A visit with Red Bull Cliff Diver David Colturi
by Mary Helen Darah
PUBLICATION DATE: May 15, 2018

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David Colturi is all smiles after a successful dive.

Sylvanian David Colturi continues to reach new heights … and scary depths as a Red Bull Cliff Diver. Colturi is the son of Dr. Thomas and Denise Colturi and a graduate of St. John’s Jesuit High School where he was a four-year varsity letter winner with a 4.0. Colturi continued his education and platform diving at Purdue University. He received numerous awards, including the Big Ten Distinguished Scholar Award, Academic All-Big Ten and Big Ten Championship 1-meter springboard. His goal was to apply to medical school after graduating from Purdue in pre med. “I worked in the lab at the University of Michigan while applying for med school,” recalled Colturi. “I also applied to Red Bull to cliff dive. I was invited to compete in the qualifier held in Australia in 2012. I then received an invitation from Red Bull to join the series that season.”

Diving in a different direction
The young Sylvanian put medical school on hold to pursue his diving passion. “Everybody was confused about my decision, especially my grandmother,” stated Colturi. “It was an interesting journey going from traditional springboard diving to cliff diving. I worked at an amusement park while at Purdue. I was one of the circus clowns. We dove off a platform that was welded to a radio tower … we kept moving it up. It’s hard to believe that I started diving at five years old, continued in high school, then in college and in a circus show. After college, you move into a normal workforce and you think that diving is behind you. Being able to have this new-found passion was incredible. My family came to see me in Ireland in 2012 and saw the professionalism of the sport and accepted my decision.”

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Go jump off a cliff
Red Bull selects the venues for their divers. “We show up at a location and everything has been set up for us,” explains Colturi. “Standard heights for diving are between 26.5-28 meters. Cliff diving venues are somewhere around 85 to 90 feet.” Colturi believes that the mental preparation to cliff dive far exceeds the physical preparation. “When you look down the cliff, ‘fright and flight’ kicks in. Your mental training can keep you calm and focused. There are so many people who have the physical qualifications but do not have what it takes mentally. In the entire world, there are 30 guys and 15 women who cliff dive. It truly is a mental sport.”

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Take the plunge
Colturi has a long list of places where he has taken the plunge. “I dove in every continent except Africa and the Antarctic,” he said. “A few of my favorites are the Coast of Amalfi and Thailand. We took a nine-day sail around Indonesia for a promotional documentary that Red Bull made. We were not competing. We would find a cliff and jump. It was amazing.” Colturi has also competed in Boston and Texas. “These venues are great for me because my family comes to support me, which I greatly appreciate,” he stated. “The bulk of our series is in Europe. I have enjoyed diving in Portugal, Italy, Switzerland, Croatia, Bosnia, Norway and Copenhagen.”

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Mixing it up
Red Bull also varies the dive sites from locations in nature to urban environs. “In Dubai, we dove off the balcony of a restaurant located at a marina. We were in our Speedos and had to walk along the balcony of the restaurant where they had a platform set up. We received some interesting looks,” he said.

The big picture
Cliff diving is extreme and so is the potential for severe injuries. The short-term and long-term physical effects have yet to be determined since it is such a new sport.

“I came back from a shoulder injury,” said Colturi. “The pure love of what we do balances out the risks of the sport. Cliff divers have been around for centuries. Cliff diving began to get some attention in the 1970s on Wide World of Sports in Hawaii. Red Bull put it on the map in 2009. Because it is so new and so niche, we do not have any dedicated training facilities. I train on a 10 meter platform. For most of the year, I do not have the opportunity to train for dives that I execute during competition. You do everything on your own that other athletes have in place for them. You are your own coach, program developer and nutritionist. It’s challenging.”

The family factor
The combination of participating in an extreme sport and the limited number of competitors, leads to a family-like environment according to Colturi. “The other divers are like my brothers and sisters,” he stated. “Competition is at the highest level but we have love and support from one another. There are no coaches. It is rare to be in a sport where you ask your competitors for guidance.I am also fortunate to come from Sylvania. People ask me how does someone from Ohio become a cliff diver? It is due to the encouragement I received growing up. I can’t thank people enough who helped me get to where I am today. It truly does take a village.”

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Jumping ahead
The next Red Bull series starts in Possum Kingdom Lake, Texas, in June 2018. “We start in June and then compete in Europe,” said Colturi. “I will be living in Austria through the summer. I am very aware that the window of time to compete is small. I see it for what it is yet I want to take it as far as I can. There is a sense of pride as you fly through the air, twisting and flipping on the way down. The bubbles rush through your ears as you swim to the top and you know you did a great dive … there’s no feeling like it on earth.”