Kyle Mitrione, Epic Cliff Diver, Tells All!


Cliff diving is one of those epic sports that as soon as you take your first jump you are either hooked on the adrenaline for life, or scared and will never to return. When Kyle Mitrione took his first high dive he was hooked and has been going higher and higher unitl he was sponsored by Red Bull!

Let start at the beginning though. 

Can you explain your sport to someone who has never seen the ocean and unfamiliar with it?


Imagine looking out at some of the most picturesque locations in the world. Now you look down and realize you’re almost 100 feet above the water and there’s nothing but air between you and the waves down below. When it comes time to jump it starts peacefully enough but you quickly feel the wind rushing you’re your ears as gravity accelerates you from zero to sixty mph in about 2.5 seconds.

When you finally hit the water there’s an amazing force that compresses your entire body, slowing you back to down to zero in just a fraction of a second.

How do you get sponsored in cliff diving?

The best way to get sponsored cliff diving at the moment goes something like this - spend many years training various traditional diving and acrobatic skills. 

Once these skills have become second nature, work at a show where they have a high diving tower. After you’ve gained experience diving from 80ft+ for a while, you can start to experiment with more difficult dives. If you have learned the difficult dives required for a competition you’re not too far off from being a professional, just keep working hard! However, it should be mentioned that the sport is growing and changing quickly. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are alternate means to sponsorship e.g. making cliff diving YouTube videos.

What is your highest cliff dive to date?

The highest dive I’ve done is just under 100ft. This is because our competition height just happens to be just under 100ft. I’ve been looking for safe spots to go higher but they’re hard to find!

What skills or training does someone need to get into cliff diving?

 

To get into cliff diving recreationally the first thing you have to know inside and out is safety. Most divers who have been traditionally trained know what makes a safe diving environment so bring an experienced diver along if you can. If you don’t have that luxury, keep the following tips in mind:

Always check to make sure you have an unobstructed landing area, minimum of 15 feet deep. Be sure to check the entire area, it only takes one rock or a semi-submerged log to drift along and ruin your day. The size of the landing area depends on how high you’re going, but aim for at least 15 feet of clearance between you’re intended landing point and the nearest obstacle.

Always have someone, preferably a lifeguard, waiting in the water.

If you’re trying something new, use good judgment. Cliff diving is a sport where you have to be nearly perfect every time. If you don’t think you can land a gainer vertically the first time, don’t try one!

Some notes on height:

Heights as low as 30 feet frequently cause injuries such as concussions, muscle tears and joint damage. These injuries get worse and worse from greater heights. From 60ft+ it’s not surprising to see people getting knocked out after leaving their chin exposed to the water during impact. I put together a quick chart on recommendations for cliff diving heights:

 

 

Height (Feet)

Experience Level

Advice

Safety

0-30

Beginners

When getting started stay within your comfort zone. You should feel that you have enough air awareness to land on your feet. It might sound dumb, but make sure you're also a competent enough swimmer to get back to shore! As long as everything looks safe, give it a go!

Have someone waiting in the water

30-60

Experienced

If you've had some experience cliff jumping before you may be ready to start pushing your height limits. When building up your technique for going higher be sure to practice landing as vertically and tightly as possible.

Have a trained lifeguard waiting in the water.

60+

Experts

I only recommend going above 60ft if you're an experienced diver. The impact starts to get quite jarring, and for most people the risk simply isn't worth the reward. Many of the professional cliff divers who dive from these heights don't get to this level prior to executing literally thousands of dives from lower heights. If you do decide to jump from this range proceed with great caution.

Have a trained lifeguard waiting in the water. Keep a medical professional on site or on call.

100+

Not Recommended

As fun as reconstructive knee surgery or a collapsed lung may sound, we don't recommend going from this height at any point. Severe injuries can happen to even the most experienced divers on nearly perfect dives.

Don't be an idiot

 

 

 

What was the best moment in your cliff diving career? 

The best moment in my cliff diving career came this year when I decided for the second time to pursue cliff diving full time. Over the past couple years I had been balancing cliff diving with other passions, including a more traditional office job. Once I decided to commit all of my energy to cliff diving things really turned around, I started to see my best results and I was also able to learn some of the hardest dives in the world.

