The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Daring divers take stage at fair


August 15, 2018

Jamie Cushman

Evan Plummer, left, and Maria Smirnov practice diving at the Curry County Events Center on Tuesday.

CLOVIS — It's not every day you get the chance to see someone engulfed in flames dive 30 feet into a pool filled with 9 1/2 feet of water. But Curry County Fair attendees will have 16 chances this week to witness just that during the Great American High Dive Show.

"Kids, do not try this at home. You've seen it on television, you've seen it in the movies, but you're going to see it here at the fair live, that's how we sell it," Clark Kocourek said.

Kocourek is one of five athletes, along with Manny Mendes, Evan Plummer, Maria Smirnov and Jaron Williams, who will be performing acrobatic, springboard, and comedic clown diving, besides the human torch dive, which kicks off the show and the high dive from 90 feet in the air to close out the 15- to 20-minute show.

For the human torch dive, Kocourek, Plummer or Mendes — they take turns — will wear a 100 percent cotton sweatsuit and jump in the water to absorb some extra protection, before climbing up 10 meters and using a welder striker to spark a cape drenched in gasoline. That will engulf them in flames up to 1,500 degrees for 20 to 30 seconds before jumping into the pool.

With over 30 years of diving experience, Mendes said the adrenaline rush that comes with the performance is what keeps him still going strong.

"I'm an adrenaline junkie. I think if I don't have that rush, my life has no interest," Mendes said. "There's always a rush and I like to see physically how far I can push myself. And just to see the kids' faces when we perform, the big smiles and laughs."

Events Center General Manager Joelle Reed said the high dive show held at the fair about five years ago was a big hit, so they wanted to bring it back again, going along with this year's theme of "Tried and True."

Though Reed said she did have some concerns about what the divers' families think about the performances.

"I was talking to them, I'm like 'what does your mom think of this?' Because as a parent, my son does some risky things. But wow, he doesn't climb 80 feet and light himself on fire and then jump into a small pool of water," Reed said.

Kocourek said his family members' reaction is positive, though they prefer to not actually see him in action live.

"My family, they're very supportive, they love to see me pursue my dream. But at the same time it's hard for them to get to watch the shows because they don't want me to hurt myself," Kocourek said. "What they like to see is the video afterwards and me show them so they know I'm OK."

Mendes and Kocourek said unsurprisingly, getting injured comes with the territory, with broken shoulders and ankles from the impact with the water being the most common.

"Of course, that comes with the job. I missed the pool one time head first, got lucky surviving. It took me about six months to be able to perform again," Mendes said.

Kocourek and Mendes said the divers will exceed 55 mph with just 9 1/2 feet of water to break their fall.

"Imagine you're driving your car in that way and try to stop in less than 10 feet," Mendes said.

"That will give you some idea of what our high diver will experience when he makes that dive," Kocourek said.


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