This July, Mostar continued its 451 year tradition of men diving off the Old Bridge in the center of the Old City. Crowds gathered despite the 38 degree heat to watch divers compete for the best scores and the title as the winner in their diving class.
Every year, a panel of 5 judges evaluate between 40-60 divers on a scale between 1-10. These scores are based not only on the dive, but also the divers’ entrance onto the bridge, their form as they dive, and the precision of their entry into the water. 41 divers from Mostar, all over BiH, Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia and other countries gathered to compete at this years competition.
The official competition started in 1952 in Yugoslavia, taking place at the end of every July. The competition was held on Tito Bridge until it was moved to the Old Bridge in 1968.
People have been jumping of the Old Bridge for 451 years since it was built in 1566. Evlija Celebija, a traveller and a writer during the Ottoman Empire, was the first to write about it in 1664. The story goes that young men jumped off the bridge to impress passing dignitaries in hopes of earning a little money and proving their manhood. The tradition of diving for money continues today with tourists often paying to see the professionals take the plunge.
There are two types of diving that are judged during this event, the “Let” and the “Lasta.”
The Let style of diving is where the diver lands feet first into the water and tries to make as little splash as possible. He jumps off the bridge with his knees bent at a 90 degree angle and arms stretched out at the sides, or tilted backwards. Before he enters the water, he must straighten his legs, bring down his arms, and straighten his chin to reduce splash as he enters the river below.
The Lasta style has its own specific form in Mostar that is in contradiction to most other official sports dives. In the Lasta, the diver goes into the water head first and the bigger the splash against the diver’s chest as he enters the water, the better score he will receive. For this dive, he jumps off the bridge and mimics the dive of the sparrow with arms out, chest parallel with the water, and legs above. The goal is to enter the water at a 45 degree angle and make a big splash.
When leaping off the 27 meter high bridge, divers reach an average speed of 80 kilometers per hour. They enter the chilling waters of the Neretva at around 12°C, one of the most difficult rivers to dive into because of the strong current and cold temperature.
This year, Lorenz Listo took first place for the 11th time in the category of Lasta. And Igor Kazic won his 5th championship in the Let.
A special thanks to Tina Ćorić for dedicating her time to answering my questions and contributing her knowledge about the history of diving in Mostar.