Israel Zavaleta Cepeda ’23 spent his summer performing at a Swedish waterpark, diving from 23 meters in the air in search of a pirate’s spyglass.
Though he now considers this his dream job, Zavaleta didn’t have nearly as much of a passion for the sport when he was introduced to it around age 11. “My mom forced me to take diving. And, at the beginning, I hated it. It was bad. But then I just fell in love with the sport,” Zavaleta said.
When a friend approached him about diving for a show in the Netherlands in 2019, he seized the opportunity to get paid for doing what he loves while traveling the world. After being unable to perform for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he finally returned to work in Europe this summer.
Located in Västra Götaland County, Sweden, Skara Sommarland is an amusement park boasting water attractions, rides, rollercoasters and go-karts. The water park’s “Dykshow” or, translated from Swedish, “Diving Show” is 20 minutes of acrobatics, stunts and dives.
This year, the show’s theme was pirates. Starting with a series of acrobatics, the pirates (including Zavaleta) bounced off the walls as they performed tricks on a trampoline. Trouble arrived when their spyglass fell into the water, and that’s when the diving began. It took a flaming pirate diving into the water, a set of dives rising in height and stakes, and the culminating 23-meter high dive before Zavaleta finally emerged victorious, with spyglass in hand.
Zavaleta enjoys being caught up in the thrill of the performance. “I just like being around my friends. And just for 20 minutes, you can forget about all your problems,” Zavaleta said. “And it’s more for kids, you know? So you see the kids, like, screaming, just having fun, and it’s really memorable.”
Beyond summer shows, Zavaleta dives competitively for Kenyon. He won the NCAA Division III Regional Diving Championship and National Diving Championship for 1-meter and 3-meter diving boards in 2022. This is backed up with ten years’ experience, making it no surprise he has the skill required for these performances.
However, Zavaleta described how competitive and performance diving have their differences. The first focuses more on technique and meeting different requirements, while the second involves both simple, playful dives and dangerous high dives. “You need to have your peace up there,” Zavaleta said. “You need to be sure what you’re going to do.”
As Zavaleta talked about his experiences diving, one word kept coming up: fun. “I just want to keep diving until my body says ‘You cannot do it anymore.’”