POSSUM KINGDOM LAKE - Leaping off a cliff, 60 feet in the air, while twisting and flipping seems scary -- even for World Champion Rachelle Simpson.
“My thing is always one, two, three go! If I stand longer than three seconds then doubts start to creep in," she explained.
Simpson has clearly done a good job keeping the doubts out. Last year was the first for women in the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series, and Simpson dominated winning all three competitions.
Now the native Texan is back to defend her title starting Saturday at Possum Kingdom Lake.
“Everybody -- friends, family -- they are all really excited that there is a competition in Texas they can all go to.”
Simpson grew up as a gymnast then moved to platform diving from 30 feet, then kept going higher and higher. When the opportunity came up to try cliff diving, she jumped at it.
“I’ve always just kind of loved extreme heights,” she said. “It was kind of a natural progression.”
Despite the challenges of the height and weather of cliff diving, there isn’t much time for practice.
“The hard part about this sport is there is not a lot of facilities to train, so if there are months between competition you are going months between a high dive. The first time was actually Texas last year, and the sun was in my face reflecting off the water. It was a bit trippy because I couldn’t see my spots.”
Simpson will try to find her spots this Saturday and emerge from the water knowing that she ripped it.
“You can usually tell when you have a good dive, a good finish,” she said. “Coming up it’s a release, and an adrenaline rush. It’s really kind of overwhelming.”