Competitive diving involves performing dives into a pool off either springboards -- long, flexible planks that bend as the divers repeatedly jump on the end of the board to gain height and speed before diving, or rigid platforms of greater height. In elite competition, there are two springboard height competitions, one with the springboard at 1 metre above the pool surface, and one at 3 metres, and a platform competition at 10 metres.
Divers can perform a variety of different dives, performing somersaults and twists in various orientations and from different starting positions (including, from the platform, dives from a handstand starting position). Divers are judged on whether they completed all aspects of the dive, the conformance of their body to the requirements of the nominated dive, and the amount of splash created by their entry to the water (less being better). The raw score is then multiplied by a difficulty factor, dives containing more movements rating higher difficulty factors than dives with less. The diver with the highest total score after a sequence of dives (usually eight in elite competition) is declared the winner.
While not a particularly popular participant sport, diving is one of the more popular Olympic sports with spectators. Successful competitors possess many of the same characteristics as elite gymnasts, including strength, flexibility, and kinaesthetic judgment. Many world and Olympic diving champions are from China.
The Boys Own Book of Outdoor Sports adds:
Having now tolerably mastered the surface of the water, the learner must proceed to explore its depth. It is, of course, a great thing to be able to support the body in the water; but the swimmer's education is only half completed until he knows how to dive. Many lives have been saved by the ability to dive, many have been lost from its absence.
Many a man has saved his own life, when escaping from enemies, by diving and swimming under water to some place of refuge, or by passing along out of sight of his enemies, merely allowing his nostrils to appear above the surface at intervals. Many a man - and woman, too - has saved the life of another by diving after the sunken body and bringing it to the surface before life was extinct. Therefore, our counsel is, that the young swimmer learn to dive without delay.
The first object is to keep the eyes open while under the water. In order to do this, sink yourself well under the surface, hold your hand before your face, and try to look at it. Don't be afraid of water getting into the eyes. A chance drop of fresh water flirted into the eyes will make them smart, but you may keep your eyes open even in salt water as long as you like without the least irritation.
Some persons recommend that the first experiment be made with a basin of water, in which the head is to be plunged. We specially recommend that this should not be done, and that the first experiment should be made while bathing.
When the young swimmer has learned that he really can keep his eyes open under water, he should drop to the bed of the sea or river, where it is about four feet in depth, some white object - one of the well-known alabaster eggs used for deluding sitting hens is as good an object as can be found. Still, a lump of chalk, a thick gallipot, or anything of like nature, will do very well.
Now, try to stop and lift the egg, and you will find two results. The first is that the egg will look as large as a hat, and the second is, that you will find very great difficulty in getting to it.
Now, try another way of getting to the egg. Drop it as before, spring up as high as the waist, bend your body well forward, throw the feet in the air, and try to reach the egg, head foremost. At first you will find this rather difficult, but after a little practice, it will come easily enough. Be careful to stand at some little distance from the egg, or you will be sure to overshoot it.
Next drop the egg, go back some eight or ten yards, swim towards the object, and dive for the egg, from the swimming posture. This is not very easy at first on account of the difficulty in getting the chest below the surface. If, however, the legs are thrown well up in the air, the weight forces the body under water.
The next object is to try how far the swimmer can proceed under water.
Swimming under water is managed in nearly the same manner as swimming on the surface. But in order to counteract the continual tendency upwards, the swimmer must always keep his feet considerable higher than his head, so that each stroke serves to send him downwards as well as forwards.
One of the chief difficulties in diving is to keep a straight course, because there is seldom anything under water by which to steer. In a river, when the water is clear, it is generally easy to look upwards and watch the g\trees, posts, or other objects on the banks; but in the sea it is very different business, and the swimmer must have learned to make his stroke with great regularity before he can dive in a straight line.
