Although it may seem hard to believe, cliff diving is more than just an adrenaline rush for thrill seekers; it is a widely respected adventure sport with historical roots and extremely intense competitors.
Cliff diving originated during the 1700s in Hawaii. King Kahekili, who was one of the last independent kings in Hawaii, used cliff diving as an initiation tactic for his warriors. He required them to follow his example by jumping off of cliffs in an effort to prove their loyalty. As time progressed, King Kahekili's cliff diving stunts shifted focus. It was no longer just a loyalty test for Hawaiian warriors, but instead became so popular that people began to practice cliff diving in competition with one another. While the original contests were somewhat primitive, they eventually evolved into sophisticated competitions with world-wide recognition under the World High Diving Federation (WHDF).
The WHDF was founded in 1996 in Switzerland. It is a highly respected, independent organization that is recognized by the Swiss Olympic Committee. It is often referenced as the main authority on cliff diving because, since its inception, it has been responsible for putting the sport of cliff diving back on the map. Aside from organizing some of the most famous cliff diving competitions in the world, the WHDF outlined a highly sophisticated set of guidelines for judging the performances and degrees of difficulty for cliff divers.