Last year at this time Sage Stephens was diving off the high dive for the Eastern Michigan Swimming and Diving team.
Now he is diving off 50 foot high cliffs in Hawaii.
“For most people, just jumping off a 50 foot cliff is terrifying, but doing flips and twists off of 50 foot cliffs is all fun and games for me,” Stephens said.
Stephens credits his knowledge and past experience as a division one diver to have fun but also be safe while diving off cliffs.
“Of course I think about safety. I watch the swells, check the water depth and plan my exit out of the water,” Stephens said. “But after all that is done, I just enjoy myself.”
Stephens does realize the many similarities between collegiate diving and cliff diving.
“I use a lot of the same fear management that I learned in diving. Some of the dives that I did as an EMU diver were very complex and difficult; there was no room for fear,” Stephens said. “I use the same fear management when I’m flipping off of dangerous cliffs. The cliff dives that I do may not be as hard as some of my competitive dives, but the height and risk factor make up for the difficulty. So I still need to keep my mind clear and focus on the dive and not how afraid I may or may not be.”
Despite the similarities, Stephens still accounts for the differences.
“In competitive diving you usually enter the water head first. But due to the extreme heights involved in cliff diving, it can be very painful and dangerous to go head first,” Stephens said. “So, in cliff diving we enter the water exclusively feet first. Also, you don’t have to watch the tides, worry about reef or sharp rocks or be concerned about how you are going to get out of the water in pool diving.”
Stephens credited many factors into why he decided to move over 4000 miles away from Ypsilanti.
“I was hanging out with one of my best friends and senior on the EMU diving team, Peter Rusenas,” Stephens said. “He asked me the question, ‘If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?’ and I listed off a few exotic countries and places, with Hawaii being one of them.”
Rusenas then challenged Stephens’ thought.
“He responded by asking me, ‘What’s stopping you from living somewhere like Hawaii?’”, Stephens said. “I couldn’t think of a single reason.”
That prompted Stephens to start planning his next journey by finishing his degree at EMU and applying to graduate school at the University of Hawaii to study social work.
Stephens credits EMU diving for being able to follow his goals and dreams while keeping a strong work ethic.
“Besides all of the abilities and dives I learned as an EMU diver, I also learned how to set goals and how to actively work to achieve them,” Stephens said. “Without all of that I would've never made it to the islands. But because of the background I have as a former EMU diver and the work ethic I gained from that, I know that I can go anywhere and do anything if I truly desire it.”
Along with the pursuit of his masters degree and diving off of cliffs, Stephens has documented his journey through the lens of his Nikon D750.
“Every single day is an adventure and I am trying to make the most out of every moment,” Stephens said. “It’s been the time of my life so far.”
To see all of Stephens’ adventures, follow him on Instagram at @diversage
Follow Andrew Mascharka on Twitter: @MascharkaPhoto