Fun Fact Friday: History of the Diving Board

Diving boards have been residential pool staples for almost as long as outdoor pools have been popular. That got me thinking: where did the modern diving board originate? With that in mind, I did a little research in order to come up with today’s fun fact Friday: the history of the diving board.

The sport of diving is hard to trace as it has been around as long as people have leapt from rocks and cliffs so it’s difficult to pinpoint an exact origin of the sport.

    • A tomb constructed in 480 BC called “Tomba del Tuffatore” or “Tomb of the Diver” had a painting of a young man diving from a narrow platform on the roof of a burial plot just south of Naples.
    • Visitors to Hawaii in the late 19th century would talk about the natives leaping, diving, and somersaulting from considerable heights from cliffs into the bottoms of waterfalls or deep pools.
    • Gymnasts in Germany and Sweden would practice over bodies of water as part of their training. They would install rings, a trapeze, and a springboard above pools in order to practice their tricks. At some point in these practices, the springboard users became devoted to the platform and began what was called “fancy diving.”
    • In 1893, the first diving stages were erected at the Highgate Ponds in England at 15 and 30 feet. In 1895 the first world championship event took place—the National Graceful Diving Competition.
    • Early high diving platforms were often temporary wooden scaffolding structures. They were wobbly and constructed outdoors, making them dangerous in any kind of inclement weather.
    • Diving first became an Olympic event in 1904.
    • In 1908, the London Olympics introduced the springboards rather than just the fixed platforms.
    • Early springboards were crudely constructed, particularly compared with the highly scientific metal alloy boards today. They were originally wooden planks fixed together with cross battens with very little actual “spring” in them.
    • The first diving meet in the US was held at the University of Pennsylvania in 1907. It used a 20 foot platform and a springboard.
    • Women were first allowed to dive at the 1912 at the Stockholm Olympics.
    • England had its first springboard installed at Highgate Pond in 1923.
    • By the 1928 Olympics, “plain” and “fancy” diving were combined into one event - “highboard diving.”
    • During diving competitions, every country had their own design of springboards and either visiting divers had to spend time getting used to the boards provided or bring their own.
    • The boards at this point were made using aluminum I-beams that were bolted together. Known as a “buckboard,” it restricted the amount of spring a diver could achieve and it limited the acrobatic nature of the sport.
    • A modern metal-alloy board invented by Ray Rude marked the standardization of springboards which had an incredible influence on the progress of international diving.
    • Ray Rude was a high school dropout from North Dakota who taught himself how to be an inventor and engineer.
    • When he was in 1st grade, Ray Rude had rebuilt a miniature steam engine and in the 7th grade had built a Ford Model T out of spare parts.
    • When Ray Rude moved from North Dakota to the west coast at age 15, he started his life as a self-made engineer and entrepreneur. He started Arcadia Air Products in Southern California—his own aircraft tooling manufacturing company. The company was later renamed Duraflex International.
    • Duraflex manufactured the first aluminum diving board in 1949 out of an aircraft wing panel for a friend who needed a diving board for his pool party.
    • After refining the basic design, he Ray Rude developed the machinery to produce each diving board from a single aluminum extrusion.
    • Rude designed or built much of the machinery at the Duraflex factory that is still used today to make diving boards.
    • Existing diving stands were not able to accommodate Duraflex diving boards so Rude designed a better one in 1960 that reduced the number of pieces that made up the stand and were better equipped to handle the stress from both the diver and the diving board. It increased the safety and longevity of the diving boards.
    • The board was named Duraflex because it was both durable and flexible.
    • The board was first used in the Rome Olympics in 1960 and has been the standard for international competition since then.
    • The Maxiflex board was introduced in 1969 that had an aluminum extrusion that is tapered on both the back and the tip end of the diving board that increased its flexibility and added greater lift.
    • Duraflex had a request from the King of the African Congo who wanted one of the new diving boards for his palace swimming pool.
    • Ray Rude was the first non-swimmer, non-water polo player, or non-coach to be inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
    • Ray Rude died at age 88 back in his home of Stanley, North Dakota.
    • Modern springboards are made out of a single-piece extrusion of aircraft-grade aluminum.
    • The board used in major competitive events—the Maxiflex Model B (a Duraflex product)—is heat treated for a yield strength of 50,000 psi. The slip-resistant surface of the board is created using an epoxy resin and is finished with a laminate of flint silica.
    • The thermal-cured resin of the diving boards is aqua-colored to match the water of a clean pool.
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