The 10th anniversary of Vertical Blue was a spectacle, the likes of which we have never seen before. Not only was #VB2018 epic in terms of the sheer number of world records being set, day after day — it was unparalleled in terms of the highest level of competition amongst a ridiculously talented field of athletes. To cap it all off it was simply mind-blowing to be able to share the premiere AIDA event around the world, broadcasting all of the astounding underwater action via the Diveye in real-time. Sharing the phenomenal performances with folks from Australia, Japan, Italy, the UK, the US and beyond.

It takes a village (photo by Howard Holtzman)
It takes a village…Alexey Molchanov departs for a world record dive to 130M (photo by Howard Holtzman)

The king and queen of this prom were 31-year-old Alexey Molchanov (Russia) & 26-year-old Alessia Zecchini (Italy). Their dives were both super-human and magnificent: 130m Constant Weight (CWT) for him and 107m Constant Weight (CWT) for her. So clean in their protocols at the surface it makes you wonder how it is at all possible? What pleases me even more than how each of them truly “owned” their dives, is the fact that Alessia beat out her male counterpart in the total number of points earned over the whole competition — a first for Vertical Blue. Let’s hear it for the ladies. You can check out the final leader board and all the scores on the Vertical Blue website.

Alessia "La Macchina" Zecchini ( photo by Francesca Koe)
Alessia “La Macchina” Zecchini ( photo by Francesca Koe)

And while winning the overall competition and garnering prizes along with adoration is swell, what’s even more remarkable is the vast inventory of other personal successes that were revealed in Deans Blue Hole. Success stories like Denis Grosmaire of French Polynesia.

This is what success tastes like! (photo by Francesca Koe)
This is what success tastes like! (photo by Francesca Koe)

Grosmaire had never been to the Bahamas before, never before met his French country-mates, but left with a personal best free immersion dive to 93 meters and a membership in the “french mafia!”.

French Mafia! L to R: Remy Dubern, Alice Modolo, Denis Grosmaire and Stephane Toureau (photo by Francesca Koe)
French Mafia! L to R: Remy Dubern, Alice Modolo, Denis Grosmaire and Stephane Toureau (photo by Francesca Koe)

Or the heroic efforts of athletes like Martiz Zajac and Aolin Wang. The former being the official training partner & coach for Zecchini (no pressure!) who was also trying to set his own national records for Slovakia. I am pleased to report he succeeded multiple times. And the latter (Aolin Wang) didn’t have any pressure on his shoulders, merely just over 3 million Chinese people back home tuning in to see him dive every day! Thankfully, Aolin achieved a new personal best + National Record for China of 110m Constant Weight (CWT). He had planned to go even deeper than that but decided to take up speaking Italian instead.

A winning combination (photo by Francesca Koe)
A winning combination (photo by Francesca Koe)

As for the women, one of my favorite moments was when Misuzu Okamoto of Japan realized a personal best of 95m Constant Weight (CWT) on the very last day of the competition. The “OG” of the female freedivers in Japan was beaming upon surfacing — her joy was contagious. World record holders Sayuri Kinoshita and Hanako Hirose attest to both her demeanor & legacy of discipline as an inspiration to them.

Nothing is better than a personal best! (photo of Mimi by Daan Verhoeven)
Nothing is better than a personal best! (photo of Mimi by Daan Verhoeven)

Another inspiring diver was Alice Modolo of France. The lithe and chic athlete had all but disappeared from the competitive scene over five years ago. Making a triumphant return to depth diving at her first VB competition, Alice made everything look so effortless, including her new National Record to 88m Constant Weight (CWT). But then again she is French.

A triumphant Alice (photo by Daan Verhoeven)
A triumphant Alice (photo by Daan Verhoeven)

I know it’s corny to say but the real stars of this prestigious event were not only the stellar athletes who stood atop the podium, (although their efforts were remarkable and well worth applauding). The real stars are the dedicated women and men who serve as safety divers, medics, judges and crew. Tirelessly working behind the scenes and taking on every task imaginable — there would be no event without you, so we thank you from the bottom of our hearts with gratitude greater than the ocean can hold.

The "Voice of God" Sam Trubridge alongside the "Healer" Louisa Collyns ( photo by Francesca Koe)
The “Voice of God” Sam Trubridge alongside the “Healer” Louisa Collyns ( photo by Francesca Koe)

After diving at least 70 times each day the intrepid photographers and media team have to work into the wee hours of the night to get the visuals prepared so the stories can unfold. I mean it’s freediving, right? So if there isn’t a picture it didn’t happen! Our hats are off to both Daan Verhoeven and Alex St. Jean for their absolutely terrific work and their stamina.

Making it work... (photo by Francesca Koe)
Making it work… (photo by Francesca Koe)
Daan Verhoeven keeps us all smiling (photo by Alex St. Jean)
Daan Verhoeven keeps us all smiling (photo by Alex St. Jean)

And finally, someone gave Homar Leuci & Paola of Italy a run for their money in the “most gorgeous couple” category. All bets are usually off with Paola in tow. She is not only very sweet, she is like a living “Venus” with her long locks, her tawny curves, and enticing eyes. It’s hard to compete with that kind of perfection.

Beauty and the Homar (photo by Francesca Koe)
Beauty and the Homar (photo by Francesca Koe)

But Gus Kreivenas of Lithuania decided to show up with Anastasiya Gorbacheva and the lines in Vegas started to move!

"I'm too sexy for his wetsuit..." (photo by Francesca Koe)
“I’m too sexy for his wetsuit…” (photo by Francesca Koe)

In all seriousness, aside from the fantastic diving and the natural beauty of Deans Blue Hole, the joking and fun we all have together are a predominant element present at this event that keeps many of us coming back, year after year. The camaraderie and enduring friendships are magnetic. The silly moments indelible. The belly laughter invigorating.

All good friends; all National Record Holders from #VB2018. L to R: Alex Davis, Mike Board, Stig Pryds (photo by Francesca Koe)
All good friends; all National Record Holders from #VB2018. L to R: Alex Davis, Mike Board, Stig Pryds (photo by Francesca Koe)

It never ceases to amaze me how each person plays a vital role in the fabric of this community. What’s even better is how our community and this sport is growing and expanding. The advances that the Diveye technology brings us are exponential, and the team behind it are all just lovely humans. So stay tuned to the VB Freediving channel on YouTube over the next few weeks as more personal best, national record and world record videos will appear, and more of the wonderful achievements of every individual who participated in this historic event. Thank you to everyone for their support. See you in the blue…

The author with the Diveye team.
The author with the hard-working Diveye team.

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