The Puszta Connection: that is the name by which the Hungarian freedivers are known to the European freediving community. Puszta refers to the steppe, a geological feature and Hungarian tourist attraction (well, and also to our lack of sea) and Connection is really what Hungarian freedivers are famous for: their good relationships with the Austrians, Croats, Germans, and other European neighbors.
The situation of the Hungarians is unique in some ways, but many of the problems they face are not unlike the difficulties freedivers around the world encounter. Hungary does not have a sea and there is only one reasonably deep (about 32 m) lake, in Hegyeshalom, where the Hungarian freedivers can train. Of course, that does not prevent them from practicing their favorite sport, it only makes it more expensive. They go to the Adrian Sea as often as they can in the summer, take part in lake competitions in Austria, and they train in swimming pools in the winter.
According to the chronicles, scuba diving was "born" in Hungary about 50 years ago, and the first recorded freediving record was set in 1960 by Andras Almadi and Istvan Gyorgenyi in Heviz with -30 meters. It was a great achievement in those days even by international standards. For a long time afterwards, the waters remained still.
The first Hungarian records recognized by modern international standards were set by Tamas Szabo, Gyula Szelle and Gyorgy Barabas in Gossau, Austria in 1999. These divers, joined by some friends, decided to found AIDA Hungary, which came into existence in 2000. By 2001, these three divers were still the only active members of the organization. The "new generation" got involved in 2002. Zeljko Vedris, the Croatian freediving champion, organized an Academy for the Hungarians in March 2002, and that is where they learned the nuts and bolts of freediving. AIDA Hungary now has about twenty members, out of whom about ten are competing.
Recruiting and keeping new members is problematic for a number of reasons. Since freediving is virtually unknown in this country (except for some rare news reports about world records), getting permission to train in swimming pools is often not an easy task. It is interesting to note that it is not only freediving that suffers from obscurity: finswimming is underrepresented in the media, even though Hungarian finswimmers – e.g Peter Balazs – are among the world’s best. Sponsors are attracted by media attention, so freediving is really not a media darling. The internet is used as the main form of communication among the AIDA members and towards the general public. On their main internet forum, they receive posts like "My son can swim for 100 meters with one breath of air, without any training. Could you help him to develop?" or "I spent a week by the sea and went down to -41 meters. How well would I do at a freediving competition?". Nonetheless, it is hard to convince those talented beginners to go to training regularly, partly because freediving is not amongst the sports that are supported by the Ministry of Sports.
This year, the Hungarian freedivers are working on converting AIDA Hungary into a public benefit organization, so that the would-be sponsors can get tax reductions for their contributions. Hopefully that will generate more interest.
The other important challenge the Hungarians are facing nowadays is organizing a competition, which they definitely need if they want to serve the sponsors. Because of our lack of sea or deep lakes, the most obvious choice is an indoor event in Dynamic and Static. We do not have Herbert Nitsches or Martin Stepaneks, but probably freediving should not only be about chasing world records, but also about having fun and expanding your own limits.
The most attractive aspect of Hungarian freediving is the great atmosphere around it. The name "Puszta Connection" was given by a foreigner, the Austrian Harald Lautner, and the Heart of Europe and Carinthian Night Event competitions emphasize the ties between the Austrians and the Hungarians.
Harald also took part with two other Austrians, Mr. Flying Fish Herbert and "Doctor" Peter in a fun competition last Fall in Hungary, on the anniversary of Jacques Mayol’s -100m descent. The Hungarian freedivers wish this important element of having fun remains with the "Magyar Power" for a long time, and since they do have ambitious plans, just stay "connected".
Current Hungarian records:
Static Apnea: 5:04 (Gyorgy Barabas)
Dynamic with fins: 89 m (Balazs Tarnai)
Dynamic without fins: 71 m (Gyorgy Barabas)
Constant Weight (with fins): 41 m (Gyula Szelle)