Worlds 2004: from behind the lines – Day 1

Day 2 – Thursday 5th August 2004

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Organizing an event like the 4th AIDA World Championships is Agony and Ecstasy. Today, on the first day of official ocean training, on the still waters of Howe Sound and under overcast skies three minutes off shore by boat ferry off Lion’s Bay Marina, the Sistine Chapel of constant weight staging areas emerged under the watchful and bloodshot eyes of Greg Hamilton, Tom Lightfoot, Kirk Krack and many other volunteers who came out to work on a masterpiece while most of Vancouver was still warm and snug under the covers.

Annabel Briseno of Team USA called it the best constant weight arrangement ever. Picture a barge with a wooden deck 21 metres long by 11 metres wide with eight fully adjustable warm-up lines and two competition lines spaced well apart and well away from the edge, and with volunteers to raise and lower the bottom plates at each competitor’s specific request; a tent canopy to provide shade and a sense of shelter for judges, volunteers, media, coaches, and competitors; plenty of room for everyone to mill around, trade stories, renew connections and make new ones; front row seats for international media and Canada’s major television stations—it is a thing a beauty. 

For some volunteers it was a first look at freediving. Every team came out for the first ocean training session and the local safety freedivers who volunteered for the Worlds got their first taste of diving with the world’s best. After a short delay of half an hour, things got underway without any further hitches. For about three hours, a calm descended over the barge as the athletes went through their fine-tuning, the safety freedivers keep a close eye on things and everyone else sat around and watched everything personal bests, shivering stories, jellyfish attacks (and enthusiastic offers to pee on certain athletes for free), and the odd LMC.

Even though the skies remained overcast until the session ended, it was a deep relief to all those who had worked on three hours sleep (myself and many others), ten cups of coffee (Kirk Krack), an uncomfortable night guarding the barge and everything on it in the marina parking lot (Greg “Michelangelo” Hamilton), and everyone who had been telling the media for months and months (Kirk, Mandy-Rae and Perry Gladstone) that this was an event not to be missed.

Day one was full of promise for the days to come. Tomorrow will be a day of fine tuning for everyone, more coffee and less sleep. But the volunteers at this event have the zeal of making it work and being a part of something pretty freakin’ fantastic.

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Peter Scott freedives in British Columbia, Canada. After competing in the World Championships for Canada in 2001, he has continued his exploration of the ocean through writing, art, photography, freediving, swimming, surfing, windsurfing, and travel. Visit his website at www.holdyourbreath.ca.

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