Records tumble at freediving event
Twenty national freediver records were broken during the Blue Element competition in Dominica last month.
The event, organised by Jonathan Sunnex (AKA 'Johnny Deep') and Sofía Gómez Uribe, two of the deepest freedivers in the world with a number of world records between them, was postponed last year as the island was 'ravaged' by the passage of Hurricane Maria.
This year, the conditions were perfect - as is normal for Soufriere Bay - with no current or waves, 20-30m visibility and water temperature that never dropped to less than 26°C. Twenty-two athletes from 13 different countries around the world took part, and a total of 20 national records were broken.
Four freediving disciplines were involved in the competition. Constant weight apnea (CWT), in which freedivers follow a guide rope to their maximum depth without using it aid ascent and descent, while wearing either monofins or bi-fins; CWT Bi-Fin, which is the same but with monofins not permitted; CNF, as per CWT but with no fins or other swimming aids; and Free Immersion Apnea (FIM), in which the diver may use the line to pull themselves down to their maximum depth and back to the surface, but without the use of ballast of fins.
The overall winners of the competition were Sayuri Kinoshita of Japan and Stig Pryds of Denmark. Sayuri’s top dives were 83m CWT bi-fins, 98m CWT, 88m FIM, 62m CNF and Stig’s were 101m CWT, 95m FIM, 68m CNF. Sayuri is the current FIM world record holder (97m) and former CNF world record holder (72m). Stig Pryds holds all Danish depth national records at present (75m CNF, 102m FIM, 105m CWT). Stig suffers from psoriatic arthritis (a chronic inflammatory joint disease, causing intense pain and extreme fatigue), making his diving results all the more impressive and inspirational.
In between organising the event, Sofia and Johnny managed to make some of their own dives, securing themselves podium positions as a result. Sofia came second overall (80m CWT, 85m FIM, 52m CNF) and Johnny third (82m CWT, 80m FIM and 52m CNF).
Four freedivers representing the UK also placed highly in the competition. Nancy Gibson was fourth overall with dives to 60m CWT (bi-fins), 60m FIM and 40m CNF and Georgina Miller came sixth (56m CWT, 47m FIM and 36m CNF). Paul Sutton came fifth out of the men (61m CWT, 56m FIM, 51m CNF) and Jon Fane sixth despite only competing in two out of three disciplines (77m for both CWT (bi-fins) and FIM).
Three British freedivers also made up part of the safety team, of paramount importance to freediving, selected for their experience and capabilities. British freediver Louisa Collyns, a former GB freediving athlete and instructor, led the team as chief of safety. Also on the team were Gary McGrath, a team GB competitor and instructor, and Scottish freediver and yoga Instructor Lynne Padden.
Conservation is also a priority for the Blue Element crew. During one of the rest days, with the support of the Maaji Earth Warriors - who do beach cleanups all over Colombia - Sofia and other athletes collected more than 200kg of trash in just half an hour. This is a tradition that will continue with each Blue Element edition.
For more about British Freediving, including competition news and where to learn in the UK, visit www.britishfreediving.org