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Saturday, August 6, 2016

Backflop! Happened in Spring 1981

SFU had a large aquatic centre right in between the bus loop and Louis Riel House where we lived with our parents. My brother and I would often go there to swim and to dive off the large diving board that they had. There was a separate diving tank where all the diving boards were. This special pool was very deep – almost 20 feet, to provide adequate safety to divers using the very large towers. The pool had a 1 metre, and 3 metre spring board on one end of the tank, and on the other end of the tank were the massive 7 metre and 10 metre diving towers. Surprisingly, there were no restriction on who could use these boards – another fact that I am certain would not be the case today.  I remember thinking that I could not imagine how anyone could be brave enough to jump from such a height, let alone dive.

When we first started using the pool, my brother and I were quite happy to limit ourselves to the 1 metre board, doing all kind of different dives and backflips. We did manage to do a few bellyflops, which hurt like hell and deterred us from even attempting to use the higher boards. The massive towers were completely out of the question of course, and we could not possibly imagine who could jump, let alone dive from such a height.

Then one day, brotherly competitive spirit being what it is, my brother decides to start jumping off the 3 metre board. Of course, not wanting to be left behind, I went to the diving board to jump. I ascended the ladder and walked with trepidation to the edge of the board. As I reached the edge, I froze in fear: It felt like I was 20 feet up. The waters of the 16-foot diving tank were crystal clear, and you could see to the bottom of the pool. This gave the illusion that you were really higher off the ground than you were when you stood on the diving board looking down. My brother had to continually reassure me of this before I felt comfortable enough to jump – holding my nose. When I jumped, the descent was fast and very exhilarating – like nothing I had felt before. I did not take long for me to become hooked on the feeling, and soon my brother and I were jumping off the 3 metre board only, to the complete exclusion of the 1 metre board.

But soon we got tired of this, as it just didn’t feel that exciting anymore. So again my brother took the lead and began to dive. He managed to make many successful dives before I could even work up the courage to attempt mine. However, I eventually did find the courage to attempt a dive. I positioned myself at the end of the board, stretched my arms out in front of my head and pointed my hands straight out. With a sharp thrust from my toes, I was off. I glided through the air for a few seconds before slicing through the water. It felt amazing! I was so pleased with myself for being able to complete this dive. I just had to try it again, and again.

Eventually the novelty of this board too wore off and it wasn’t long before my brother had his sights on the lower of the two diving towers: the 7 metre tower. Again, I did not want to be left behind and after watching my brother complete several jumps, I made a successful attempt after promising myself not to look down. The feeling of free-falling through the air was jut incredible and soon, we were doing jumps from the 10 metre tower as well. Eventually, the fear of heights started to dissipate as we completed more and more successful jumps. I started looking down, and I started wondering what it would be like to dive.

So one day, I decided to try a dive from the 7 metre tower. I placed myself in the same position and stance as on the 3 metre board, took a deep breath and thrust myself off. I sliced cleanly through the water as before, much to the amazement of a growing group of spectators, which consisted mainly of the men’s swim team. I was hooked on the feeling, and every day when I went to the pool I would attempt several dives. My brother eventually dove as well and it wasn’t long before I was regularly diving from the 10 metre board. I found the stationary dives harder to judge, so eventually, I started running off the board and getting into diving position just as I was reaching the edge. This helped ensure that I would fall in a way that would allow me to slice through the water. Occasionally though, I would still dive from a standing position at the edge of the board. I continued to dive alone, long after my brother had stopped coming to the pool with me, and I really enjoyed it – partly for the exhilaration of the dive and if I’m being completely honest, partly for the attention, which I got a considerable amount of. I must have completed over 100 successful dives, when one day I told mom that I wanted to show her my dive.

She came with me to the pool and waited anxiously for me on the wooden bleachers as I changed and emerged from the pool entrance. I made my way over to the tower and climbed up to the 10 metre tower. The men’s swim team was practicing in the main pool and their captain Roscoe waved to me and I waved back. I made my way confidently to the edge as I prepared for a stationary dive. I positioned exactly as I had so many times before and thrust off. Immediately I knew something was horribly wrong. Instead of falling outward toward the water, my body rotated around so that I was now facing the ceiling and falling straight down. I felt like I was falling for an eternity. I knew it was going to hurt – I just didn’t know how bad. Eventually I hit the water with a very loud crack. The pain that shot through my body was overwhelming and I was overcome and in tears as I gently swam to the ladder and hauled myself out of the pool. Roscoe and a couple of the other members of the swim came to see if I was okay and to help me over to where mom was sitting. She tried to comfort me and assure me that she would come and watch me the next time. Eventually the pain had subsided enough for me to leave the poolside and descend into the change room.

I had a bruise that extended all the way up the side of my right leg up to my waist and it took almost two weeks for it to go away. I went back to the pool again within a few days much to Roscoe’s surprise, and was told by him that I was the bravest little guy he’d ever seen, which was some consolation I suppose. I continued to do jumps from the towers, but I could never bring myself to attempt a dive ever again. Years later in 1983, when we moved to Perth Australia, we went to a community pool that had these same towers. I was able to jump, but again, could never bring myself to reattempt the dives.

Again, I would doubt that 9 year old kids would be permitted to use those towers these days. 


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