Two dozen elite divers plunged into Boston Harbor Friday from towering heights in the first rounds of the annual Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series, delighting a large crowd.
The divers, 12 men and 12 women, leaped from platforms off the Institute of Contemporary Art, performing intricate flips and turns for a panel of judges. The competition is set to continue Saturday at noon, weather permitting, and is free to the public.
As the sun beat down, hundreds of spectators gathered around the museum, eyes fixed on the two platforms, 21 meters above the water for women, and 27 for men. People clapped as each athlete twisted through the air, splashing into the water at more than 50 m.p.h.
Shayna Keshian, 36, who lives in the Financial District, sat on the steps of the ICA as she held her young son in her arms. It’s her second year coming to the competition, she said.
“It’s insane,” Keshian said. “Knowing how much work goes into these sorts of things, you can really appreciate the skill it takes to do something like that. And you have to be really brave.”
Across the steps, Jan Schocklin, 72, and her husband, Jack, glanced up as a diver prepared to jump.
“It’s a little frightening because I’m afraid of heights, so watching them do it is amazing,” Schocklin said. “It’s enjoyable to be outside here.”
She watched the diver spring from the platform, twisting three times before hitting the surface.
“I couldn’t walk out on that and stand, let alone jump off,” Schocklin said.
After the competition in Boston, the divers will compete at five events in France, Italy, Japan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and New Zealand, before the series ends in November, Red Bull said.
Judges calculate scores based on difficulty, execution, and artistic expression. At each stop, divers are required to perform four of their five dives from different take-off positions. An award for the highest scoring dive is presented at each location, earning the diver an extra 10 points, Red Bull said.
After Friday, Constantin Popovici of Romania leads the men’s division with 321.9 points. He placed second in the competition in 2021. In the women’s section, Rhiannan Iffland of Australia is in first place with 263.85 points. She has won the series six straight times.
Those hoping to watch Saturday are encouraged to arrive when gates open at 10 a.m., Red Bull said. Fans can also purchase VIP tickets to watch aboard a Red Bull yacht.
On another dock, ICA employees Imani Walker and Nate Cortez marveled as the athletes leaped into the ocean with the Boston skyline behind them.
“It’s very high energy, very scary and precarious-looking,” said Walker, 25. “Everyone is just so amped up to see it happening. I feel like I’m at the Olympics.”
While Walker and Cortez said they enjoyed the event, they agreed they would not want to partake.
“Absolutely not,” Cortez, 21, said with a laugh. “I’m terrified of water and heights, so this is just, it’s a no.”