 2015 Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series

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Your heart is racing. One, two, three steps forward onto the ramp. The edge of the board feels like it’s burning a hole in your feet, daring you to jump. You glance down at the water, shimmering 27m below and dotted with boats hoping to witness the action up close.

A final deep breath, then – leap! It’s only a few seconds of freefall, but in that time you have to perform jaw-dropping gymnastic feats that most couldn’t even execute on solid ground. The hit on the water’s surface is hard but welcome. Literal waves and figurative waves of relief wash over you as you complete the dive.

Ok, maybe not. You won’t be taking a flying leap off a cliff anytime soon, and you definitely won’t be doing it in a competition to be crowned best cliff diver in the world. But for those who are, the 2015 Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series will come to a spectacular close this weekend in Spain.

The Ultimate High

17 athletes. 11 countries. 5 places. In the run up to this year’s Cliff Diving World series, 17 divers from nearly a dozen nations competed to qualify for the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series. Only 5 spots were available in the prestigious event, which was set to travel through 8 different destinations over the course of the year.

The final list of divers was solidified during qualifying in Cali, Colombia. Mexico’s Jonathan Paredes led the back, followed by the UK’s Blake Aldridge, Czech Michal Navratil, American Andy Jones and newcomer Jucelino Junior from Brazil. They joined the batch of divers already scheduled to compete and, with the full line-up in place, the competition began its 8-stop international quest to crown a champion.

Cartagena, Colombia. La Rochelle, France. Texas, USA. Copenhagen, Denmark. Azores, S. Miguel, Portugal. Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Polignano a Mare, Italy. Through one breathtaking location after another, the world’s top cliff divers battled to impress the judges, performing 4 dives from a height of 27m at each stop. This weekend they reach their final stop: Bilbao, Spain.

Taking The Plunge In Bilbao

If you’re going to defy all human preservation instincts to throw yourself (artfully) off a cliff, you might as well do it somewhere magnificent.

The Basque city of Bilbao is a beautiful backdrop for this year’s grand finale. Located on the northern tip of the Iberian Peninsula, the city lies within one of the most populous metropolitan areas in northern Spain. Bilbao has been a commercial hub since the 14th century and more recently has undergone a social, economic and aesthetic revitalisation process.

The diving location is the Salve Bridge. After the huge success of last year, La Salve Bridge is returning as both the take-off strip for the last aesthetic freefalls of the year and the site where the 2015 champion’s trophy will be awarded. The iconic structure and the Guggenheim Museum will be a dazzling stage for the milestone 50th competition in Red Bull Cliff Diving.

The Man Making Waves

If there’s one man to watch in this year’s Cliff Diving World Series, it’s Gary Hunt. This is hardly his first time at the rodeo (not to confuse sporting events). So far he has earned 6 victories in the 2015 global tour – which means he only failed to secure the win at 1 event.

The British diver’s freakish feats of athletic prowess have been on display since he finished runner-up in the first Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series in 2009. In 2010, 6 podiums out of 6 catapulted Hunt ahead of the previous champion, Orlando Duque. Hunt then became the first diver to win 4 successive competitions in 2011 en route to a second title. He clinched his third successive World Series win in 2012.

2013 saw Hunt lose the top spot to Russia’s Artem Silchenko, but by 2014 he was back on the podium as World Series winner. This year, Hunt can rest easy going into the finale. With a half dozen wins under his belt, he has already been confirmed as the 2015 Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series champion.

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