THE INTERNATIONAL HIGH DIVING INSTITUTE TRAINING PLATFORM; FOUNDER, ELLIE SMART AND CO-FOUNDER OWEN WEYMOUTH
Now open in Park City, Utah for the summer season is the International High Diving Institute (IHDI) with the United States’ first high diving training platform. The towering structure has been erected in partnership with the Utah Olympic Park, alongside the ramps where freestyle ski aerialists have trained since its construction for the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics.
The highest platform in Olympic diving is 10 meters, roughly the height of a 3-story building. In the sport of high diving, women compete from heights of 20 meters and the men, 27 meters! For professional high divers, IHDI Founder Ellie Smart and Co-Founder Owen Weymouth, this means diving from cliffs too.
There has never been anywhere in the US to train at those heights, but the platform has been designed as a place where novices can experience the sport as well. With nine take-off points ranging from 3 to 27 meters, IHDI offers programs for all levels that include the High Diving Experience. This 1.5 hour course teaches safety fundamentals like how to take off, control body position, and land, and lets beginners progress up to heights of 12.5 meters.
ELLIE, TOP & LEFT, AND OWEN, BOTTOM RIGHT, IN ACTION!
Photos courtesy Red Bull
The IHDI has long been a dream of Ellie’s, who has been diving since the age of 5. She took her first leap from the 10-meter platform at age 11. After a bad landing that would have deterred most, Ellie came up smiling and fell in love with the sport. At 15, she set her sights on the Olympics, but injuries derailed that plan. Ellie went on to dive at the University of California, Berkeley, where she won an NCAA Championship with her team in 2015.
Assuming her diving career was over after college, it was when she went cliff jumping for the first time that she realized she had just gotten started! Within a year, Ellie became part of Fina’s Team USA and is a permanent diver on the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series. But for Ellie, IHDI is the ultimate leap of faith. She has largely funded the project herself, with the help of some corporate discounts and a Go Fund Me page.
Boyfriend and co-Founder Owen, has been diving since the age of 6 and cliff diving since 13. Hailing from England, and a member of Team GB, Owen has a wild card spot on the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series. When not competing, he coaches diving’s future stars at the Minnesota Diving Academy. The goal for both Ellie and Owen is to see high diving become an Olympic sport. They have set their sights on Paris 2024 hoping for its inclusion as an exhibition sport.
The couple has another larger initiative as well: a cleaner planet. They founded The Clean Cliffs Project with the mission to prevent plastic pollution and inspire others to take action. They host beach clean-ups and educational get-togethers with local communities all around the world on the Red Bull tour. For more about the power couple of diving, check out their adventures on the YouTube series, Ellie & Owen – The Story of a Cliff Diving Couple.