In a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Steve Moore explained why three-meter diving boards are so scarce in this country. Of course, it has to do with high liability insurance premiums and fear of lawsuits, even though the numbers don’t justify them:
Diving board accidents are actually rare. Hard data are difficult to come by, but Pool and Spa News estimates that, out of the millions of jumps and dives off high boards each year, there are, on average, fewer than 20 spinal injuries. Most head injuries actually occur from people diving off the pool’s ledge into the shallow end. Diving boards actually reduce these types of injuries because they visually tip off swimmers about which end of the pool is deep.
Diving off the high board was a milestone of my childhood.
My father and I were at the pool one summer afternoon without my mother and brother when he told me it was time to go home. As all kids do, I begged to stay a little longer. He agreed, on one condition. He said I could have another 15 minutes at the pool if I would dive off the high board, which I had never done before.
I had been up there many times, always opting for a cannonball, or a jackknife, or some other foot-first giant-splash-inducing entry into the water. But Dad meant a head-first dive.
I asked, “Do I have to?” He replied, “No, you don’t have to. We can go home right now instead.”
I looked up at the board and considered the situation. I had seen other kids do it. I had seen my father do it earlier that afternoon. How hard could it be?
Those thoughts are a lot easier when you’re on the ground. When I climbed the ladder, inched out to the edge of the board, looked down and pondered what I was about to do, it didn’t seem so easy. Suddenly, it looked a lot further down than ten feet.
Fortunately, there was no one waiting to get up there, so I had it all to myself. I curled my toes over the end of the board. I raised my hands over my head and clasped them together into diving position. I bent my legs and glanced down at my father. From the water below, he gave me a smile and the thumbs-up sign. For a moment, I actually thought, “Well, he’s a very good swimmer, so if anything goes wrong, at least I know my Dad can pull me out of the pool.”
Then, I leaned forward, pushed off with my feet, and………YOW!
It hurt like hell. I don’t know if I did something wrong with my hands or what, but the impact of the top of my head on the water seemed a lot harder than when I entered feet-first. It seemed like the water had become more solid just at the instant my scalp reached it. Fortunately, the pain receded quickly as I surfaced, took a big gulp of air, and smiled from ear to ear.
I did it! I dove off the high board!
There was my father, clapping and congratulating me, “Hey, that was great! Want to try another one?”
My response was immediate: “No way! But we can stay another 15 minutes, right?”
“Absolutely! A deal is a deal, and I’m proud of you,” he reassured me.
Ah, the words every boy loves to hear from his Dad. They almost made me want to climb back up that ladder and dive off again.
It’s a shame other boys (and girls) won’t know the joy of that dive.