When Australian cliff diver Rhiannan Iffland stares down at the water in Greece this weekend, she’ll put all fear aside to show off some new moves.

The world champion cliff diver, and most decorated female athlete in the sport, is about to defend her Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series title for the eighth year as the the 2024 season begins.

“I have a couple of ideas this year, and I know that it’s not going to be easy,” she said.

The extreme sport sees women divers launch from a height of 21 metres, performing acrobatic and artistic moves as they plunge into the water.

The fall takes mere seconds and divers reach speeds of up to 85kph.

The competition runs over eight rounds around the world, finishing in Sydney in November.

During a well-deserved break in her hometown of Nords Wharf at Lake Macquarie in NSW, Iffland, 32, contemplated the challenge ahead.

“I’m not going to play it as safe this year, I don’t think,” she said.

“I’m going to make it interesting.”

Iffland said she wanted to see what she was capable of, by trying new dives and increasing her degree of difficulty.

And yes, she said, it still scared her every time she dived, but she knew how to control her fear.

A woman wearing a cap and sunglasses holding a railing looking at a beach

Iffland will compete in the opening event for the 2024 cliff diving world series on Sunday in Greece.(ABC Newcastle: Madeline Lewis)

Iffland was visibly at ease, soaking up family time — and lots of surfing — during her home visit. 

“It’s such a breath of fresh air,” she said.

“I think there was one time a couple of months ago, I was driving back from Sydney and I pulled into Nords Wharf and I just took a deep breath and went, ‘Oh, this is amazing. This feels like home’.

“I feel like it doesn’t matter where I am, this is the only place that I can feel like I’ve actually taken a break.”

Iffland most recently won high diving gold at the World Aquatic Championships in Doha, for the fourth consecutive year.

“It’s always strange winning such a big event like that … because you just never know if it’s going to be the last,” she said.

“But I guess that’s the nature of sport. it really shows you how resilient you can be and if you keep pushing, great things can happen.”

a female diver hovers in the air during a high dive with Doha skyscrapers visible behind her

Iffland won her fourth gold medal at the World Aquatics Championships at Doha in February.(Getty Images: Shi Tang)

Re-lighting the fire

Iffland has lived a unique, adventurous life all over the world.

From a sleepy primary school in Nords Wharf, to spending her weekends trying every sport she could, to competitive trampolining, working as an aquatic acrobat on cruise ships and now touring the world’s most beautiful locations as a cliff diver, she has consistently dominated whatever she’s set her heart on.

But her high diving ambition almost wasn’t realised, after she considered throwing the towel in.

Iffland said she was getting bored competing on a 10-metre diving board.

“I actually wanted to stop diving completely and join the police force,” Iffland said.

“I had my applications filled out and everything and I got offered this opportunity working on the cruise ships,

“It turned out that taking that different path for me was what I needed to, I guess, re-light the fire.”

One contract entertaining guests from dizzying heights turned into a four-year stint travelling across the Mediterranean and Caribbean oceans, building the contacts that led her to the cliff diving series.

Pioneer for women

Iffland has had a highly decorated cliff diving career since and said the sport helped define her as a person.

“I’ve tried over the years just to never change, to continue doing the sport for the same reason that I started and that was because I wanted to push myself as an athlete, to travel, to push the sport further for women,” she said.

a female diver is upside down while completing a high dive

Iffland will compete in Greece on Sunday for the first event of the 2024 Cliff Diving World Series.(Getty Images: Shi Tang)

“I never would have thought that seven years later, I’d still be the one with the target on my back and, I guess, be one of the main pioneers of this sport.”

“I think back to the days where I was a little girl at Newcastle, diving at Lambton pool, and I think, ‘Oh, how proud would that little girl be of what I’m doing now.'”

Cliff Diving World Series 2024

  • Athens, Greece – May 26
  • Boston, USA – June 8
  • Polignano a Mare, Italy – June 30
  • Causeway Coast, Northern Ireland – July 20
  • Oslo, Norway – August 10
  • Montreal, Canada – August 25
  • Antalya, Türkiye – September 29
  • Sydney, Australia – November 10

Posted 2h ago2 hours agoFri 24 May 2024 at 12:21am, updated 24m ago24 minutes agoFri 24 May 2024 at 2:52am