CALANQUE D'EN VAU, France — The towering cliffs along the southern coast of France have been enticing divers for generations. For most who take the plunge, it's a casual summer pastime, a way to enjoy the crystal-clear waters of the Mediterranean. But for Lionel Franc, diving has been a lifelong obsession, pushing him to leap from ever-higher heights.
"When you dive from 30 to 35 meters and you find yourself in midair for three seconds, it's very nice. It's the best sensation you can feel as a human being." Franc told VICE News. "You tell yourself that by going higher, you'll get more time."
The 48-year-old Frenchman has distinguished himself among the world's preeminent cliff divers by jumping headfirst, a riskier technique than the typical feet-first approach.
"The pressure when you hit the water is so great that if your muscular structure, which protects your rib cage and your vital organs, isn't strong enough to compensate and reduce the impact, what happens is that your vital organs fail and become loose, and this immediately brings about an internal hemorrhage," Franc said.
VICE News followed Franc last month as he prepared for an attempt to break his own world record by diving from 38 meters (about 125 feet) into the harbor of La Ciotat.
This segment originally aired August 8, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.