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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Three Quarter Flip

The Three Quarter Flip

My Aunt Phil lived in a suburb of Philadelphia.  It was farmland then, it is mostly McMansions now.  Her house was on several acres and she had an in-ground swimming pool.  I spent a week with Aunt Phil one summer.  I think I was about twelve.  I don’t remember the reason I spent this week on “The Farm” (to me it was a farm, there may have been a vegetable patch) probably my parents were on vacation and needed to pawn me off.

It would have been a boring week except for my cousin Ronnie.  Ronnie was two years older than I was.  I spent the week following him around like a puppy dog. 

Most of the time was spent in the pool.  Ronnie was able to do a full flip off the low diving board, one full turn and land straight in on his feet.  It was my goal to learn to also do a flip off the low board.

I must have attempted 500 flips off that board.  Everyone was completed to three quarter perfection.  A three quarter flip would have me land, legs and feet stretched out, perfectly on my back.  Instead of a silent swish in the water, I landed with a giant slap.  Every attempt was the same, and every attempt was painful, but I was intent on learning to do a perfect flip.  With Ronnie’s guidance and instruction on the last day of my visit I was eventually able to realize that I was never going to complete a full flip.  It took one week for me to learn that if you try really hard and practice for a really long time, there was still some stuff that you will never be able to do.

I never tried to do a flip off a board again.

Fast forward and I had three children all participating on a swim team at a local swim club.  Both my oldest son Mike and the youngest Matt were able to do one and a half flips off the low board.  One and a half turns and they would land a head first swish.   Every time I witnessed their diving I was taken back to my failed and painful attempts.

My daughter, Mary Beth, was on the diving team.  I don’t recall if she could do a double flip, I’m pretty sure she could do a one and a half.  I do remember she was a pretty good diver.  She was not the best on the team as she started diving much later than several other girls, but she was graceful and she was good.

Mary Beth worked hard at diving and she was improving.  Then one day while I was at work I got a call.  Mary Beth slipped off a slightly wet board while practicing.  She came down hard on her leg, the tibia (I think) snapped.  I will not get graphic here, but it was described to me as let’s just say very friggin gruesome.  She was eight weeks or more in a cast, the first week in a wheelchair, and she walked with a slight limp for over a year.

I don’t think Mary Beth ever dove again.

I never told any of my children of my week of three quarter flips.  My sons could do a flip; my daughter could do a flip if the board was not wet.  I don’t think that Spencer, my fifteen year old, has ever tried.

He’s pretty good at most sports. 

I’m going to recommend he stay off the diving board.      


  1. never attempted diving, myself. my dad didn't even want us swimming - at all.

  2. I love to swim. but diving is too scary for this chicken--I mean, fishducky!!

  3. I could do both front and back flips off the high and low boards, but I never got into diving or doing any more than the single flip. I could also do a back flip on my friends trampoline. No curling up in a ball or anything, just straight out the whole time. I'm not sure what it is called when you do it that way. Those were the days... Thanks for the memory Cranky.

    And yes, some things you can try, practice and try again, over and over and over. You are just never going to do it, let alone do it right or even improve. At least you gave it a shot though. Better to go down trying than not even giving it an attempt in my book.

  4. How those expert divers can do all those flips and twists and turns in the blink of an eye is beyond me. They amaze me.

    I've tried several different, very graceful dives, but every one, regardless of how they started off, ended up a "pike". Sometimes there was a "swish" at the end, often times not. Such is life. ;)


  5. You have reminded me of my crazy Father's efforts to teach me how to swim in the local pool when I was 9. After 3 minutes with no success he decided he would teach me to dive instead. I executed at least 157 painful bellyflops in the 5' depth of the shallow end and then, from sheer exhaustion, I fell into the water in the correct position, going straight down and hitting my head on the cement with a fearsome clop.
    Deciding that it might be dangerous to continue in the shallow end, he then insisted that I go off the diving board at the deep end and he would grab me and pull me to the surface each time just before I drowned. Well, 2437 more bellyflops later I was a red-violet, waterlogged unidentifiable creature and we mutually agreed to quit the lessons for the day while I still lived.

    (believe it or not, I DID learn to swim and dive the very next week, taught by a competent teacher and not an insane person. Obviously, I was more afraid of my father than I was of death by water or other methods......if you had any interest in reaching your next birthday you never said "no" to my father, but that is another story. As you can see, I lived to tell this tale.)

  6. The belly flop or back flop slap is so surprisingly intense. Takes the breath away and leaves a pretty nasty mark if I remember right. Weird how water can become so hard in a split second of big intentions and small athletic ability.

  7. If you don't want your son on the diving board I think I'd refrain from saying anything. You don't want to plant the seed.

  8. Aunt Phil's board was terrible especially when you compare it to the board's of today. Also the board was less than one meter (notice all the excuses I'm giving you) and traction was almost non-existent!

    Why not give it a try now...never mind! Me neither!

  9. Diving board? I have a panic attack just thinking about the slide.

  10. It took me a summer to learn how to dive... I did not dare attempt to learn how to flip... Scary!

  11. I am one of those floating swimmers. I did do the diving in the past I no longer partake in this activity becasue after I broke mt ankle in two places things changed...just the description of the broken leg...made me shiver

  12. Oh ouch - yikes! Reminded me of the recent basketball injury seen round the world. That's gnarly. I'm afraid of heights, so I don't even know how those Olympic divers do it and I certainly wouldn't have the guts to do the fancy stuff - low or high dive. I got sucked into watching "Splash" last week. My husband and I watched in amazement as Louie Anderson basically somersaulted off the board. I think he's great, btw, but oy, that's scary. I don't want the guy to hurt himself!