9:35 AM. Duffle bags, mesh sacks and little piles of towels, masks and snorkels strewn about the outdoor pool deck of the Vancouver Aquatic Centre mimic the random pattern of clouds above us. Anticipating of the end of this three-day event, they are anxious to get back to doing what they do best in Vancouver.
In the meantime competitors mill about in various stages of preparation for Static Apnea, the last discipline of the 2003 Canadian Freedive Nationals.
Only five participants remain from the original seven. Glen Garrett, here only for Dynamic Apnea returned home to Wyoming early Saturday morning and Tom Lightfoot, after holding his breath longer much longer than anyone would have liked the day before, has decided to attend this last day as support rather than competitor.
I watched them arrive. Tom and Helen, chatting with the underwater hockey club inside (Tom is a long time member). Smiling. Present. There is a new baby there and watching Tom beam his patented smile in its direction I feel touched as well. Twenty hours ago Tom was too a baby, dependent, if only for a minute, in our collective arms.
Ours is a sport in which performer and safety, diver and buddy, cannot, must not, be separated from each other. The two are interdependent. Looking around at the collection of competitors, safety’s, judges and supporters I am glad to be part of this group. Pleased be part of a community that both honours and respects this commitment.
11:30 AM. Underway. Brent Pascall, Alex Good, Jade Leutenegger and Greg Fee have all exceeded their announced performances. Only two more to go. As the judges stretch their limbs in-water safeties Eric Fattah and Tom Lightfoot carefully escort Mandy-Rae and last minute entry Deepest Bear into the competition zone. Luc Gosselin is doing warm-up statics in the corner. Two Minutes! Competitors, spectators and the media find their places as Mandy-Rae takes her final breaths. Thirty Seconds! Ten! Five, four, three, two, one… Plus Five! Plus Te- Mandy-Rae dips in.
Sounds of water polo drift overhead. At the four-minute signal Eric and Tom begin taps for their respective wards giving an OK to the Judges as each signal is returned. At five minutes thirty-one seconds Mandy-Rae and Deepest Bear come up clean.
May Luc Gosselin set a new Canadian national record in Static Apena at the Western Regionals this May. Surpassing my previous record of 6:01 by a whole forty-four seconds Luc has now only himself to beat. Sliding into position in front of the Judges Luc handily achieves an incredible 7:01, raising the bar once again for top-level competitors.
(Constant was cancelled after first two competitors)
Deepest Bear (GBR)
Glen Garrett (USA)
For detailed results go to FreeDive Canada
And so concludes the 2003 Canadian Freedive Nationals. A dramatic weekend with lots of excitement and camaraderie, battles fought and lessons taught. It is a privilege to be part of competitive freediving at such a critical time in its development and even more so to be amongst so many fine people who feel the same way.
11:30 PM. Toronto a.k.a. home, or, as Kirk would say, the place where I do my laundry. Sitting between a pile of hockey equipment left out to air the night before I left and all the diving equipment I didn’t bring, the pile of bedraggled clothes looks sorry, withered and weak. I can’t help but wonder if the inside of my windpipe will look the same once I finally get it scoped. It’s the only way I can find out for sure if my diving days are over.
Back on the boat after Eric Fattah’s two flawless deep-water rescues I found myself once again coughing up blood as result of ruptured blood vessels in my thoracic airway. Two days later I no longer feel any discomfort, the ‘squeeze’ not being anywhere near as severe as the last time, but I am certain that whatever cumulative damage I have incurred in the past did not go away as it has been ten months since the last time I dove.
For ten months I have held on to the idea that I would heal sufficiently to be able to enjoy freediving recreationally, just deep enough to spearfish on my surfing trips and to simply enjoy the pure bliss of becoming part of the underwater environment. Now I’m not so sure.
That’s the bad news. The good news is I do not have to stay away from competitive freediving. As a registered AIDA and CAFA Judge I had the distinct pleasure of participating in each and every performance during the last three days and can’t wait to do it again.