Apr 1, 2021

The 1983 World Record High Dive Competition was Absolutely Mad

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Let me set the stage. It’s 1983, the orcas have just been relocated, a steel tower has been erected, and a tiny platform 172 feet high (52.4m) has been placed.

We’re at SeaWorld in San Diego, California where a crowd has gathered to watch 6 daredevils attempt a world record high dive with varying levels of difficulty—and success.

First up, Rick Winters..



Absolutely mad. The year prior, 5 divers attempted the then world record of 170 ft. Every single diver sustained an injury of some sort. Oh and the pool is salt water and only 52°F or 11°C.

Up next, Rick Charls..



The next attempt you’re about to see is astonishing. It’s head and shoulders above the rest in terms of difficulty and execution. Dana Kunze, who was only 22 years old at the time, was already a world champion and held more records than anyone else in the sport. This dive would become his defining moment.



If the competition had finished there it would have been a storybook ending. It didn’t. One competitor remained, Pat Picard, who essentially had zero chance of winning after Kunze’s near perfect score, but he wanted to do it anyway. After all, it was still a world record height.

So Picard ascended the tower to make his attempt. It did not go well, it’s a little hard to watch. You can see it below along with the full 30 minute show. If you want to skip to the Picard dive, fast forward to 24:22.

I was unable to find the extent of the injuries Picard suffered but he does appear to still have a Facebook profile, so hopefully he’s okay.



Der Spiegel has an interesting article on Dana Kunze. In it, they discuss the longstanding world record and what is considered a ‘true’ high dive, despite other attempts being recognized as higher.

For example, in 1985 Randy Dickison was credited with a higher dive at 53.3 meters (174.8 ft), however he was unable to exit the pool without assistance (after sustaining multiple injuries).

In 2015, Laso Schaller jumped from a height of 58.8 meters (192.91 ft) in protective clothing and a helmet. He sustained multiple ligament injuries and he too was pulled out of the water. Plus, he did a simple jump without a single vertical 180 turn, which violates the ‘classic’ rules of the sport. Despite these ‘violations’, Guinness World Records still recognizes Laso Schaller’s jump as the ‘Highest dive from a high diving board‘.

The 1983 event was an undeniable spectacle. There was incredible athleticism and fearlessness on full display; 5 world record setting dives; a scary injury; and an absolutely incredible dive by Kunze.

I’ve included some stills from the videos because re-watching this event on YouTube today had me completely transfixed. The vintage production, the dismissive announcers causally glossing over a potentially horrific injury.. the audio interview with the divers right before their attempt! I digress.


















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