Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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Martin Stepanek: It's Not About Me

In recent weeks there has been intense debate in various quarters about the validity of Martin Stepanek’s August 8 Constant Weight No-Fins dive to -83m.

The debate was started due to the fact Martin completed the dive without a tag. Despite the lack of the tag the onsite judges declared the dive valid and the AIDA board decided that the dive achieved World Record status, beating William Trubridges previous dive to -82m.

On September 27 the AIDA Executive Board made an announcement declaring the dive was invalidated.

In a world exclusive Martin has made his own thoughts available exclusively through DeeperBlue.net.

The Open Letter

Martin Stepanek Headshot

"Dear Fellow Freedivers:

The AIDA validation process for my recent -83 meters CNF attempt has given rise to numerous disputes and various complaints, and has created lot of controversy. I’d like to take this opportunity to respond to your many messages and inquiries, and to make my personal view of this situation known to the freediving community.

I’ve not felt the need to intervene personally in the AIDA validation process, or in the public controversy which now surrounds it, even though a World Record hung in the balance. I see the controversy that arose with regard to the validity of my dive as an AIDA World Record as a dispute between AIDA and William Truebridge, whose CNF World Record would be displaced by my performance were it validated.

I did what I was instructed to do by the AIDA officials on the scene: I executed the dive without a tag and without a lanyard. It was the deepest CNF dive ever performed. No one disputes that. The AIDA Executive Board has, finally, on September 27 ruled that this dive did not comply with AIDA regulations and was, therefore, not a valid World Record dive.

I well understand that rules are here to level the field for everybody, so the competition is fair. I am not interested or inclined to cry, beg or protest to get my record back. To me, on a personal level, it doesn’t much matter whether I see the ‘WR’ mark beside my depth number. I know how deep I can dive, AIDA knows, and I think my competitors have a pretty good idea, too.

What concerns me more is the way this matter was handled, and what the consequences will be for competitive freediving in the future.

What has emerged from this episode is distressing. We see now that an athlete seeking recognition of his or her performance as an AIDA World Record must comply with no fewer than three sets of contradictory regulations, which not even the highest-ranking AIDA officials are able to reconcile and make sense of! AIDA, the pre-eminent and most widely-recognized sanctioning body for freediving – the only one with global reach – has shown itself to be unreliable and inconsistent, when the main reason for being of a sanctioning body is to assure reliability and consistency.

The immediate and developing consequences of this disclosure are grim. Sponsors are running for the hills, since they cannot rely upon a timely and final decision regarding the validity of a record they pay for. Athletes will increasingly see AIDA as irrelevant, and too risky to get involved with.

I am not going to follow examples of Umberto Pelizzari, Stephan Mifsud or Patrick Musimu, who were driven away from AIDA by circumstances similar to those we now find ourselves facing up to. Not at this point. I believe that there is still hope for AIDA, and that the obvious and necessary changes can be put in place quickly. The silver lining here is that the flaws have been exposed and are not controversial. All that’s required here is good will and professionalism. Professionalism is a personal virtue which can be and should be implanted in organizations by the individuals who manage them.

I am not going to demand that William Truebridge’s CNF AIDA World Record be revoked by application of the same rule invoked to invalidate mine: William performed his dive, all agree, without what we now are told is the required lanyard.

I understand the challenges faced by the AIDA Judges in Dahab during my event there. Rough weather made it impossible for me to do the -112m Constant Weight dive I’d planned, and so we improvised a CNF dive which I had not trained for, and for which the Judges had quite reasonably not prepared themselves to supervise and validate. The Judges, and AIDA itself have acknowledged the errors they committed prior to, during and after my -83 CNF dive. No one has suggested that the dive itself was not entirely successful.

I hope and trust that we, as a community, will go forward from this unfortunate circumstance wiser and better able to promote and preserve the sport we all love."


In the coming weeks we’ll be looking at the impact of this decision. If you’d like to contribute to this debate please feel free to email me.

Stephan Whelan
Stephan Whelanhttps://www.deeperblue.com
Stephan is the Founder of DeeperBlue.com. His passion for the underwater world started at 8 years old with a try-dive in a hotel pool on holiday that soon formulated into a lifelong love affair with the oceans. In 1996 he set up DeeperBlue.com and has grown the site to be the most popular diving website and community in the world.