Water is a crucial component to shallow diving, but more water isn't necessarily better. That's because compared to a lot of other substances, water isn't a very compressible fluid. It's not a magic and soft blanket that breaks every fall. Jumping into water from a very high spot is almost as damaging as jumping onto concrete. It will break you.
To avoid becoming mangled meat, divers must correctly plan and execute their leaps. Technique is vital, and no matter who's doing the diving, the idea is the same. Spread out your limbs and torso to create most possible surface area. The more surface area, the more points of simultaneous contact, and the faster your body decelerates from speeds that are harmful to simply painful.
Taylor purposely pushes away from the diving platform for just a little forward motion. As a result, instead of falling straight down, a bit of forward momentum helps to displace downward energy. He also purposely hits the surface of the water with his hands first, breaking the tension of the water just before the rest of his body impacts.
Water temperature also matters. Many divers cool the water before their jumps to ensure the fluid is as dense as possible, again for the purpose of slowing their descents quickly.
Like any other extreme stuntman, Taylor weighs risks of personal injury against fortune and fame. To date, he's broken the world record 20 times. Perhaps he'll break it 20 more times in his career. Or perhaps his luck will run out, as it has for so many other adrenaline junkies.
The shallow dive has been around for a long time, and in spite of its familiarity it's still a showstopping feat of physical prowess and fearlessness that almost no one attempts. So the next time you're soaking your feet in a kiddie pool on a hot summer day, be glad you'll never have to flop into one from the roof of a four-story building.
Author's Note: How Shallow Diving Works
Growing up, I was a never a daredevil at the local swimming pool. While my friends were doing end-over-end dives into the water, I was pretty much terrified just to jump off of the high board, even toes first. It was because no matter how carefully I tried to dive, always wound up with water rammed up into my sinuses or a chest thumped from a belly flop. So the idea of purposely launching myself from four stories into a kiddie pool? No way. That's why shallow diving is a spectacle – there are only a few people nuts enough to try, and I'm definitely not one of them.
More Great Links
- Allain, Rhett. "The Physics of Professor Splash's Jump Into 1 Foot of Water." Wired. Nov. 8, 2004. (Mar. 2, 2015) http://www.wired.com/2008/11/the-physics-of-professor-splashs-jump-into-1-foot-of-water/
- BBC News. "Shallow Diver Breaks World Record for Paddling Pool Jump." Mar. 17, 2011. (Mar. 2, 2015) http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-12773427
- Caulfield, Philip. "'Professor Splash' Breaks World Record with 36-Foot Belly Flop into Tiny Kiddie Pool." New York Daily News. May 9, 2011. (Mar. 2, 2015) http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/professor-splash-breaks-world-record-36-foot-belly-flop-tiny-kiddie-pool-video-article-1.143464
- Daily Mail. "Splashdown: Shallow Diver Breaks World Record with 36-Foot Leap Into Paddling Pool Containing Just 12 Inches of Water." Mar. 16, 2011. (Mar. 2, 2015) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1366811/Professor-Splash-shallow-diver-breaks-world-record--36ft-jump-paddling-pool.html
- Irish Examiner. "What Drove this Man to Break the World Shallow-Dive Record 20 Times?" Dec. 9, 2014. (Mar. 2, 2015) http://www.irishexaminer.com/examviral/real-life/what-drove-this-man-to-break-the-world-shallow-dive-record-20-times-301670.html
- Martin, Mark. "Why Do Belly Flops Hurt So Much? Ask 'Professor Splash.'" NBC News. Jun. 9, 2013. (Mar. 2, 2015) http://bodyodd.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/06/09/18831406-why-do-belly-flops-hurt-so-much-ask-professor-splash?lite
- Physics Central. "Professor Splash Sets New World Record." Mar. 18, 2011. (Mar. 2, 2015) http://physicsbuzz.physicscentral.com/2011/03/professor-splash-sets-new-world-record.html
- Professor Splash's home page. "Professor Splash." (Mar. 2, 2015) http://www.professorsplash.com/
- Tarantola, Andrew. "Why the Human Body Can't Handle Heavy Acceleration." Gizmodo. Oct. 1, 2014. (Mar. 2, 2015) http://gizmodo.com/why-the-human-body-cant-handle-heavy-acceleration-1640491171
- The Telegraph. "High Diver to Attempt Shallow Water Record." Sep. 3, 2008. (Mar. 2, 2015) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/2674519/High-diver-to-attempt-shallow-water-record.html
- The Telegraph. "'Professor Splash' Dives Record 11m into Paddling Pool." Jun. 2, 2012. (Mar. 2, 2015) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newsvideo/weirdnewsvideo/9370424/Professor-Splash-dives-record-11m-into-paddling-pool.html