West Bay, Grand Cayman, BWI – This time the security people let me on the airplane. Yesterday was a different story, but that’s for another time. After the uneventful 50-minute flight from Fort Lauderdale airport, I met Performance Freediving chief Kirk Krack at the Georgetown airport and we motored off toward the team’s West Bay headquarters. It was mid-afternoon.
I’d not seen Kirk in two years, not since the 2004 PFI world record event on Cayman, in fact. There was a lot to catch up on during the twenty-minute drive. Kirk talked, I listened and looked.
Change, change, change.
The island is almost unrecognizable after the destruction of Hurricane Ivan and the construction boom that has followed. Buildings where there weren’t any, empty spaces where there were buildings. They’ve missed the opportunity to switch to driving on the right side of the road, but never mind.
This Performance Freediving event is going to be different, too.
For one thing, Kirk explained, there’s a team from HD Odyssey involved, which means that barring any glitches, Doc’s, Martin’s and Mandy-Rae’s dives will be shown to the world live and in high definition. The technical details are complex and evolving, but there will be at least three HD cameras. Cam 1 will be tethered to a surface craft and operated by a freediving videographer to a maximum depth of 40 feet. Cam 2 will be tethered to the safety divers’ descent line at 140 feet. A third will be tethered at 300 feet with a range of movement up to 280 feet.
The athletes and some of the crew were still napping when Kirk and I reached the team base at Duncan Heard’s West Bay condos. Deep freediving is tiring, and the boat leaves the dock at 8 each morning. The lodgings are a big step up from the ones I remember from 2004, and my spot on the kitchen floor has the unprecedented luxury of an air mattress. This, I thought to myself, is really first class.
The evening team meeting began to make clear the scale of this operation. There were sixteen people in attendance: safety scuba divers, safety freedivers, videographers in both flavors, engineers, boat captains and crew, a pulmonary physician-researcher, and various other specialists. Introductions were made all around and a general briefing on the plans for the next two weeks outlined.
The two AIDA judges are due to arrive Wednesday. In fact, people are arriving every day, several times a day from all corners of the world. This is a big, big event – and it’s growing even as I type. Telephones are ringing, stuff happening. This one could really be a groundbreaker.
Stay tuned. Next dispatch tomorrow after the morning trainup.