Five of the most extreme cliff dives everColombia’s Orlando Duque can lay claim to five of the gnarliest cliff dives ever. Here he walks us through each of them.
Orlando Duque is an icon in the world of high diving. Not only does he have 13 cliff diving world titles to his name and a Guinness world record for the “perfect dive” (when seven judges scored him 10 out of 10, in 2010), but he has also blazed a trail for divers beyond the controlled environment of the high-diving pool. Here are five of his most memorable cliff dives.
1. The Statue of Liberty
After the September 11, 2001 attacks, hiring a helicopter to fly through New York City was no longer such a simple thing to organize. Especially not if your plan was to stage a dive from the chopper, framed by the Statue of Liberty in the background.
“We had one dive permit, and one take,” says Duque. “But we did it. Taking off at 6am, flying through the city with Manhattan on one side and the sun coming up, opening the door, and then I’m jumping…that’s as cool as it gets.”
2. Copenhagen Opera House
Duque’s 89-foot dive from the roof of the Opera House in Copenhagen, Denmark opened the door to the city becoming one of the stops on the 2016 Red Bull Cliff-Diving World Series.
“That building is so beautiful,” says Duque. “The roof is 230 ft. long – if you push down on it, it bends. It was a beautiful sunny day in November and we looked straight across the canal at the Queen’s Palace. Up until then I was doing a lot of projects in nature, but this proved we could also do projects in the city.”
3. The Amazon
“Visiting the Amazon was crazy good,” says Duque. “Until you go there, you don’t realize how big and tough everything is. We were in the middle of nowhere, in the jungle jungle. It brought back a sense of the simple life.”
Duque and his team had to search hard for trees with branches high enough (88-91 ft. off the ground), stable enough and that hung over deep water. But their persistence paid off.
The rocky island of Malpelo is in the Pacific Ocean, 310 miles off the coast of Colombia. The barren island is a UNESCO world heritage site, and a shark sanctuary. A natural choice, then, for cliff diving.
“It takes 40 hours to get there on a fishing boat,” says Duque. “The trip takes one week: four days travelling there and back, and three days there. It’s a rock that is 984 ft. high, with no beach and nowhere to make a landing. It’s a rock, with cliffs everywhere. The cool thing is because it’s so far away from everything and it’s a protected area, there are sharks everywhere. You put your head underwater and there are hammerhead sharks, bull sharks, tiger sharks, whale sharks. I’ve never been anywhere like it.”
5. Victoria Falls
Duque’s recent visit to Victoria Falls was his first time in Africa, and he was impressed by the challenge that one of the seven natural wonders of the world presented.
“That was as wild as you can think of,” he says, referring to the raw power of the Zambezi river and the likelihood of encountering a local crocodile or hippo while he was in the water. “It was tough…the cliff is so high that you lose perspective. I was looking at places that are way higher than my range, and then had to adjust to a lower area.”
Duque shrugged off the distractions to pull off dives from four different heights at two separate locations: a flying front somersault from 68 ft. and 78 ft. at the Boiling Pot on the Zimbabwean side of the falls, and a flying front somersault from 72 ft. and 98 ft. at a spot near the Eastern Cataract on the Zambian side of the river.