In association with Performance FreeDiving International
On Monday, March 14th, we arrive on Cayman. The Performance Freediving International Team (Team PFI) thus far consists of Martin Stepanek (Czech Republic), Dr. George (Doc) Lopez (USA), Kirk Krack and Goh Iromoto (Canada). Mandy-Rae Cruickshank (Canada) is arriving this Saturday.
It was with some apprehension that we flew over and into Cayman. September of last year the Cayman Islands were hit by Hurricane Ivan (Ivan the Terrible), a category 5 hurricane that lived up to its name. Hearing stories from friends who lived through Ivan was numbing. Having lived and worked myself in Cayman several times since 1989, I never wanted to hear of devastation like this that Nature hurled at my friends.
From the time Ivan hit we continuously evaluated the possibility of heading back to Cayman for our next set of record attempts. Would they have the infrastructure? Would our support and services be available? Would experienced divers and boat operators still be on the island? Since 1997 I’ve been involved as a coach/trainer or safety diver/organizer for 7 world record events including Pipin Ferraras, Tanya Streeter, Brett LeMaster, Martin Stepanek and Mandy-Rae Cruickshank, along with another half dozen national records. It’s hard to leave a place and friends after so many experiences, friends who have helped you along the way. As long as there was a possibility we’d be back and give what we could. If that means exposure for the island and our business, we’ll work along with them to make it happen.
Red-eye flights are no fun and after touch down we’re soon driving our eight passenger rental van north to Cobalt Coast. It’s on the North West part of the island where our home will be for the next 4-5 weeks. I’d prepared myself for the worst. I was afraid that this was going to be an island I didn’t recognize. One with wrecked buildings, roads in disrepair, and garbage strewn along the road sides. Thankfully, what I see isn’t even close.
It isn’t even close to the awful picture I had built up in my own mind. I had seen selected pictures on the internet sent from friends in the initial days after the hurricane, at a time when the people were pulling themselves out from under the rubble. But what I saw while approaching the island didn’t look too bad at all. In their true spirit the locals have pitched in together and have made remarkable, even astounding progress to getting the island back on its feet again. Sure there are buildings with roofs missing and some are completely demolished but just as many can be seen with new roofs and new construction under way. There’s a sense of renewal here. For the island and its people have been here well over two hundred years and have survived these kinds of challenges before.
After the drive from the airport we settle into #29 at Cobalt Coast. We have welcome showers and head off for dinner at the Lone Star (Tex Mex), and then to Foster’s Food Fair for groceries and five week supply of hair conditioner a.k.a. suit lube. At Foster’s we run into Nick (Red Baron Divers), Julie and their new baby Sky and it’s great to see my old friends. Hours later we’re dozing off wherever our tired bodies found a place to lay down.