Written on July 12, 2013 at 5:46 pm , by FITNESS Intern
Written by Chloe Metzger, editorial intern
For us, hearing the word “weekend” invokes images of lazy Sunday mornings and much-needed R&R. For Tara Hyer, it means jumping off of a 66-foot cliff into Italian waters. The 25-year-old high diver will compete this Saturday in the first-ever women’s competition in Malcesine, Italy, as part of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series. As one of the most dangerous extreme sports, cliff diving is not for the faint-hearted, and yet, Tara has done it for years. We caught up with the gutsy athlete before the competition to find out what it takes to hurtle yourself off of a cliff (Hint: A lot of courage!).
Congrats on being one of six women to compete this weekend! How does it feel to jump from 20 meters?
Kind of crazy, but really exciting. I’ve always had a passion for diving; I love the rush and thrill of it. I started when I was so young, and it just became a part of my life. I come from a family of divers, so I got started pretty quickly! As I got older, I started exploring different heights and my friends and I would go out looking for different areas to dive that were a little bit higher than 10 meters [32 feet].
Whoa—that’s so high! Where do you get your bravery?
My mom. She’s one of the bravest people I’ve ever met, in a ton of different ways. She was a diver, too, and she’d always tell me how she’d go from the wooden boards with no fulcrum and no balance. So I get it from her, and from my brothers. When I was younger, they expected me to be fun and to do whatever they did, so they would throw me into the pool. And by that, I mean they would literally take my arm and leg, swing me up and expect me to look pretty and make diving look nice. Meanwhile, I’m a little youngin’ screaming, “What are you doing! What are you doing!” But secretly, it was really fun.
The dive itself looks so peaceful and slow on TV! What’s it really like?
Weather conditions definitely affect the area, and the water temperature is a really hard thing to get used to. Diving in cold water tightens everything up and makes your muscles super tense, so it’s hard to be as agile and relaxed. When you’re in the air and doing it, everything happens so quickly and you have to be super aware. The velocity accelerates as you go, until you’re moving at about 60 mph.
How do you prep for diving on the day of a competition?
I take a lot of time leading up to it, making sure I’m completely 100 percent ready to go. Mental clarity is a big thing. You’re nervous, but you have to make sure that you’re not too nervous. You need to be in a state where you know it’s going to be a successful dive. You’re the only one who can persuade yourself that, ‘Yes, now is the time; I’m ready. I’ve been preparing for it, I have this under control and it’s go-time.’
What else is crucial when you dive?
Definitely having body awareness and being physically ready, too. I also teach yoga, and I try to do it every day. That has definitely helped keep my body healthy. So even if I take a hit here and there, my body kind of goes with it, rather than tightening up. Yoga helps so much. Without it, I don’t know if my body would be able to withstand everything, and if I’d be able to dive for as long as I have.
We’re big on yoga, too! What’s your favorite pose?
Standing head-to-knee posture. It’s a combination of strength and concentration.
What can we expect to see you doing next?
Hopefully diving! I’ve always wanted to go a little bit further, and then a little bit further, because when you reach a limit, you’re like, what’s next? It’s been really fun to keep progressing with it and to continue to learn new things throughout your career. It’s exciting.
Now You Tell Us: What’s the craziest sport you’ve ever tried?