Mazatlan cliff diving has been something for daring boys and young men to do for generations, but it has only become a popular spectator sport for visitors since the early 1960s. As a bet with a friend, Mario Gonzales Aguilar began the tradition of leaping off a stone platform that is 45 feet high into a small area of water (less than 45 square feet) in depths sometimes a low as only five feet. This young man continued to make the dangerous leap well into his 60s.
Malecon Cliff Diving
It is the Acapulco Mexican cliff divers who are the most famous. Those athletes have been leaping from the La Quebrada cliffs since long before they formed a formal group in 1934. It’s true that the Acapulco dive is more difficult at 125 feet above the sea—the dives are so spectacular that it’s become an international event appearing regularly on mainstream television sports channels. But what is great about the Mazatlan cliff diving is how easily accessible it is for the viewer. Twice a day, just line up on the Malecon around the dive spot and you’ll get a great show. Many guided tours from cruises and other vacation packages will be timed to take in one of the performances. Even in rougher weather, the more experienced divers will take the leap. The divers are not paid, and it is expected that most spectators will give them a small tip.
In addition to the daredevils of Mazatlan and Acapulco, there are other Mexican cliff divers in the Yucatan Peninsula. These thrill seekers leap into the cenote (well) Ik Kil, a natural sinkhole near the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza. This leap from jungle covered ground is about 140 feet into the water below, and is part of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series. If you’re not up for this kind of leap, there are stairs carved into the wall, and you can walk down for a most unusual swim. Another great cliff diving destination in the Americas is Hawaii, where “lele kawa” competitions have been going on since the time King Kamehameha I. Thrill seekers also go to the Blue Mountains of Jamaica and Switzerland, the most popular of all cliff diving destinations. The World High Diving Federation championships are held in Brontallo, Switzerland.