Finally the day of my high dive arrived. I’d been dreading it for months and I couldn’t concentrate on my work all morning. In the end I had to resort to playing old tunes on Spotify at very high volume in an attempt to psych myself up.
Eventually the wait was over and Jon and I got to Crystal Palace- http://crystalpalacediving.co.uk/ – one of the few places around with a 10m high board. As we approached the diving pool I took a deep breathe as I saw how high the 10m board was. I then took an even deeper breathe as I took two more steps forward and realised that I’d been looking at the 5m board.
Its hard to convey just how far off the ground the 10m board is. 10m doesn’t sound that much but it’s a huge vertical distance. Think the roof of a 3 storey house.
My coach for the session was Chris Snode – World, European and Commonwealth diving champion. Also in and around the diving pool were some (incredibly talented) members of the GB Junior Diving squad and their Chinese coaches.
We started with ‘pencil dives i.e. jumps with my arms tight to my sides. Chris’s memorable advice was ‘to keep your feet together – otherwise it’ll all come out your ears’.
I managed the jump off the 1m springboard easily and the 3m board wasn’t too bad either. However, when I got to the 5m board, I really started to struggle with the height and had a couple of refusals. In other words, I walked to the end of the board and then turned away unable to make myself jump.
At this stage, Chris used a bit if psychology to keep me going. He informed that they’d recently got Jo Brand to jump of that very board for Sport Relief. This had the intended effect and I managed to do 3 jumps off the 5m board.
We then went up to the 7.5m board and I felt physically sick – it was sooo high. After another refusal or two I realised that the only way I was getting off that height was to put complete trust in Chris. He counted me off the board and I jumped. Complete obedience was the answer.
Finally, we climbed up to the 10m board. Chris told me that I’d be hitting the water at almost 40mph. Given the surface tension of the water in a pool this is more than enough to hurt yourself badly if you misjudge the jump. To help reduce the risk of injury they set off a bubble machine to ‘soften’ the water. (I’m told this is why its easier to jump into the sea – the surface of the sea is always moving and the surface tension is therefore reduced.)
Chris then advised me to keep my eyes open and enjoy the moment as it was going to be my only time off the 10m board. By now everything was swimming around in front of my eyes and I was as scared as I can remember being. Every survival instinct in my body was screaming at me not to do it as I walked up and jumped off what felt like the edge of the Grand Canyon. Later, quite a bit later, I hit the pool and went a long, long way down. When I resurfaced everyone around the pool was clapping and the junior divers offered me their congratulations. Which had the great effect of making me feel like I’d achieved something.
We then started back at the 1m board and I learnt the basics of ‘proper’ diving. The key being to hit the water with your hands in the right position to open up the water for the rest of your body. I managed to get as far as diving off the 5m board which Chris (possibly generous) told me was as far as they could go on a first session with a beginner diver.
The feeling of exhilaration afterwards continued for hours as the adrenalin pumped through my body. Huge, huge thanks to Chris and GLL for the opportunity – it was possibly the most terrifying experience of my life.
Enjoy the video!
As always, if you recognise genuine fear when you see it and appreciate a grown man putting himself through his worst nightmare, please donate at my fundraising page: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/DansGoldChallenge
I’m supporting five wonderful charities in NSPCC, Cancer Research UK, Oxfam, Right To Play and Scope so every little is appreciated.