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HomeFreedivingPFD Cayman 2004: March 25 Update

PFD Cayman 2004: March 25 Update

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The first cards dealt today were not such good ones.

Three crew called and dropped out, including the deep suba safeties required to support Martin’s 100 meter /328 feet  Constant Ballast attempt.

However, the show must go on, so after some telephony and calculation, Kirk revised the plan to fit the available resources. Martin would spend the day resting, Mandy would make her third and final CB dive with a second attempt on the 81m/266 ft. mark, and Doc would  have a go at besting his own U.S. Free Immersion record.

Martin was not displeased by the change of plan. He is tired, and conceded he could use the extra recovery time to good effect.

The wind had come up another few notches and with it, the chop. However, the timeline, shortened by Martin’s absence, was good news for Doc and Mandy. Dives are done deepest-first, with the bottom plate and safety divers raised up to accomodate the subsequent, shallower dives. The dive rig drifts during the attempts, and previously, the offshore winds had carried the rig well out of the lee of the island and into increasingly serious seas. Doc and Mandy could look forward to a calmer breathe-up today.

I was once again assigned the second freedive safety position. This time it was not a drill.

There was a minor mechanical problem deploying the counterweight safety system, quickly resolved.  The freediving support people began their warmup routines, and the scuba safeties bobbed on the surface. Everything looked as near to perfect as can be in this season off Grand Cayman.

I thought Mandy looked a bit fast on her way down, but thought nothing of it. Kirk, acting as first freedive safety, rolled over on his back as soon as she disappeared into the blue,  breathed up and started down to his postion. I followed shortly thereafter.

Mandy came back into my visual range at about 2:20 into the dive, face to face with Kirk, ascending, nothing remarkable. As soon as I saw her eyes I knew this dive was in trouble, and, indeed, at around 6 meters from the surface Mandy blacked out. Kirk grabbed her head, locking her jaw shut, I grabbed her hips and we rocketed topside. Kirk blew a few breaths into her and she came around as if nothing had happened, gayly announcing: “ I just had the most amazing  dream !”  She seemed fine, but was nonetheless escorted to a nearby boat and administered oxygen by the waiting EMT’s.

That was Mandy’s third and final permitted Constant Ballast attempt,  so that’s it for her depth attempts during this event. 

Doc Lopez breathed up in seas that were beginning to kick up a bit as we drifted farther and farther offshore, but his warmups looked strong, smooth and serene. His U.S record-setting 34 meter / 112 ft.  free immersion dive looked textbook, except for a peculiar twist at the bottom which at the time I supposed was just playfulness. As he neared the plate, Doc flipped over into a heads-up position and descended the last few meters feet-first.  Seemed to me he was just goofing for the cameras, but later he told me he’d had trouble making his last equalization,.

“I’d told my wife there was absolutely no way I was coming up without that tag !” he declared. “When I couldn’t  make that last equalization, I tried the heads-up position as a last resort. Worked !”

Indeed it did, and now Doc is postitioned and prepared to push the mark down as much as another 3 meters  on Saturday, the final event day. 

Martin Stepanek has his eyes fixed on the elusive, historic century mark in Constant Ballast. Saturday. Doc Lopez will shoot for 37 meters / 121 feet Free Immersion, his third new U.S. record in as many attempts. Mandy, we are reminded, is eligible to try for a world women’s record in Static Apnea , and if the rumors of a special static training session tomorrow are true, then I suspect that is what will transpire.

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.


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