One of the greatest rewards of freediving is working through its many challenges. It helps expose our character strengths and weaknesses. The rewards of watching your own child(ren) go through some of the same trials and realize the same successes and failures you have been through is one of life’s greatest gifts. I had this exact conversation with fellow diver, Stig Pryds (Denmark). Turns out, watching our children succeed and fail rouses universal sentiments. Maybe that’s one of the reasons the 1st Annual Caribbean Cup Junior was such a success.
Colombian diver, Carlos Correa has spent two years thinking, constructing and eventually running the junior freediving competition. Local kids ranging from ages 10-15 gathered for three days to complete the experience. The kids were fielded by Nidia Ramos of the Bay Islands Conservation Association (BICA). Nidia was able to procure 17 kids total from schools in the Sandy Bay and West End areas giving the kids the true home field advantage. Turns out, if kids are involved, so is the community. They had no problem adding local venues to their big sponsor, Cressi.
Day One of the comp was primarily an introduction to freediving, safety, basic rules and the purpose of the project which was to use freediving as a tool to create and promote awareness of the ocean with kids.
“I want to show them a healthy lifestyle, have them fall in love and protect the ocean through the eyes of freediving. It happened to me as a kid and now I want to share that with everybody,” says Carlos of his motivation.
When Carlos was a kid scuba was too expensive so his Dad took him freediving instead. And out of this financial limitation, his love for the sport was born. Ricardo Montans of Argentina explained equalization for freediving by engaging the kids in a game including a balloon. What kid (or adult for that matter) can’t appreciate a balloon? The day ended with a static session in Half Moon Bay. Also known as child torture!
The boat briefing reiterated the importance of safety and kept kids focused on the day’s plan.
Day Two saw the kids were ready to hit the ocean despite windy conditions. Again, they were briefed on the boat ride out to the platform as safety is everyone’s primary concern when freediving is involved. After 40 minutes of in water lecture and practice, the kids finally went for it, each one reaching for his potential in the free immersion discipline. Safety and instruction were provided by Correa, Montans, Alex St. Jean, and official safety team for this year’s Caribbean Cup and Individual Worlds. Needless to say, these kids were covered by the best, further reducing any anxiety they might have carried.
Finally, Day Three was the score keeping, goal reaching climax to the three-day crescendo. Both males and females competed in the free immersion category for respective, deepest boy and deepest girl in Roatan. Of course, only after 40 more minutes of in water lecture, practice, and prep. There were three winners (1st, 2nd, and 3rd) per gender category but the coolest thing about day three was that every single kid improved. All 17 went deeper than the previous day. Familiar with the setup, the team and after a night of sweet freediving dreams they rallied and really explored what they are made of.
- 1st Place: Juan Carlos Mann, 19m
- 2nd Place: Maxim Hin, 14.8m
- 3rd Place: Nico Gonzalez, 14.6m
- 1st Place: Jamely Paz, 13m
- 2nd Place: Keilyn Martinez, 9.6m
- 3rd Place: Michelle Reyes, 8.5m
Before the junior comp, most of the kids knew nothing about freediving. Like the general public, freediving to them was an esoteric sport meant for either really crazy or superhuman people. And like the general public, with a little instruction, these kids ended up astonished at their own natural ability. That’s another best part of freediving, the first realization that you are capable of much more than you ever thought possible. Imagine how the world opens up to kids like this now. If they can achieve the unthinkable in a sport they didn’t even know existed three days ago, think of what else might be out there? Of his first place win, Juan Carlos says:
“I had never freedived before this. It was not terrifying and it’s better than volleyball.”
Caribbean Cup organizer, Esteban Darhanpe, was enamored with the Junior comp experience. He’s already encouraging Correa, Montans, St. Jean, Alan Moran, Maria Belen de la Vega and the other athletes and staff of his annual event to get involved and help make this happen in subsequent years. He especially encourages parents to get involved to see what kind of performances their kids are capable of. Who knows, maybe Honduras is home to the future deepest human in the world!
Event Sponsors Include: Blue Marlin Roatan, Roatan Eco Tour, Roatan Freediving School and Training Center, BICA, Delphinus, Freediving Argentina, Roatan Marine Park, Splash Inn, Franks Cigar Bar, Costa Dulce, Waves of Art Gallery, MC Tours Inc, Underwater Paradise Tours, Mayak Chocolates Roatan, Calelu’s Grocery, Cannibal Cafe
Stay tuned as Ashley and DeeperBlue.com bring you the run-up and action to the 2017 Caribbean Cup & AIDA Individual World Championships in Roatan.
Photos Courtesy of Alex St Jean