Over eight days in the mesmerizingly blue depths of the Mediterranean Sea the fifth edition of the Infinity Depth Games (IDG5) came to a conclusion with an amazing 190 freediving performances and a whopping 29 new national records. Hosted by Infinity Freediving Cyprus, this burgeoning competition swelled to nearly 50 competitors for this year’s highly anticipated event. Many of the athletes commented that the extremely well-organized, supportive and inclusive training atmosphere was the unifying antidote they all needed after a (bizarrely) adversarial and discordant AIDA world championship in Nice.

“My goal coming to Cyprus was to gain more experience competing. This feels like the perfect place to do so. The organizers can’t seem to do enough for the athletes, the judges have created a fun and encouraging atmosphere both in training and competition and the safeties…Well, the safeties simply put, are legends!”

shared Claire Walsh of Ireland who not only garnered more experience at IDG5 but a couple of new Irish National Records to boot.

Claire Walsh diving a personal best (photo by Daan Verhoeven)
Claire Walsh diving a personal best (photo by Daan Verhoeven)

Birgit Standhartinger of Austria also nabbed a couple of titles with perfect performances in Free Immersion (FIM) to 70 meters and Constant Weight (CWT) to 70 meters – both white cards and both national records. But her most memorable & relaxed dive, as it turns out, was disqualified on a verbal glitch:

“I had the most beautiful and relaxed dive of the whole competition on my 73m attempt. I kept my mouth-fill until the end and still had plenty of air to equalize. But I probably was too relaxed, and enjoyed free-fall too much! I did not grab the rope after my last alarm and my free-fall was stopped when my head bumped the bottom plate!” explained the Austrian athlete. “I got the tag, met my safeties (ooh how I love hearing and seeing the safeties so much!) swam back to the surface, and with my protocol I said “I am fine!?” instead of the requisite “I am okay!”. In the end, I received a red card from my really sweet and lovely judge (I think it, the red card, even pained her more than me!). While I was DQ’d for this dive it is still a personal best for me in CWT and I am proud.”

Birgit Standhartinger in good form (photo by Daan Verhoeven)
Birgit Standhartinger in good form (photo by Daan Verhoeven)

Arriving late to the competition with no luggage, no equipment, and no worries, was Gletwin Rubridge of South Africa. The athletic elder statesman showed everyone he meant business when he literally dove into the sea with nothing on but a speedo. Cheered on by his gorgeous ginger wife Chevonne, the father of four nicknamed “Ging”, powered himself down with only his hands and his feet, to return triumphantly from 55 meters to be greeted by a white card for his stunning CNF performance. “Ging” Rubridge would continue his successful endeavors with more colorful attire when his bags eventually arrived, entertaining everyone with his personal bests, waving to judges at the bottom plate and handily delivering a new South African national record in CWT to 90m.

"Let me entertain you!" (photo by Daan Verhoeven)
“Let me entertain you!” (photo by Daan Verhoeven)

The deepest dives of the competition were provided by Mathieu Maraio of France and Martin Zajac of Slovakia with respective performances of 96 meters in FIM and 96m in CWT.

“I made it!” exclaimed Maraio, who had been training for many months leading up to IDG5 to achieve his goal — a nearly 320-foot competition personal best performance.

“My dive felt very enjoyable; I reached the bottom quite easily, thanks to cooperation from my ears. On the way up I remained focused despite a little narcosis and finally resurfaced after three minutes and: 20 seconds. I’m so happy to end the season like this and looking forward to the next one. I’d like to say a huge thank you to all the team, organizers, safeties, judges, photographers and medics, you did absolutely a wonderful job to make this event a real success — Bravo!!!”

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

Martin Zajac not only delivered his own deepest performance of the year but the coach known as “Apneaman” helped to guide many of his club members to medals and personal bests including his enormously talented daughter Jindriška Zajacová of the Czech Republic. While Jindriška was the youngest competitor in the field, her dive technique was absolutely flawless, belying her age.

Jindriška demonstrates excellent technique (photo by Daan Verhoeven)
Jindriška demonstrates excellent technique (photo by Daan Verhoeven)

The overall winner of the men’s division, Martin Zajac had this to say:

“The goal of each freediver should be to keep the pleasure and to enjoy each part of the dive, each part of the performance. If we feel happiness, everything works in the best way. -96m is my deepest dive this year and it was super nice! The dive time 2:50, everything went perfectly and I had room to go deeper, but I felt tired and so it was better to be more conservative.”

This mindful approach landed Zajac atop of the leaderboards in three out of four disciplines and taking home the top prize.

A white card and a winning smile (photo by Daan Verhoeven)
A white card and a winning smile (photo by Daan Verhoeven)

On the women’s side, the overall winner was Kristine Zipfel of Norway, who not only won the competition but established herself as a real contender with her flexible prowess across disciplines, and mental strength while not taking any of the usual ups & downs too seriously.

“That’s a wrap! I’ve spent the past month in Cyprus with Infinity Freediving, safetying, training and competing. It’s been an amazing time in the water, and I’m so grateful for all the old and new friends that I got to spend time with in the water and on land,” declared the effervescent blonde powerhouse.

