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Vol. 14, no. 2
April - May 2011


Legend of the Fall 
Story by David Thompson
Photos by Olivier Koning

High stakes: Orlando Duque -- who was born in Columbia and now calls Hawai'i home -- has made dives from a height of eight stories or more from a castle, a helicopter, a seaside Italian villa, the yardarm of a square-rigged sailing ship, the Copenhagen Opera House and plenty of other lofty places. Here, he prepares to dive at a waterfall in Hilo.
Orlando Duque steps to the edge of a platform at the top of a Big Island waterfall, looks down and feels his stomach churn. It’s an eightyfive- foot drop to the dark water below, and Orlando concentrates on his breathing to keep his heart from racing. He closes his eyes and visualizes the complex sequence of twists and somersaults he’s about to perform. Then he looks over the edge again, stands tall, bends his knees and leaps skyward, as if eighty-five feet wasn’t quite far enough to fall.


The crowd gathered across the chasm cheers when Orlando hits the water. This is the final event of the 2010 Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series, a competition that has traveled to four European countries and Mexico before landing in Hawai‘i. The technicalities that made Orlando’s dive near perfect were undoubtedly lost to most of the onlookers in the twirling blur of torso, limbs and Speedo they just saw plummet into the water, but the technicalities weren’t lost on the judges, who hold up score cards with 9s, 9.5s and a 10. With this and two other high-scoring dives, Orlando wins the event—a badly needed victory for the 36-year-old professional cliff diver.