The Fundamentals of Diving

Diving is a complex sport that can look easy when performed by experienced divers. However, the complexities often lie in the details, not in the fancy flips and twists. Those details are the fundamentals. Before trying any new dive, learning the basics is critical.

The Forward Approach

The first thing a diver needs to know is how to do a forward approach. The approach is typically a three-to-five-step walk down the board culminating with a hurdle, or a jump to the end of the board.

The hurdle is a one legged jump that propels the diver into the air. The momentum of the hurdle flexes the diving board and gives the diver height off the board. The forward hurdle is one of the most important elements in diving. It is usually the first thing a diver learns and the last he/she masters.

The easiest way to learn the approach is to start on the ground, in a standing position.

  • Align the body with the shoulders over the hips, the stomach and legs tight, the head looking down towards the end of the board, and the arms to the side of the body.
  • Take three to five steps with arms slightly swinging front and back by the sides of the body.
  • On the last step, swing the arms to the back, bend the front leg, and bring the opposite leg into a right angle at or above hip level.
  • With the foot pointed towards the board, jump into the air.
  • While in jump mode, have both legs tight with toes pointed, arms over the head and tight to the ears. The head should be aimed at tip of the board.
  • Once the feet land on the tip of the board, the arms circle in a counter-clockwise motion until they are again up by ears.

The forward approach is used for all forward dives and somersaults on a springboard. It is also used for all reverse dives or somersaults and any forward or reverse twisting maneuvers off a springboard.

The Back Press

To start any backward dive, inward dive, or backward-twisting dive, the back takeoff is required. To start the back takeoff, walk to the end of the diving board.

  • With the back towards the water, hang the heels off the diving board and balance on the balls of the feet.
  • Arms hang to the side of the body, with the stomach scooped, bottom tucked in and shoulders aligned over the hips.

The takeoff starts with the rocking of the board.

  • Slightly rock the board up and down while maintaining balance.
  • Lift the arms up by the head.
  • Once the arms are at the top, bend the legs and quickly circle the arms behind the body while maintaining a tight body alignment.

Rocking the board, circling the arms and bending the legs are essential in gaining both momentum for the dive, as well as height off the board.

Form in Diving

Diving is a combination of gymnastics and ballet performed over water. As with gymnastics and ballet, proper form is elementary. Form includes body alignment as well as flexibility and proper positioning within a dive.

In almost all dives, the legs should be tight with the toes pointed. An exception would be in the tuck position, where legs are bent and tight to the body. Even in tuck positions, legs remain together and toes stay pointed.

Proper form not only makes dives look graceful, but it also protects divers from injury. Remaining tight as well as flexible throughout a dive and into the entry will guard off those unwanted strains and injuries.

Lineups & Entries in Diving

When most people learn to dive, they put their hands over their heads, perhaps one on top of the other, and dive into the water. In diving, the goal is to enter the water with as little as splash as possible. In order to have a “rip entry,” or an entry with no splash, divers need to learn to punch a hole in the water, thereby eliminating splash.

The first step to punching a hole in the water is proper alignment.

  • The arms need to be tight to the ears, with the palms of the hands placed in a flat position above the head.
  • The flat hands enable the diver to punch that hole in the water.
  • When a diver enters the water, the body needs to be completely vertical, with the arms fully extended and tight by the ears and head in line with the arms.

In order to practice entries, divers will perform front falls and back falls – otherwise known as lineups – on all levels of springboards and platforms. Rip entries are coveted in diving, and as the saying goes, practice makes perfect.

Fun Fact:

The term “rip entry” is derived from the noise made when a diver enters the water. The sound is very similar to the sound of someone ripping a piece of paper.

Important Skills in Diving

The fundamentals may not seem glamorous, but they are critical to diving. Even the best divers in the world will start every practice session with lineups and forward and backward takeoffs. Although usually the first skills learned, they are by far the most important skills in diving.

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