Kristine on her way to a new Norwegian national record (photo by Daan Verhoeven)
Kristine on her way to a new Norwegian national record (photo by Daan Verhoeven)

“I am leaving Cyprus today with 3 new Norwegian national records, 3 personal bests, 4 trophies and I finish the Infinity Depth Games 2019 in FIRST PLACE for the women! I competed in four disciplines, CNF (51m, NR and PB), CWTB (60m, NR and PB), 62 FIM (NR) and 62 CWT (PB). I’m so incredibly happy and thankful for all the people around me that supported me both before, during and after the competition. Thank you Pavlos, Nicole and Costas for being the most wonderful organisers, all of the safety team for being so incredible and kind, Francesca for being everything a judge should be and more, Joan for all your wonderful and wise support, Yan-Hua Chen for your coaching on my CWT dive, Sheena for letting me borrow your monofin, Sofia for saving my CWTB dive with your alchemy fins, Daniella, Adonis, Avramis, Alexandros, Olga +++ for all the fun in the water, my roomies from the past few weeks, Natasha, Sheena, Kiki and Matthieu, and everyone else I have been lucky enough to spend time with the last few weeks!”

A winning pair -- Nicole Zipfel with organizer Pavlos Kourtellas (photo by Costas Costantinou)
A winning pair — Gold medalist Kristine Zipfel with organizer Pavlos Kourtellas (photo by Costas Costantinou)

A fantastic ensemble of divers from Taiwan also made their inaugural appearance in Cyprus. Maru Huang Yi was a super cool customer, typically appearing like a Taiwanese “James Bond” on the competition line — very calm, collected and streamlined. Maru would go on to take the silver medal in constant weight for the men with a spectacular come-back performance to 90m CWT. And the visionary creators of the Lazy Fish Divehaus from Taiwan were also on hand sharing their wares, filming their club members and adding some extra special positivity to the whole event.

Lazyfish Divehaus in action (photo by Daan Verhoeven)
Lazyfish Divehaus in action (photo by Daan Verhoeven)

The much-beloved organizers of the Infinity Depth Games were Nicole Karsera, Costas Costantinou, and Pavlos Kourtellas. Fueled by inordinate amounts of coffee and an incredibly high work ethic, these three Cypriots managed to execute what will inarguably remain the most enjoyed event of the year.

Organizer Nicole Karsera and competitor Chih-in Yeh of Taiwain (photo by Costas Costantinou)
Organizer Nicole Karsera and competitor Chih-in Yeh of Taiwain (photo by Costas Costantinou)

Another highlight of the international event was the solemn dominance of Alice Hickson of Great Britain. The reigning queen of the pool in the UK, Hickson pronounced her arrival to depth by breaking a 12-year long British record in constant no-fins (CNF) with her first competition dive. Alice went on during the competition to simultaneously illustrate ease & swagger as she continued smashing the decades-long dry-spell with a much deeper CNF record for the UK pushing it significantly further to 60m in as little as 3 days time and with what appeared to be little effort. Alice “Chex Mix” Hickson will be one to watch in the coming months and years, a world record trajectory seems imminent for her rich natural talent.

Long live the Queen! Alice Hickson smashes British CNF records (L to R Zipfel of Norway takes Bronze, Christiansen of Denmark takes silver, and Alice Hickson of GBR takes gold. Photo by Costas Costatninou)
Long live the Queen! Alice Hickson smashes British CNF records (L to R Zipfel of Norway takes Bronze, Christiansen of Denmark takes silver, and Alice Hickson of GBR takes gold. Photo by Costas Costatninou)

On the penultimate dive of the competition the spirit of the entire event was on full display when the safety team escorted Yuki Muto of Japan on a fun, shallow dive to let her reconnect with the ocean after a long & varied season — forming a circle of friendship to honor everyone who has been connected together through freediving as a water tribe.

Safety in numbers (photo by Daan Verhoeven)
Safety in numbers (photo by Daan Verhoeven)

The trio of organizers had this to say:

“The Infinity Depth Games would not be possible without the valuable support system and generous hospitable people that went above and beyond each day to bring together what was our biggest freediving competition on the island of Cyprus this year! We would like to thank all of our wonderful athletes for your compassion, positive vibes, laughs and kind words for making this competition an experience to remember. We had a blast!”

Costas Costantinou with the British contingent.
Costas Costantinou with the British contingent.

A complete IDG5 roster of the gold, silver and bronze medalists in each discipline can be seen here below.

The leaderboard by discipline from IDG5
The leaderboard by discipline from IDG5

Out of 190 announced performances, the IDG5 athletes realized 128 white cards, 45 yellow cards, 11 red cards (the vast majority defaulting on SP), six DNSs and only 2 minor surface BOs — the low 1% rate a testament to how comfortable and stress-free the competitors all felt.  The truth is there were so many exciting stories of personal success that there’s just not enough time to tell them all here. So mark your calendars now for the Infinity Depth Games 6 to witness the wonderful journeys of a broad range of freedivers from all around the globe and to join this inspiring community. Congratulations to all of the participants, coaches, organizers, and crew of IDG5 — well done.

Matthieu Duvault enjoying a well deserved rest on "Maple" the team Canada mascot -- after a long comp filled with PB's and National Records for the Canadian (photo by Daan Verhoeven)
Matthieu Duvault enjoying a well deserved rest on “Maple” the team Canada mascot — after a long comp filled with PB’s and National Records for the Canadian (photo by Daan Verhoeven)

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