 

Biggest challenge you overcame in your extreme sport career?

I like to think that my entire cliff diving career has been filled with obstacles but the biggest challenge I’ve had came in 2012. In January of that year I was unable to achieve my dream of qualifying as a full time member of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series. It was a set back but I was still hopeful that when the season started I’d be able to make a great impression as a wildcard competitor at the first stop of the World Series. If it went well enough, I figured I could earn enough additional wildcard spots and subsequent points to give myself a chance at being on the tour full time the following year.

 

Unfortunately, in March of 2012 I suffered a bad ankle sprain while slacklining (another sport I’m passionate about). The sprain ended up taking months to recover from, leaving me unable to train until just a few weeks before the 2012 tour was set to start.

 

While I was undoubtedly behind in terms of training, I was undeterred. I knew I could still accomplish my goal of making the tour the following year if I performed well enough that summer. In order to do this I planned on executing a very difficult new dive, front quad somersault, with one and a half twists. There was only one other diver performing that skill at the time and he happened to be multiple time world champion Gary Hunt. I figured if I put myself on his level, at least ostensibly, it would be my shot at making the tour the following year.

 

About a week before the first competition I was able to get some practice time where I realized I was confident with the technical elements of the quad somersault, with one and a half twists, but wasn’t 100% sure on the speed of the rotation.

 

The first competition was in Corsica that year. If you’ve never heard of the place, which I hadn’t at the time, go ahead and Google it. It’s stunning. The whole time I was there I was trying to balance how to take in this one of kind experience with all of the uncertainty of the dive I had in mind. During the day it was restaurants, boat tours, photo shoots, etc. and at night I could barely sleep because I running through every possible scenario that could happen during the dive.

 

I finally convinced myself I was ready right before the first round of competition. I went for the dive just as I had in practice the week before, everything happened, as it should have, except for the speed of the rotation. I was just too slow. Unfortunately in cliff diving there can’t be any variables left unaccounted for. As I started to come to, the scuba divers were pulling me to the surface, badly winded and a little dazed. Fortunately, I finally started to breath normally once I was strapped to the backboard on the way to the EMTs.

 

Besides feeling like I had been in a car accident I was more or less physically ok. But dealing with that accident changed the way I saw myself in the sport of cliff diving for the next couple years. I decided it wasn’t worth my time/energy/health to push myself in the sport. I realized I could still compete occasionally as a wildcard and experience these amazing places once or twice a year while only doing minimal training and simpler dives. I hoped that would keep me content while I worked a more risk-averse career. To make my decision easier, as the invites for the 2013 tour qualifier rolled around and I didn’t make the list. Same for 2014 and 2015.

 

However, leading up to the 2015 qualifier my outlook on the sport changed once again. There were big changes to my training environment, primarily in new training partners* and the collective knowledge they brought to the table (*Andy Jones and David Colturi). I felt that I suddenly had access to a template for success in professional cliff diving. Specifically, I learned how to safely train for high dives such as the quad, one and a half twist I had crashed on three years prior. Armed with this knowledge and an awareness that there will always be sedentary jobs to go back to, I decided to press pause on the 9 to 5 life and pursue cliff diving full time once again. This time a little older, and arguably wiser, I’m hopeful I will soon have the opportunity to actualize the goals I set out for myself over 3 years ago.

 

What's the best part of being sponsored by Red Bull?

A photo posted by Kyle Mitrione (@kyle_diver) on

 

The amazing travel locations, by far.

 

Favorite cliff dive location and where is your goal location still have to hit?

The Amalfi Coast of Italy is full of amazing natural cliff diving locations, when combined with the lifestyle of that particular area of Italy it’s hard to beat.

I live in southern California and there are a number of places I’ve heard about but haven’t had a chance to explore. Hopefully I’ll be able to spend a bit more time during the off season this year exploring cliff diving spots in my own back yard!

 

Bonus: What product should we sell next?

Board shorts!

 

If you enjoyed this please follow Kyle on Instagram at @Kyle_Diver

Intro photo credit: Romina Amato/Red Bull/Getty Images