Steep Thinker Colorful cliff diver Dustin Webster likes to give his audience a rise when he takes his fall

August 19, 2001

Dustin Webster never dives alone. It's not only that he wants
someone to be there to haul his body out of the water should he
make a midair miscalculation and plunge to a watery end. "It's
because there would be nobody there to surprise," says Webster,
a two-time cliff diving world champion. "I have to have an

Even in the patently look at me! world of cliff diving, Webster
stands out as a showman. Before high dives (which range between
75 and 120 feet above the water) he theatrically tosses aside his
ever-present Akubra hat, thunders a war cry ("Oh, yeah!") and
cranks Alice in Chains's Man in a Box. Then, as often as not, he
performs a dive that no one else in the small, 20-person club of
international pro cliff diving will even attempt.

"There are a couple of dives I like to do not because they get me
a lot of points, but because they are so scary to everyone," says
Webster, 33, the favorite at the Aug. 25 World Cliff Diving
Championships in Lanai, Hawaii. One is an inward quad, in which
he begins with his back to the water and does four somersaults
toward the cliff. The other is his signature dive, in which he
starts from a handstand and does 3 1/2 somersaults with a half
twist at the finish. "Most people can imagine pressing into a
handstand on the ground," says Webster, "but it's pretty
difficult to do that 90 feet in the air."

Webster is used to performing courageous acts from nine stories
up. In 1991 he and fellow cliff diver Becca Webster got married
on the 72-foot high-dive platform at Magic Mountain in Valencia,
Calif., the place where Webster cut his teeth as a pro stunt
diver in the 1980s. After being pronounced husband and wife, the
couple took a synchronized single-somersault plunge into
70-foot-deep water and abiding matrimony.

They have two boys, Garet, 6, and Chase, 3. Webster admits that
his sons sharpen his sense of the risk he takes with every dive.
But he trusts his training and experience. "People say, 'Gosh,
you're crazy, you'll dive off of anything,'" he says. "That's not
true. I'll dive off of anything where I have 75 to 80 percent
odds of making it."

He has had his mishaps. Last year, at a competition in Italy, he
landed on his face and severely injured his sinuses, which landed
him in an ICU. He says he pondered quitting the sport, but less
than 12 hours after being released from the hospital, he returned
to the competition--and won. "I knew if I didn't get back on that
horse right then, I'd have to quit," says Webster. "When I got up
there, I was deathly afraid. Then I let out my war cry, and 3,000
people screamed back. From then on, it was business as

--Kelli Anderson

TWO COLOR PHOTOS: PHOTOGRAPHS BY ROBERT BECK CLIFF DWELLER Webster, here taking the plunge at Cedar Creek Falls, near San Diego, will launch his body any time he calculates that his odds for survival are reasonably good.

Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)