I started diving when I was 13 years old. My first day, one of the divers took me up to the 10 Meter Platform and we walked to the edge together. An avid roller coaster fan, I climbed the stairs confident I'd have no problem with the height. I walked to the edge, gripping the rail, and said 'people actually dive off this?'
Though I've since made the plunge hundreds if not thousands of times, I still feel the same sense of awe when I think about how fundamentally diving has altered my destiny. Almost everything that makes me who I am – my faith, my work ethic, my propensity for perfectionism – and every blessing I hold dear – my Princeton education, my loving family and lifelong friends, my incredible wife – came to me, either directly or indirectly, through the sport of diving.
Many of my friends in the diving community finished out their competitive careers this past weekend, and seeing their retirement posts inspired me to write about the sport I love. Diving changed my life. Here are some of the reasons.
Overcoming fear. Diving is so exhilarating because it's dangerous. Learning new dives and progressing in the sport often requires a silencing (or at least quieting) of the fears that want to keep you glued to the board. Replacing a bad habit with a new, better one is impossible unless you're willing to be comfortable being uncomfortable.
The mutual encouragement and appreciation. One aspect of diving that amazes me to this day is how it's a sport where you compete with, not against, your competitors. Divers cheer for each other at competitions and hang out on the pool deck between dives, regardless of our team identities, because we all are competing against ourselves to do our best list of dives. That's not to say I've never felt schadenfreude at another diver's misfortunes, but divers ultimately want everyone to do their best.
The physical challenge. Diving requires extreme flexibility, explosive strength, and fine-tuned coordination of every part of the body. The next step is finding a small enough speedo to show off all the hard work.
The intellectual challenge. Diving is an incredibly technical sport. As a nerd, I love discussing new techniques with other divers and coaches to get at the 'why' underneath. It's so satisfying to have a complicated physics principle behind a technique finally click, and to translate that knowledge into action on the board to achieve better results.
The sound of a rip. A "rip" is the badass sound that's made when you crush a dive and rip a hole in the water, taking the splash under with you. It's the diving equivalent of a swish in basketball.
The relentless pursuit of perfection. For better or for worse, diving has cultivated my perfectionism from a mere sapling into a weathered oak. No matter how great a dive was, no matter how proficient the technique, I knew I could always do something better. Diving freed me from perfection's paralytic grip, though, because I learned to iron out the imperfections that I could, and live with the ones I couldn't. You don't have to be perfect to win, just less imperfect than your competition.
The feeling of a good gainer. Both the videos in this post are gainers. One is good, the other is not quite as good. There's no feeling like the feeling of a good gainer. The board launches you up into the air, your legs fly up into your chest, the somersaults are effortless, your legs straighten out and you rip through the water hard and fast.
I often joke that diving is one of my three great loves, alongside God and KP (#wife). But it really is. It's like oxygen to a flame, the more it gets, the more it wants. For me, diving has been a great exercise in pursuing passion for passion's sake. People do actually dive off that thing. I was one of them, and I'm better for it.comments powered by Disqus