Cliff diver Blake Aldridge talks jumping off stuff, the Olympics and ex-diving partner Tom Daley

Imagine accelerating almost as fast as a Bugatti Veyron from 0-60mph then three seconds later decelerating to a stop in less than a second, all while trying to squeeze in up to five somersaults.

For cliff divers in the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series this is their job.

Britain's Blake Aldridge is a former indoor diving world champion, ex-diving partner of Tom Daley at the Beijing Olympics and now a prolific cliff diver. The Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series has toured nine locations across the world since 2009, and we caught up with Blake to ask him all about it - as well as a few other things.

Blake Aldridge hanging in the air
Blake Aldridge on his way to first position in Havana, Cuba in 2014 (Ramon Espinosa/AP)

How did you get into cliff diving?

I got my first taste of it in 2009 by going to the European Cliff Diving Championships in Switzerland, which I continued in for 2010 and 2011. Then I was invited by Red Bull to go to La Rochelle in France for an invitational event.

I managed to knock one of the heavyweights and make the final, finishing 6th. In 2012 I went to the qualification event in Australia and booked my place on the tour and have been on it ever since.

Aldridge diving in Copenhagen 2016
A dive in Copenhagen this year was pretty central (RED BULL)

How does cliff diving compare to indoor diving?

It's massively different. Visually its a massive difference and obviously you notice the difference hitting the water. You have to hit the water feet first rather than head first as they do in the Olympics, because of the impact.

The pressures are different too. For the Olympics you train for four years, every single day, for one moment where it's all got to go your way. With cliff diving you have nine events to go and perform at and each event has its own challenge, country and weather - and it's own problems.

Aldridge dives off a castle in La Rochelle
Diving spots range from the spectacular to the bizarre (RED BULL)

What are your favourite locations you've visited?

I think Thailand is one of my favourites. We had to climb up on bamboo ladders and abseil down to take off spots and things like that. The whole thing was an adventure in such a picturesque place.

Blake Aldridge and Gary Hunt
Blake Aldridge and Gary Hunt take a leap. (Niall Carson/PA)

Is your experience of these places different through cliff diving?

Yes, totally. You really get to live it. You learn a lot about the local cultures and meet lots of locals at the events so it's a lot more interactive than Olympic diving was. Olympic diving you're just with the other competitors and coaches - you don't actually meet the crowds.

Crowds are so much bigger at Red Bull events as well, my first event in La Rochelle there were 70,000 spectators.

Aldridge diving in Azores with onlooking boat
Spectators often watch from the sea (RED BULL)

How did your first indoor dive compare with your first cliff dive?

They're so far apart. I don't remember my first dive into a pool but I remember my first 10 metre dive because it was on a TV show called "You Bet!", with Matthew Kelly, where we were challenged to do a hundred dives in three minutes. I was 12 at the time.

I remember my first cliff dive and it was terrifying. I walked to the end of the board - then I walked back. I had some wise words from Gary (Hunt, fellow Brit and five-time Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series winner). He said once you take off everything will just happen and your body will know what to do.

With those words I managed to jump off and make a final in my first event. It proves how quickly you can progress if you overcome fear.

Gary Hunt and Blake Aldridge
Gary Hunt, pictured here with Aldridge on the right, has dived in all 53 stops that have ever happened on the world series tour (Dean Treml/AP)

What sort of injuries do you tend to get from cliff diving?

Mainly damaged ankles and knees, as well as groin strains and torn groins - of which I've had a few. It's just from the sheer impact of hitting the water. I get injured a lot but I enjoy the disappointment of having an injury then managing to overcome it.

Have you had any belly-flops?

Not so much, I've been spinning around and flipping off stuff since I was five years old - but you can't get complacent.

Combined photo showing diving performance at the Olympics
With so much to do before they land, it's a wonder divers don't flop more (Kyodo/AP)

You recently turned 34, is there a time limit to cliff diving for you?

For me my time limit is when I'm not competitive anymore or when my body can't take it. That will happen but it's not something I think about.

The older you get the wiser you get though and you understand the consequences more. Plus I'm not as supple or elasticated as I was as a kid.

Blake Aldridge cliff diving in Pembrokeshire
Blake describes cliff diving as "a calculated risk" (RED BULL)

Have you been watching the Olympics?

Of course, I've been watching the lot of it. We're doing amazingly as a nation. London we did well because we were on home soil, but now in Rio and we are doing even better than we did at home. With Beijing, London and now Rio you're really starting to see funding in the grassroots of sports paying dividends.

Jack Laugher, right, and Chris Mears compete during the men's synchronized 3-metre springboard final
Jack Laugher and Chris Mears have excelled in Rio (Wong Maye-E/AP)

Can Britain hold onto second in the medal table?

I'm not going to say no, I would love to say yes! There's a lot of events still to go though and if we don't we shouldn't be too disappointed.

What have you made of your ex partner Tom Daley's performance at the Olympics?

He and Daniel (Goodfellow) did fantastically in the synchronised diving. Tom has been to Beijing with me and London with Pete (Waterfield) and missed out on the medals in that event, but he's finally got one with Daniel. I'm really pleased for Daniel as well, it's his first Olympic games and his first medal and I'm sure Tom helped him a lot.

It's great that Britain have any medals in the diving to be honest. We have only ever got one and now we have a few, including our first Olympic gold from Chris (Mears) and Jack (Laugher). They've done phenomenally already and Tom still has his individual event to come.

Aldridge and Daley share a joke
Daley was only 14 when Aldridge was his diving partner in Beijing (Gareth Copley/PA)

Are you still in touch?

Yeah, I still see him. He's done brilliantly and has managed to keep his feet on the ground while still going out there and competing. I've not been involved in his competitive career for many years now but when I see him I still wish him luck and congratulations. He's a good kid and I just hope he continues flying the flag for Britain.

Has watching made you want to go back to the Olympics?

Not at all. Watching the medals makes you want to be there of course but I'm just looking forward to my next event in Polignano (Polignano a Mare in Italy where the next world series event is on August 28th).

British diving sensation Tom Daley, left, and partner Blake Aldridge, centre, practice in Beijing
Diving in Beijing. (Andy Wong/AP)

Could cliff diving make it to the games?

The big organisations see that it is a professional and challenging sport - we train just as hard as Olympic athletes. The main problem is numbers; we need to get more countries involved and currently there are only 10 women taking part in the world event.

Aldridge dives into the sea
Could cliff diving light up the coastlines at future Olympics? This shot is from Pembrokeshire, Britain (RED BULL)

What advice would you give to people looking to get into cliff diving?

Go and find your local pool or a diving club. You've only got to do a little research online. Pay for a couple of lessons with an experienced coach and learn how to control your body from 10 metres first.

Don't go out and try to do it on your own into the sea - you can't just go and jump off a cliff!

Blake Aldridge diving from a cliff
Blake Aldridge diving from a cliff (RED BULL)

2016 marks a return to the UK for the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series. It is in Pembrokeshire on the 10th & 11th September with all the action live on Red Bull TV.

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