The sport of diving has taken San Antonio resident Rachelle Simpson to the other side of the world and, this weekend, back again.
Simpson is the lone Texan competing in an international field at the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series event on Hell’s Gate at Possum Kingdom Lake on Friday and Saturday as the Red Bull series makes its lone stop in the United States this season.
Contestants launch themselves off cliff-mounted platforms, 89 feet off the water for the men and 65 feet for the women, performing Olympic-style twists and turns as they plummet to the lake below.
Judges score the contestants 0-10 on degree of difficulty and success of performing the acrobatic tricks as they fall to the water.
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Simpson said she believes the competitive and daredevil nature of the sport will easily catch on with those Texans who choose to line the lake with boats to watch the event. Admission is free, but there is nowhere on land to view the event.
“I think Texas will love it. It’s an extreme sport. Texas fans are great so I really think it can spread the sport and a lot more people hear about it,” she said.
It was with a club team based out of San Antonio that Simpson developed her love for the sport of diving after being raised as a gymnast by parents who owned a gym school.
After high school graduation, Simpson developed her showmanship working in diving shows at Sea World in San Antonio for five years before moving on to a Cirque du Soleil-style diving show in China.
A couple of years later, Simpson moved back to Texas looking for a new challenge and Red Bull gave her the opportunity.
“I was so excited,” she said. “I was hoping for it so much. To be able to go all over the world in some really amazing spots and cliff dive is a dream come true.”
This weekend’s stop is one of seven that make up the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series.
Contestants accrue points for their final standings after three rounds of diving over the two-day competition. The points are carried through the season until a grand champion is crowned after the seventh event.
The Texas stop will be the first for the female competitors in the first full season of competition for the women.
Although she has dived so many times before, the first day at the event is always the most jittery for Simpson.
“For me, that first day of getting my body back in the groove, that’s when the nerves are the most,” she said. “After I’ve gotten a couple of dives off I start to relax.
“I think the day of the competition, I’ll be a little jittery because I want to do really well but the nerves are definitely the first day when I try to see the water and the sun and deal with the weather.”
After that it’s a jump, tuck, twist, roll and feet first splash that Simpson hopes she and her sport will land into the heart of Texas.