Because it is obvious that if the pressure is not on, the athletes will not respond. The last day of depth in a freediving competition is usually marked by a larger percentage of yellow and red cards. Divers are fatigued physically and mentally. It’s hard enough to get out of bed Day 5 and without the proper amount of strategic pressure, we crumble. As evidence by the results of Deepsea Challenge’s Day 5’s depth. A relatively clean comp so far with no ocean blackouts and very few yellow cards we crawled out of the ocean on Day 5 with 4 yellow cards (translation: 5 mess ups), 4 Do Not Starts (DNS’s, translation: they didn’t feel like diving), and even 1 red card (translation: me tired!).
A couple of divers left the waters with shoulders back and heads held high. Aurore Asso of France clenched her national record in Constant No Fins (CNF) to 54m. With tears of relief in her eyes, Asso was escorted back to the inflatable platform to be showered with hugs and splashes from her fellow competitors, and friends. From those who know how rough the road has been on the way to that accomplishment. Liv Philip procured a white card on her 45m CNF dive. That was good but not as awesome as the 75m Constant Weight (CWT) dive she made the dive before that I failed to mention. 75m is a milestone and the Brit did it for a personal best dive. She said this,
“I’ve dove at a lot of competitions but it was Deepsea Challenge where I made my deepest dive to date with a personal best of 75m in CWT. I’m based in London so my time in the ocean is pretty valuable for me. None of my time was wasted here. The platform is a stone’s throw from the shore which gave me a chance to dive ready and relaxed. My dive to 75m put a big old smile on my face, and It’s given me some things to think about for my next depth. I like diving in open sea where you can feel some small waves, and this mix, with great set-up and competitive friendly freedivers worked just right for me.”
As proof that a lot of athletes perform best under pressure (no pun intended) world record setter, Jeanine Grasmeijer and myself had early turns on our dives. Yep, we completely flaked out! As for the Spanish gigolos, I told them all to man up and get used to CNF. They all could have easily done 20 extra meters. You could have guys, I told you this! But hey, not enough pressure applied.
Leaving the water both relieved and bummed, most of us knowing this was our last shot at depth for a while, we ate, slept and got ready for the main attraction of the day, dual Guinness Book attempts by Carlos Coste and Marina Kazankova. Athletes caravaned down to Bonaire’s center hub of Kralendijk. With the sunset as the backdrop (and what better art is on display?) Athletes lined the finger piers waiting for the hoopla to begin. I found myself in the water of course which is where Ani prefers to catch the action. We spent our time leading up to official top collecting rocks off of the bottom (in 1.6m I have to add). When the air horn was blow, in full mermaid regalia, Marina descended to the bottom and traveled along a line, reminiscent of a tightrope act, in perfect Dynamic form looking to clench a Guinness record for longest swim in open water. Kazankova did not disappoint. she made the 154m swim and in style. If you don’t believe me about the style part just check her profile picture on the event website…I’ll wait…told ya! She said this of the record and the event,
“It was my most relaxed competition ever. loved the Island, the ocean, great organization by Gaby and Carlos. the water here is so sweet to freedivers! For the dynamic record in open water it was an amazing new experience to swim in the water against the current in mermaid suit that brakes your speed! I felt my 154m as more than 200m in the pool and it was so exiting to see corals, fish and sand during the dive! Thank you Bonaire!”
Do you think legend Carlos Coste crumbled under pressure? Me neither. The merman, although not dressed quite as festively as Marina, swam an impressive 177m! The Guinness dives ended in an underwater photo shoot of mer-people swarming the record holders. A great end to a beautiful day. The only thing missing was actual Guinness!
The Statics (STA) of the following day were set for a sleepy eyed 10:30am. With plenty of athletes choosing to sleep in and eat huge breakfasts the hard core 7 that did perform were looking for redemption. Boy was on a personal vendetta against 5:00, he showed that 5:00 who’s boss by hanging on until 5:05. Liv redeemed herself from her red card performance the first day of statics with a squeaky clean 5:15. Maybe it was the trade in for coach, Ren Chapman that kept her clean this time around. I’m happy for her, even if I was the traded in coach! Bonaire resident, Maarten Boon, white carded on a 5:11 breathold with another white card to follow by Elyoenai Aparicio. Two red cards and one yellow card later, the comp was officially wrapped up.
A few of us decided Burgers and Beer (that’s literally the name of the place) were in ordered before the closing ceremonies. Maarten and Boy were kind enough to come pick a small group of us up. We drank a beer, ate some delicious and juicy burgers and played a weird, Dutch billiards game I lost. Kimmo went through a politics discussion with my Mom, which I’m still curious about and Ani ran the place. We paid our bills and walked over to El Mundo, one of the event sponsors, for the closing ceremonies. The ceremony included a bunch of dressed up (the girls outdid the boys on average) dive bums slumped over tables and chairs, exhausted. I’ve never seen such a sad group of athletes! Maybe we’re getting old. The party never really materialized, even with free drinks and music. I was shocked, considering we had 3 Spanish, 4 Venezuelans, 2 obnoxious Americans and 3 islanders. It is my experience that any one group of the above mentioned can make a party happen. Put them all together, sprinkle in some Europeans and you get everyone going home early leaving the lovely ladies of the comp dancing alone. A missed opportunity men!
Besides the tired crowd the awards were immaculate. Interesting clear versions of the medals were on display and the two top winners went home with super sleek Oris Swiss Watches (another sponsor). The accompanying slideshow gave special attention to all national and world records. It was a nice touch!
The usual string of Facebook messages are now being read and responded to. Everyone hesitant about going back to work as we let ourselves exist in an altered reality for a couple of weeks. Living like in a commune we ate and dove together as rivals, coaches, and especially friends. Because of the athletes, the Costes and the stellar dive conditions the Deepsea Challenge is going on our comp schedule for 2017!
Photo credits: Denys Rylov