Aidan Heslop has been around high diving since he was 12, but his competitors still see him as the kid – “the kid that sends big dives and wears bucket hats and flowery shorts,” he said.

But don’t be fooled. Heslop is exceptional at twisting. He uses a unique arm position which enables him to spin faster. He also has an extremely keen sense of spacial awareness. His coach, Stéphane Lapointe said he knows exactly where he is – always; “It’s really-really impressive.”

Image Source: Heslop diving at the Commonwealth Games (Clive Rose/Getty Images)

It’s scary to think that Heslop just gave up competitive 10-meter diving, placing eighth at the 2022 Commonwealth Games for Wales. But he knows that his real mark in sports history will be in high diving.

Already a full-time pro at age 21, Heslop is re-defining what’s possible on the 27m tower, thanks to a show-stopping 6.6 degree-of-difficulty back “quad quad” (four flips, four twists with a static and blind takeoff) that he threw at the World Cup in May.  It’s new. It’s a work in progress. But if he can do it consistently, then “for sure, it will be his key to success,” said two-time world champion Gary Hunt, 39.

“He will be able to use that to his advantage for many years.”

Hunt should know. For years, Hunt did the most difficult dive in the world, a back triple quad, and performed it so consistently that it enabled him to win and dominate for a decade.

At age 10, Heslop took notice.

Immediate Pull

Image Source: Romina Amato/Red Bull via Getty Images

Back in Plymouth, England, Heslop was a restless youth who threw himself into everything from cricket to parkour.  When he and his older brother, Rhys, discovered diving, it immediately clicked. “We were pretty fast learners,” Aidan said, “which was great because we seemed to be pretty s*** at all the other sports.”

When Aidan was 10, his buddy Owen Weymouth showed him a video of Hunt’s triple quad. “I was like, ‘Nah, that’s fake. I don’t believe it,’” Heslop recalled.

But after some Googling, he realized, “Damn, this is a real sport. People do this. This is a real dive.”

So at age 12, Heslop went to a giant water park in Austria called “Area 47” and noticed Steven LoBue and David Colturi just chilling, having lunch. Heslop approached the American cliff diving stars and said, “Hi! I’m your biggest fan!’ They replied, ‘Yeah, we’ve just been watching your videos on Facebook!’” and took him up to 27 meters.

Heslop was wearing his Speedo, so he knew he’d be tempted to jump. “That was the scariest part for me,” Heslop said, “because when you stand on 27 meters with clothes on, you’re never gonna jump. You’re more scared of the edge with clothes on. In trunks, the urge to jump is insane.”

He refrained, but LoBue and Colturi watched him dive between 12 and 18 metres.

"When you stand on 27 meters with clothes on, you’re never gonna jump. You’re more scared of the edge with clothes on. In trunks, the urge to jump is insane.”
By Aidan Heslop

“It was freezing,” LoBue recalled. “It was tough conditions but he knew what he was doing. He was so confident. There wasn’t any hesitation. With intention, he saw the dive in his mind, got to the end, took a few breaths and went.”

Immediately, LoBue and Colturi thought, “We’re in trouble. This is awesome. As soon as he’s old enough, he’s gonna have our jobs. Thank goodness we’ll be done by then.”         

Colturi invited Heslop to be his VIP guest at a contest in Bilbao, Spain. That was 2014.

Two years later, Heslop took his first dive from 27 meters, in a flooded quarry in the Czech Republic. “They said, ‘Yep, this is 27.’ And I did it. No one cared. I didn’t have to sign a waiver. I did a front double half-twist tuck, which I had never done before.” At 14, he was the youngest to go off 27m, he said – “by a large margin.”

Image Source: Romina Amato/Red Bull via Getty Images

Heslop made his first Red Bull podium at 17 – in Bilbao, where he had been Colturi’s VIP guest five years earlier.

He was doing double duty, though, still competing on the 10m platform. For a while, it was a helpful mix. “Normal diving helped with spatial awareness, and coming back from (27m) high diving really helped [me] not [be] scared of 10m,” he explained.

Nonetheless, Heslop could see his future.

Image Source: Francois Nel/Getty Images

“Being an Olympic diver for Team GB is extremely hard,” Heslop explained. For a couple of years, he trained alongside four-time Olympic medalist Tom Daley. At best, he said, “I was like top six in the country, top five potentially, but that’s not quite good enough. Commonwealth is the biggest competition I’m ever going to do in normal diving. I’m really content with what I’ve done.”

So last winter, he moved to Montreal to work with coach Stéphane Lapointe who has five high divers competing at the world championships in Fukuoka (including Heslop and Heslop’s girlfriend, Molly Carlson, a Canadian phenom who has twice beaten the long-time world No. 1, Rhiannan Iffland).

In January, Heslop and Lapointe discussed introducing the 6.6 degree-of-difficulty “quad quad.” They tested it in March in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and when Heslop returned to the venue in May for the 2023 World Cup, he threw it for the first time in competition. He received middling marks and shelved it for the next two Red Bull events.

Then, on July 2, on his final dive at the third Red Bull stop in Polignano a Mare, on the Adriatic coast of southern Italy, Heslop did something slightly less historic but equally stunning. He ran to the edge of the tower, did 4 somersaults and 3½ twists pike (a 6.2 DD) and spanked the entire field, including Romania’s Constantin Popovici, who said after winning the World Cup season opener that he wanted to “win everything” this year. Popovici was well on his way – until July 2.

Image Source: Dean Treml/Red Bull via Getty Images

For Heslop, it was a major victory, but not his first. He won two events last year on the Red Bull circuit, just ahead of Hunt, his inspiration.

“It’s pretty crazy now that I compete against Gary and can beat him,” Heslop said. “I do the same dive he did. And I do an extra somersault on the dive that I thought was fake!”

Image Source: Dean Treml/Red Bull via Getty Images

“Aidan reminds me of myself, back in the day,” Hunt said. “He’s willing to take risks. He wants to be the best. He’s exploring. He’s seeing what he’s capable of and enjoying himself. That’s what I was doing. That’s what I’m still doing now.” (Hunt will compete in both 10m and 27m in Fukuoka, with an eye toward making his 10m Olympic debut next year in Paris, representing the host nation.)

Heslop’s future is bright, with dares beyond diving. According to the bucket list on his phone, he has yet to bungee jump, see the northern lights, visit all seven continents, watch a Formula-1 race, ride a tandem bike…and one more thing: “I really want to catch a fish. I’ve caught a crab. I’m from a big fishing city, but I’ve never fished.”