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PFD Cayman 2004: March 23 Update

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           I don’t know why it should interest me, but it does: there are 1,200 meters / 3,936 feet of Caymanian ocean water under us as we breathe up on the surface. Quite deep, if one stops to think about it. Somebody asked about a weight belt that had been dropped on Sunday, and somebody else suggested it was only today, Tuesday, hitting bottom.

           Today’s outcomes were the mirror opposite of Sunday’s. Today, Martin Stepanek broke the century mark with a crisp, clean Free Immersion dive to 102 meters /335 feet, a new world record. Mandy Rae had to abort her 81 meter Constant Ballast attempt, turning back 17 meters / 56 feet shy of the bottom plate when her left ear wedged. Yes, it happens, even to Mandy Rae Cruickshank. She did the prudent thing and turned around when she couldn’t equalize. George “Doc” Lopez had the same problem and chose the same solution, aborting his attempt to break his own U.S. Free Immersion record set Sunday when his ear jammed at 28 meters/ 92 feet.

           Martin’s dive got off to an iffy start when a joint between two  arms of the surface rig came apart during the last couple of minutes of his 7-minute breathe-up. Kirk Krack and AIDA Judge Bill Stromberg struggled to re-attach the arm, and Kirk seemed inclined to abort the dive. Then, the unexpected – Martin, floating on his back and seemingly in a deep trance, hoarsely whispered terse instructions on an improvised repair. It worked. He finished his breathe-up, rolled over and started down. In contrast to the aggressive, almost angry undulations seen in his failed Constant Ballast dive of Sunday, today his movements were fluid, relaxed and deliberate.

           I’d been assigned the second safety freediver postion for today’s attempts, and it was great to be back down there, face to face with my old friend as he rose through the last 15 meters/ 49  feet of the dive. He looked good, like in training. On the surface it was plain that this dive had taxed him, but his recovery was clean as a whistle. That, people, is one hell of a freedive: one hundred two meters.  Chatting with Martin later, I learned that he’d prepped for these attempts in just 30 days, with only 2 hours’ training per day rather than his usual four. As he put it: “ I thought, I either have it in me at this point or I don’t.

           Mandy’s ear was just one of those things. She, like Martin, is a hands-free equalizer, so this kind of problem is rare for her. She shrugged it off : “ I did everything I’m supposed to. No point in crying over something that’s not your fault.” Her spirits are high: “ I’ve got one more attempt, anyway.”

           Sushi all around after docking and washing up. Rumors of a static session tomorrow morning, could be true. Stay tuned.

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Paul Kotik
Paul Kotik
Paul Kotik has been a Staff Writer and Freediving Editor for He lives in Florida, USA with his family.