The Blue Element Freediving competition has not only begun but it has blasted off to a historic start with 22 national records and two continental records already being set in the calm, clear waters of Soufriere Bay on the Caribbean island of Dominica.

The local scene beneath the Blue Element platform from below (photo by Daan Verhoeven)
The local scene beneath the Blue Element platform from below (photo by Daan Verhoeven)

The international freediving competition organized by AIDA Instructor Trainer Jonathon Sunnex takes place in what was once an active volcano but is now a sunken caldera in the Caribbean Sea. Four days of diving have occurred and today marks the fifth opportunity for 30 athletes to offer their best.

“I’m extremely pleased with how the event is running; everything is flowing smoothly thanks to our very experienced crew members on the Blue Element team — who really operate as a collective and are skilled in supporting each other and all of the competitors. I have so much faith in my team that I’ve even been able to perform a few of my own dives!” shared Sunnex. “The positive attitudes I see emanating from the athletes, in combination with their calculated approaches, are really impressing me.”

Thibault Guignes smiles on the surface after a 105m dive (photo by Daan Verhoeven)
Thibault Guignes smiles on the surface after a 105m dive (photo by Daan Verhoeven)

This third edition of Blue Element is the largest event so for the “nature island” of Dominica; Sunnex decided to set up shop on Dominica back in 2015 with Sofia Gomex Uribe.

“When I first came to the island I hired a local fisherman to take me out in the bay, and with a long line, a rock and a dive watch we explored and measured for days to determine that there was plenty of depth to hold an elite level competition.”

The actual depth beneath the platform (which Sunnex fabricated himself with the help of local boat-builders) is 150 meters, providing an essentially “no-limit” environment for the top freedivers from around the globe. Whatsmore, the platform is such a short swim from shore, (or an even quicker 3-minute boat ride,) in a protected bay that it also makes the perfect location for novices as well.

Alena Konecna rising (photo by Daan Verhoeven)
Alena Konecna rising (photo by Daan Verhoeven)

This year we’ve got a range of competitors from Alena Konecna of the Czech Republic attempting a World Record, to Thibault Guignes and Stephane Tourreau of France diving well below 100m, to first time talents like Noah Magloire of Dominica who has garnered four white cards & four national records for his first-ever four days of diving in a competition. Naura Suksomstarn of Thailand has offered two beautiful performances in both constant weight-bi-fins (CWTB) 43m and free immersion (FIM) 45m respectively and achieved a pair of national records for herself as well,” boasted the proud Kiwi.

Naura celebrates a new National Record for Thailand (photo by Daan Verhoeven)
Naura celebrates a new National Record for Thailand (photo by Daan Verhoeven)

The race for the overall competition leader-board seems to be a volley between Konecna and Sheena McNally of Canada for the women, but you can never underestimate the strong and steady hand of Georgina Miller of the UK or the bi-fins specialist from Hawaii Enchante Gallardo.

Enchante Gallardo shows off her sleek style and her Alchemy fins (photo by Daan Verhoeven)
Enchante Gallardo shows off her sleek style and her Alchemy fins (photo by Daan Verhoeven)

On the men’s side Thibault Guignes has vaulted himself to the top for the moment with 244 points with three dives in Free Immersion (FIM), Constant Weight Bi-Fins (CWTB), and Constant Weight No-Fins (CNF) but his fellow countryman Tourreau has yet to attempt anything in free immersion so he could quickly close the gap. Additionally, event organizer Sunnex hasn’t offered no-fins performance so that question also remains unanswered for the time being.

Sanda doubles down on take #2 (photo by Daan Verhoeven)
Sanda doubles down on take #2 (photo by Daan Verhoeven)

One of the most heart-breaking moments ever-witnessed abruptly appeared on day two of the comp, when Sanda Delijah of Croatia received an abhorrent red card for a perfectly clean performance because her boyfriend and coach unknowingly dove during her dive causing the AIDA judges to issue the unexpected DQ. But Sanda was undeterred and powered through to triumph and collect her title on a second attempt to 76m Free Immersion (FIM) — which had a much happier ending.

A victory for Sanda (photo by Daan Verhoeven)
A victory for Sanda (photo by Daan Verhoeven)

Another person having a terrific time so far is Sheena McNally of Canada. Sheena has been endeavoring to make her mark in the discipline of constant-weight for the better part of a year, but the existing national record of 88m (set a long 12 years ago by freediving legend Mandy-Rae Krack nee Cruickshank) remained intact despite McNally’s best efforts in other locations — the 89 meter mark seemed to elude Sheena. But for McNally Dominica is a second home and the good vibes, and warm waters gave her the peace of mind she needed to succeed. On the second day of Blue Element 2019, McNally finally reached her goal and completed a clean, white card performance to 89 meters giving her simultaneously a new Canadian National Record and a Continental Record for North America. Then to punctuate her triumph, McNally took one day off and returned to deliver another even cleaner & stronger dive with a pronounced 91m CWT. A new Canadian powerhouse is here to stay.

Sheena on her way to making history (photo by Daan Verhoeven)
Sheena on her way to making history (photo by Daan Verhoeven)

Stay tuned to DeeperBlue.com as there are a few more days of action-packed diving to come and winners to be revealed.

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