Sunday, May 5, 2013

Frozen on the HIGH DIVE!

The diving board loomed thousands of feet into the air.... reaching heights of epic proportions and nearly touching the clouds.

Well, at least that what it seemed like from the perspective of a "not so brave" 13-year old girl.

Sure, I could swim.  That skill had been perfected early on thanks to forced lessons at summer camp and the insistence of my father who picked up where the swim instructors left off.  In fact, I could even perform a fairly decent dive.  I'd stand at the edge of the water in the deep end of the Olympic size pool at Southampton Swim Club, making sure that at least one or two of the cute teenage lifeguards were watching.  Then I'd push off, entering the water head first with the skill and grace that surely would have earned me a "10" at any professional competition. (In reality, the more appropriate score probably would have been a "2".)

But take a head first plunge off the HIGH DIVE?!  No way!  That feat was reserved for the mighty, the brave, the fearless...AKA... the popular teens.

In fact, the sign in front of the HIGH DIVE might as well have read:

Gawky, chubby, 13-year old girls with braces, glasses, and big noses not admitted.

The terrifyingly tall HIGH DIVE loomed over the aptly named "diving tank".  A smallish, 12-foot deep pool reserved only for jumping, flipping, flopping, skipping, or diving off of one of two boards:

1. The normal, regular, run of the mill type of board, situated a mere two feet above the water
2. The.......... (cue the Jaws theme music) HIGH DIVE 

Occasionally my friend Joy and I would take turns on the low dive, happily waiting in line for the chance to strut our stuff on this simple, inviting, not so scary board.  

Then, one day, life as I knew it changed forever.

Joy got in line for the HIGH DIVE.

No, this could not be happening.  My friend could not abandon me!  We had made a silent pact born out of fear of breaking every bone in our body.  We would not, could not, should not ever, ever, ever, go near the HIGH DIVE.

It didn't matter that taking the 20,000 foot plunge off of the terrifying apparatus would give me the sliver of a chance of being inducted into that oh so exclusive club of "popular" kids who apparently came into this world without a fear of anything.  Yes, I wanted to shed the title of "nerd", but I  simply didn't have the nerve.

I watched with jealousy as Joy climbed the ladder to the sky, stepped tentatively on the 
HIGH DIVE, walked to the edge, and took the plunge.

When her head reappeared from the depths of the pool, a huge grin showcased the delight on her face.  "It's not that scary Lisa," she encouraged with enthusiasm. "Seriously, you should try it!"

With terror in my heart, I took my place in line for the (yes, you guessed it -  the theme from Jaws is playing again) HIGH DIVE!

At least seven kids stood in line in front of me. Then six.  Five! Four! THREE! (GULP) TWO! (Yikes)  One! (AAAHHHHH!!) 


I put one foot on the ladder, then another, and up and up and up and up and up and up I climbed.

Finally, I reached the surface of the HIGH DIVE.

I tiptoed towards the edge of the board, telling myself over and over that I could do it.  Finally, there I stood, at the very tip of the board, looking down at the water below and facing three choices.

1. Jump to my death.
2. Turn around, face utter humiliation, and climb back down the ladder.
3. Do nothing.

Much to the dismay of the 3,985 kids now lined up waiting to get their turn on the 
HIGH DIVE, I chose option number three.

Quite simply...I froze.

I'm not sure how long I stood there at the edge of the board, contemplated the horrible situation I had created.  The jeers of my fellow jumpers echoed as if from a distant planet.  

"Just jump already!"
"Jump or climb back down!"
"You are holding up the line!"
"C'mon, stop it, stop being such a coward."
"Just jump"
"Just jump!"

Eventually one of the cute lifeguards got into the act, kindly encouraging me to make a decision so that the rest of the kids who were not total geeks could actually enjoy their day at the swim club.

Still, I froze.

The jeers of the crowd below grew louder.  Kids young and old as well as the grown ups who were usually too busy playing cards or gossiping to care about such mundane things as swimming stopped what they were doing to investigate the ruckus at the HIGH DIVE.

Five minutes turned to 10....then 15....then 20.

Still, there I stood at the edge of the HIGH DIVE, frozen in terror.

Drastic times called for drastic measures. In came the BIG GUNS....the owner of the swim club.

He made his way over to the diving tank, and the kids in line parted ways to make room for his approach up the ladder.  

At that moment, for reasons to this day that are still unknown....I threw caution to the wind..... 





Bravery had triumphed!  

When I emerged from what I has assumed would have been my watery grave, I swam over to the ladder, climbed out of the diving tank, turned to Joy and said...............................................

"That was fun!  Let's do it again!"

The HIGH DIVE at Southampton Swim Club, circa - mid 1970s. In retrospect, it probably was not quite as high as I had imagined!  Also, sadly, the swim club no longer exists, as the valuable land now plays host to a housing development.

If you like my stories, feel free to tell me in the comments sections below.


  1. Natalie Gilman SantangeloMay 5, 2013 at 12:03 PM

    Nice article...I belonged to Southampton Swim Club for several years. Loved it there. Always got a ride from whichever neighbor was leaving the earliest to get there.

  2. I have a similar memory at a community belong my family belonged to when I was little. I was scared out of mind then once you jump it always feels so good!! Great metaphor for so many things!!! Thanks for a great story. Love the picture!!

    1. Thanks so much Kathy! It's funny how that memory has always stood out in my mind!

  3. You had my heart pounding in my throat for you! What wonderful story! (And congratts on overcoming the fear!)

    1. I'm not sure I could do it again Chris. We belong to a local swim club and now that I'm an "old" lady, I steer very clear of the high dive!

  4. What a great story! Brought back memories!

  5. ALWAYS jump! It's never as bad as you thought it would be, in any circumstance. Even if you did die, what a brilliant exit from this world it would have been, right?

  6. I agree with Cindy. However, I know that I never did a actual dive off the high dive. In fact, I was lucky if I didn't walk out of the pool with some type of red mark on my body because I didn't enter the water properly. Or I was trying to make a huge splash, ie cannon ball or jack knife.

    1. Christy, I remember all of the boys trying to impress the girls by doing these huge cannonballs - and of course they'd try to make the biggest splash and get the girls all wet!

  7. LOVE that you jumped. I would've climbed back down. You know reading this post just gave me the courage to attempt a vlog! I feel like the "not so brave" girl in your post. Maybe in the end I'll have the same reaction as you did after your jump!

    1. Go for it Cynthia - you have absolutely nothing to lose!

    2. Go, Cynthia, go! I would totally watch your vlog!

  8. Loved this story - 1978 happens to be the year I was born! Glad to see adventures were being had all over the world despite my young age ;)

  9. Love this story! I remember the high dive at our local pool when I was a kid, too. Surely it was 50 feet high!

  10. Such a true story....I've been there. No matter how many times I got on the high dive, I froze and couldn't believe I was there again, trying to overcome my fear.

  11. OMG, you're so much braver than me. Even the little 2-foot diving board freaked me out. I'm super impressed. So... did you do it again???

  12. Oh, how I can relate. I could never muster enough courage to jump off the 10' high dive at a competing swim club close to yours. Never.