Anthony Gordon flinched in pain and struggled for air after jumping off the 33-foot-high diving platform at the Kearns Oquirrh Park Fitness Center on a recent summer afternoon. He missed his trick and landed on his back, making a huge splash in the 18-foot-deep end of the diving pool.
"That was not on purpose," the Kearns teen explained. "It hurt. It feels like you are slapped. â¦ When you get up to the surface, it was hard to breathe."
Such is life for those who brave leaping from the 10-meter diving platform, which provides a test of bravery when it is open daily from 1 to 2 p.m. and 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Though no diver has been paralyzed due to a jump, aquatic-safety supervisor Sam Page said plenty leave sore for a couple of days. Page ought to know. She was learning dives on the big platform two summers ago, missed one and dislocated her shoulder.
Then there are the funny incidents.
Senior lifeguard Rachel Kankamp watched a girl lose the top of her swimsuit after leaping from what is called the "white platform" because supervisors wave a white flag to signal it's OK to jump from the top, a blue flag from the middle and a red one from the bottom platform.
"She got to the wall and didn't realize it until she saw the top floating in the pool," said Kankamp.
Page once got a frantic radio call asking her to bring towels to the diving pool, one of six pools in the massive complex. A man had jumped from the 10-meter. The impact of hitting the water completely split open his trunks, ripping the suit right off him. Unfortunately, the towels weren't big enough and she had to go find bigger ones so he could exit the pool.
Mostly, though, the big diving board provides for a lot of fun and a good dose of courage.
"One of my favorites is that you see someone walk up to the edge, stop, walk back, walk back up and then walk down," said Kankamp, who jumps off the platform about twice a year. "They are scared to go off it. It depends on the day, really. About half will walk back down."
Brent Sheets, executive director of the Kearns Oquirrh Park Fitness Center, said he sees a lot of peer pressure trying to get reluctant jumpers to make the leap of faith. There is a minimum age of 10 years old, and reverse dives or inward dives, often called gainers, are prohibited.
"We monitor things to make certain kids aren't dared to do things they can't do," said Sheets. "We emphasize safety."
And even nonteens sometimes give in to peer pressure. For example, when asked why he made the leap, 38-year-old Curt Beck of West Valley said his kids challenged him.
"I was a little bit nervous, but once you jump, it's fun," he said. "It takes a little longer to hit the water than you think."
Pailate Makona of West Valley City probably made a half-dozen jumps while the white platform was open. He said it feels cool when in the air, especially when you do back flips.
First-timer Kayanne Marks, 13, tried the blue platform first and decided she could make the step up to the tall platform.
"I just wanted to jump off it," said Kaylee Van Ampen, 13, of Kearns. "It was fun, but I would get nervous if I looked down."
Page thinks the publicity of the Olympic Games will bring more people not only to the high dives, but to all of the aquatic sports and lessons offered at Oquirrh Park. She usually sees a big jump in interest in sports such as swimming, diving and water polo after the Olympics.
The key is safety. At least three lifeguards watch the diving platform at all times. Lifeguards are trained to deal with potential emergencies.
Mostly, though, making the jump requires a simple leap of faith.