Orlando Duque used to dive in national swimming pool competitions in his native Colombia since he was 10, but since then, he’s raised the bar higher…much higher.
For the past 18 years, he’s been diving from the world’s most dangerous cliffs, at altitudes averaging the height of eight-story buildings, reaching speeds between 52 to 62 miles per hour. Now 38, he is an international cliff diving champion with nine world championship titles, and he is also in the Guinness Book of World Records for earning a perfect 10 at the 2000 World Championships.
This week, in order to prepare for the upcoming Boston round of Red Bull’s global cliff diving competition this coming Sunday, Duque leapt from a helicopter hovering 75 feet high, diving into the New York Harbor, with the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop, at over 50 mph.
“It is scary…there is a lot of danger, and the stress is high,” says Duque. “We check that the water is deep, and that there are no obstacles before we jump.”
Duque, who currently resides in Hawaii with his girlfriend, is at the climax of his career as a professional independent diver.
“I love diving in the Yucatan — it’s spectacular — as well as Hawaii and the Amalfi Coast in Italy,” says the world-traveling diver. “I go every year for diving…and the food.”
This weekend, he’ll be joined by a host of other world-class divers (including American competitors Andy Jones, Kent DuMond, Steven LoBue, Kyle Mitrione and David Colturi) who will be diving from a height of 27 meters (roughly 90 feet). Greg Louganis, the former Olympian diver, will be a judge in Boston.
“It’s so fun, if you dedicate the time to it,” says Duque. “I have so much fun and live happy.”
Check out videos of Orlando Duque diving around the world, here.
Sandra Lilley contributed to this report.