Unspoilt diving locations across the Central American country allow current and former champions Rhiannan Iffland and Jonathan Paredes to experience the essence of the sport in preparation for the 2023 season opener in Boston, USA on June 3.
With the 2023 season start in sight, three World Series champions embarked on a 1500-kilometre cliff hunt from Guatemala’s Caribbean coast to the Atlantic Ocean. Australia’s Rhiannan Iffland, Jonathan Paredes from Mexico and the Colombian legend Orlando Duque joined forces to realise the first cliff dives in three pure and rugged locations across the country. The leaps of faith into a canyon, a volcano lake and between waterfalls will soon be swapped for stable platforms when these top athletes return to the sports-crazy city of Boston in less than two weeks for the kick-off of the new Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series season.
From the canyon of Rio Dulce carved out of limestone in the middle of the Guatemalan jungle to one of the world’s most beautiful lakes surrounded by three massive volcanoes, Lake Atitlán lies 1560m above sea level. The most challenging spot took the highly decorated cliff diving trio to the country’s tallest waterfalls at Los Amates in the so called “dry area”.
“This is definitely what cliff diving is about, it’s body and mind. This is you standing on a rock just looking down at the water, nothing artificial around. It’s just nature, we are working with it, everything connects,” Duque, former champion and now sports director of the World Series, raves about the adventure.
Iffland, Paredes and Duque – who have accumulated roughly 50 years of experience in diving from great heights between them – needed to repel in between two waterfalls. The landing area in the water was quite limited, but the water was deep enough, measuring up to a depth of four metres. The powerful water, the noise and the anxiety of a perfect dive made this spot special in many ways.
“We’ve checked everything on the safety list and now it’s just you doing your dives, having fun. It’s not about finding the highest cliff and the most difficult dive. We just connect with nature together as friends and explore the essence of cliff diving. It’s such a cool part of the sport.” 48-year-old Duque with all his experience opened the door for the other two divers with his debut dive from 19 metres.
“A difficult day in the office,” as 2017 World Series champion Paredes, who dealt with a mental block for most of the previous season, describes it; but at the same time an experience to remember for the rest of his life. “We spent more than seven hours there. Seeing Orlando’s face, seeing Rhi’s face, everyone was anxious. So, this moment for sure will be the highlight for me – it all looked very bad and yet in the end we made it.”
A great finish and a superb training opportunity especially for six-time World Series Champion Iffland before the start of the new season.
“The competitions are fast approaching, and I’ve been at home in the pool for the last couple of months training day in and day out and I really think it was very important for me to come here and just do the sport that I love. Do it without pressure but still put myself under pressure in my own way so I feel it’s fun,” explains the 31-year-old Australian.
In total, over six days the cliff hunter trio travelled 1300 km by car and over 200 km by boat through Guatemala to experience the diversity, richness and culture of this small Central American country.
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From wild Guatemala, the athletes will travel to the US east coast for the first of six competitions to define the new champions in the men’s and the women’s competitions. This is where wildcard diver Paredes will begin his hunt for a permanent ticket in 2024 and record -holding champion Iffland will be chased by the likes of Canada’s Molly Carlson and Ellie Smart from the US – all three finished on the podium in Boston and in the overall ranking. Excitement guaranteed!