Death Diving: the daredevil sport making a splash in Norway

Victoria Mitchell wades her way through the quirky Scandinavian sport that is slowly gaining worldwide attention

Tom Daley, step aside: the time has come to leave behind the old diving world and instead plunge belly-first into the endlessly entertaining world of ‘death diving’. The Norwegians call it Dødsing, others would call it absolutely nuts. This death-defying and strictly unorthodox Norwegian sport requires competitors to jump off a ten-metre high diving board before entering the water in a variety of crazy poses. In other words, it is a glorified belly-flopping contest.

“Death diving is the latest extreme sport to emerge from Norway and it is rapidly gaining momentum amongst adrenaline junkies.”

In classic death diving, competitors hurl themselves horizontally from the diving platform with their arms and legs extended before tucking into a folded dive as they approach water entry. Freestyle allows the competitor’s creative side to come to the surface, quite literally, as they perform radical acrobatic tricks before hitting the water.

Unsurprisingly, the sport is creating waves online where YouTube videos of competitors belly-flopping and spiralling head-first into water being viewed as many as three million times. But while it makes for hilarious viewing, the sport is no laughing matter for those involved. Former World Champion, Truls Torp, warns that pain is unavoidable and that “the worst thing is when the water surface hits you in the scrotum”.

For those wondering how death diving doesn’t result in actual death, the answer is not so simple. Competitors must stiffen or curl their body before impact, tucking in at the last second so that their knees break the water rather than their midsection. Not as easy as it first appears, to say the least. The jump represents a calculated risk rather than a suicidal leap.

That said, any sane individual may question the appeal behind hurling yourself off a ten metre platform to inevitable pain. The answer to this question may be as unorthodox as the sport itself. Founder of the International Dødsing Association, Paul Rigault, commented: “It is a low threshold test of manhood open to anyone.” Rigault is one of three co-founders of the Association, and has witnessed death diving’s rise to international repute as the sport provides entertainment for people across the globe.

Nowhere is death diving as popular as Norway itself with the sport fast becoming grounded in the national identity. When asked about the sport’s rise to global prominence, Rigault told Visit Norway: “The reason is perhaps that Norway lacks its own identity abroad. The Finns have the sauna, but what does Norway have?” Torp likewise asserts that Dødsing has become a means of national expression and says: “It’s just how Norwegians are. We’re all totally insane.”

Death diving emerged from humble beginnings in the peaceful Frognerbadet public swimming facility at Majorstua, Oslo, in the mid-1950s. The complex contained a ten-metre high diving board and from this the sport was born. The first ever Dødsing Championship was a small affair, with just six divers and about a dozen spectators, but after the founding of Det Internasjonale Dødseforbundet (The International Dødsing Association) in 2011, its popularity grew exponentially.

Now, the World Dødsing Championship held at Frognerbadet is an immense event, with the 2018 Championship welcoming 30 aspiring finalists from seven countries to battle it out for the coveted title of World Champion. In order to determine the winner, judges took into account factors such as the speed, height and power of the jump, the originality of the jumping style, and the spray produced when hitting the water. A series of impressive spins and feet flicks topped off by a sideways sausage roll jump propelled Emil Lybekk to victory in the competition. Upon winning, the overjoyed Norwegian was greeted by ecstatic cheers from the crowd in appreciation of the unique entertainment he had provided.

Lybekk’s victory garnered media attention in places such as the USA, Australia, and Japan with the Dødsing Association deciding to stream the event via the extreme sports channel, Fatstone.tv, highlighting the international prominence the sport now enjoys. What the Championship may lack in world-class diving technique, it certainly makes up for in creativity and imagination. Undoubtedly there is charm in the simplicity of the sport. As Rigault puts it: “All you need is a 10-metre high diving board and water.” Add to that a desire to narrowly avoid death and you’re good to go.

So, whether you are a fearless adrenaline junkie or simply failed to master the art of a graceful plunge, why not immerse yourself in death diving? Book your ticket to Oslo now; with the sport’s rapidly growing popularity, the 2019 championship is not to be missed.