The Man Who Turned Cannonball Dives into a Sport
Does the world's easiest dive become a legitimate discipline if you add a gang of German adrenaline junkies, a dose of acrobatic skills, and a 30-foot-high diving platform to it? We spoke to the inventor of splash diving to find out.
Everyone knows how to do a cannonball, or at least everyone who spent his summers splashing around in his local pool trying to impress girls. But does the world's easiest dive become a legitimate sport if you add a gang of German adrenaline junkies, a dose of acrobatic skills, and a 30-foot-high diving platform to it?
Splash diving is a freestyle discipline in which your task isn't to slice elegantly into the water without disturbing the surface but the opposite: the bigger the splash, the better.
VICE: One could say you are one of the founders of the sport—how would you define splash diving?
Christian Guth: I have been practicing splash diving for a decade now, and it's still hard to define. The closest traditional sport to splash diving is probably Olympic diving, only we do it freestyle and splash on purpose.
How did the sport get started?
It all started with a bunch of friends hanging out at the local swimming pool in Bayreuth, trying to get the attention of some local ladies. We had a diving platform at our disposal, and we wanted to set ourselves apart from regular divers. One summer afternoon it crossed our minds to try a cannonball dive from the platform, and when we found out that it hurt much less than it seemed, we got hooked. We started adding different variations of somersaults and twists, and little by little we found out that it was not just a hobby—it could be a new discipline.
It really doesn't hurt?
Well, splash diving is like boxing. When you get in the ring for the first time and get hit with two well-aimed left hooks from the local champion, you will probably be crying about it for the rest of the week. But by your 20th match, you will probably know how to avoid the blow or to block it, and if you get hit you are better equipped to take it. It is the same with splash diving—with a bit of training you can get your body ready almost for anything.
Can you make a living out of splash diving?
For the first five or six years I didn't really, but it's been a couple of years now that I am trying to pay the bills with splash diving. I took a class in event management in order to combine a sport that I love with work, and I can now say that in the summer months I live like a king. In the winter, it is a bit trickier. From time to time I have to take a part-time job or freelance to be able to pay the rent.
How many splash divers do you think there are?
If I had to guess I would say something between 500 and 1,000, but you'd have to separate those who take part in competitions from those who just love splashing around at a local pool, without ever having heard it is actually a sport.
How do you score in splash diving? I suppose the amount of water you splash out is what matters.
Exactly, but it is not just about that. Even though it's a freestyle discipline, it is mandatory for every contestant to announce his or her dives in advance.
There are four dives: In the first one you are not allowed to perform any acrobatic figures, because it is all about the splash. Every other dive has its own degree of difficulty depending on the number of somersaults, twists, and positions. For example, a double somersault with half twist and a board position during the landing has a degree of difficulty of 2.7. This number is multiplied by the sum of marks from six judges. The highest and the lowest marks are discarded.
The judges assess three parts of the dive: takeoff, overall execution, and landing. For different freestyle elements (handstand, palm flip, or a grab) you get a different mark—from one to ten—from every judge. And of course, the more you splash the better. Points for each dive are added and the diver with the highest score wins. It is quite simple, really.