It is hardly possible to give too much time to diving. The learner should first take nothing but easy diving, such as have been mentioned, and then try to achieve more difficult feats. He should learn to dive at a considerable distance from any object, swim towards it by guess, and try to bring it towards the surface. He should throw two, three or more eggs into the water and try how many he can recover at a single dive. When he has attained a sufficient mastery over the water, he should stand on the bank, or in a boat, throw an egg into the water, dive after it, and catch it before it reaches the bottom.
This is a favorite feat of ours, and when we were yet in the jacketed state of humanity, we used to secure many a penny and occasional sixpences by thus diving after them, the copper coins being wrapped in white paper to make them more visible. Sixpences were easy enough to see, but not so easy to catch, because their flat form and light weight made them move backwards and forwards instead of descending steadily through the water.
The Header - Now the young swimmer must learn how to enter the water in a proper and graceful manner. It is as easy to enter the water gracefully as clumsily, and only requires a little care at first.
Most beginners are dreadfully alarmed when they are told to jump into the water first. They cannot rid themselves of the instinctive idea that their heads will be dashed to pieces. Consequently, when they try the "header" they only come flat on the water with a flop, and a great splash, and hurt themselves considerably, the blow against the water having almost as stinging an effect as a stroke from a birch rod.
Therefore, let not the beginner try too much at first. He should go to the bank of a river where the water is only a few inches below him, and there make his first attempt at a header. He should stoop down until he is nearly double, put his hands together over his head, lean over until they nearly touch the surface, and so quietly glide, rather than fall, into the water. At first he will be sure to lose the proper attitude, but in a little time he will manage without difficulty. This should be done over and over again, and each time from an increased height.
Next, the leaner should take a short run, and leap head first into the water from the place where he took his first lesson at plunging, so that the water is no great distance from him.
He should then remain quite stiff, straight, and still, and see how far his impetus will carry him. This is technically termed "shooting." At last he should accustom himself to leap from a considerable height, say from ten to twenty feet, and to do so either running or standing.
It is our firm belief that when the young swimmer has once ventured to jump from a height of ten feet, he will not be in the last alarmed at thirty or forty feet. At first there is a curious sensation as if all the internal machinery of the body were left in the air, the feeling very soon goes off, and the diver quite enjoys the rapid rush through the air. The oddest thing is, that he does not seem to be falling, but the water seems to rise up and meet him.
Also, he should practice leaping into the water at a distance from the bank, and also should try to leap over obstacles, such as reeds, branches, or similar obstructions. Very good practice may be gained by fixing a couple of upright sticks in the ground close to the bank, tying a string across them, and going head-foremost over it. Of course, the string should be set low at first, and its height increased by degrees. The height over which an experienced person can leap is really astonishing. The great difficulty is to avoid catching the string with the knee, and this brings us to an axiom in all diving from a height.
Keep the body, arms, and legs perfectly stiff, and all in the same right line.
Any one who will do this can leap from extraordinary heights without the least fear of danger. The hands, joined over the head, form a kind of wedge, which cuts its way into the water and opens a passage into which the body passes. The head is so bent over the chest, that even the slight shock which ensues when the water is reached only effects the crown of the head, which is the part which is best able to bear it.
Those who wish to see the attitude of the body in perfection, cannot do better than watch the ex-champion of England, Mr. Beckwith, while performing his well-known series of aquatic feats. As he passes through the air from the elevated leaping-board, his body and limbs become as straight as a dart, and as stiff as if he were a statue carved out of wood.
When he reaches the water, there is not the least alteration of attitude, and he shoots through the water like a fish, traversing a wonderful space by the impetus of a single spring.
In jumping from a boat, the best way is to go to the stern and leap over, as there is no more resistance to the feet than is obtained by leaping over the side; and in getting into the boat again, always come to the stern, never in the side. Swim towards the boat with the feet high. Grasp the stern in both hands and kick the feet on the surface of the water, so as to keep them up; otherwise, the legs will be sucked under the boat.
Then give a vigorous kick with the feet and spring with the hands, and you will be lying on your breast over the stern, and to crawl fairly into the boat is then easy enough.