Please detail your experience in Competition Freediving as a competitor, a spectator, a judge or a safety diver. What you have described sounds extrodinarily illinformed as does your suggested remedy for the current 'situation.'
Dear Adam (and mermaidgirl/Carla),
I haven’t had time to reply till now, sorry. Where to start:
1. Adam, I’ll answer you about what ‘qualifies’ me to broach a discussion about the subject later, but we’ve actually met and I’m familiar with your accomplishments. You’ve also written eloquently on apnea-related matters. With respect, your question is not only off subject but a transparent Trojan Horse - bait you're hoping I'll take so you can launch the tired old defense raised by ‘special interest’ groups against external criticism - the ad hominem attack. But this is a good-faith, open forum discussion designed to shine light on a subject that clearly bothers many. Shooting messengers won't help. Readers able to put ego and emotion aside for a moment will note the essence of my posts is that A) hard evidence suggests apnea competition seems to be regressing rather than advancing in its aim to project 'the apnea gospel' into the public sphere. Recent incidents, whatever their individual origin, make this a simple, objective fact. B) an internet timeline of discussions show that both AIDA and its competition clique have collectively failed to deliver on a series of promises, stretching back years, to ‘clean things up’ – yet DESPITE this the drive to take competition into the mainstream continues unabated. Then C) we can argue the details but I claim the causes INCLUDE organizational deficiencies, competition format and competitor attitudes. This, and the technical evidence for non-linear outcomes in inputs vs outputs that keeps catching your ‘most knowledgeable’ clique unawares. The prospect is binary Adam: apnea either is, or is not, ready for the Big Time. So is it? Note my subject heading had a question mark in it; it wasn't a statement. However, I have a question for you and Carla: please tell me what ‘special knowledge’ I need to possess before either of you will permit me to conclude that, when others tell me they shy away from apnea because of what they see in competitions, they actually mean it?
2. Let’s move on. Take a quick stroll down apnea-internet lane and right out the gate you run – repeatedly - into a standard narrative that freediving is 'the 2nd most dangerous sport after wingsuit base jumping’. Its even repeated on a site called ‘kidzworld.com’! Tell me, do you think this is true? I'll assist you with the answer: it's irrelevant. If it’s on the net it’s true thanks to the Facebook/Twitter culture, and good luck convincing the media and public otherwise. The deeper question is: does competition diving, as currently executed i) amplify or ii) improve this (false) perception?
3. Some commentators on this thread have sought to imply things are 'OK' by simply dividing Nick Mevoli's death by a large number of ‘successful’ dives. This is an error of logic quite common in risk assessment. To illustrate, a fire chief once told me: ‘If you haven’t had a fire for 20 years, it just means you’re 20 years closer to your first fire. It comes down to WHY you have the fire’. Translated: AIDA’s safety record was built on sand because at the extreme end apnea outcomes remain opaque; the MMA-style culture of competition and non-linear, asymmetric outcomes was the gun, Nick Mevoli the trigger. Never forget that every blackout or severe samba is, in effect, death cheated. No other sport has this exact dynamic.
4. Since you're spoiling to second-guess my 'credentials' let's first have a look at what more 'knowledgeable' people than I have had to say on the areas of concern I've raised:
i) On the risks that underlie current competition CULTURE & FORMAT:
WILL TRUBRIDGE (Outside Mag 2012): "It's like playing poker. You're playing the other divers as much as yourself. The hope is that your foes choose a shallower dive than you can do, or that they choose a deeper dive than they can do and end up 'busting'".
NPR USA, 2013: "(Sarah) Campbell and other blame overly ambitious competitors who have seen others return from death unscathed, wrapped in a cocoon of safety divers and medics".
NPR RADIO 2013: "Squeezes are common in free-diving. Judges and safety divers describe athletes surfacing, posing for YouTube and then ducking behind a buoy to spit up slicks of blood flecked with white body tissue".
MIGUEL LOZANO (Freedive-Earth.com 2015): "(The rush) is the main problem I think in freediving - there is a rush to get objectives so fast, you lose a little bit the essence of the sport. I think once your only goal in freediving is numbers, the game is over so fast: You do world records or you black out".
ii) On AIDA's 'Readiness':
NPR USA (2013): "But (Sarah) Campbell also criticizes AIDA, the organization that governs competitive free-diving. She says the group isn't proactive enough in publishing accident reports".
KIMMO LAHTINEN (NPR USA 2013): "The organization is victim to the paralysis of an all-volunteer organization that's run democratically". (PJB: in organizational terms this approach is great for talking ABOUT problems, not solving them).
iii) On Blackouts & Lack of Control:
BILL STROMBERG (New Yorker Mag 2009): "It's about how well you know your body."
CARLA SUE HANSON (Outside Mag 2012): "Rules are set up to ensure that, through the whole dive, the diver is in full control. That’s what competitive freediving is all about: control". (PJB: Where's the evidence then?)
SEB NASLUND (Outside Mag 2012): "Blacking out is like shitting yourself. It's an embarrassment to yourself and others".
MIGUEL LOZANO (freedive-earth.com 2015): "I think that somehow it looks like we’re going back a little bit to the CMAS thing and with the media and everything you can’t have people just blacking out and blacking out and then ok I make it you know? Maybe it’s not the best example".
Adam, are these references suitably 'informed'? If not I could offer others. The 'net is awash with similar opinions.
Now to answer the question you directed at me: Despite a recent opportunity to assist in competition as a safety diver I elected not to get involved - for all the reasons described. I've also spent quite a bit of time in the company of competition athletes, and draw several of my opinions from direct conversations. More importantly, I qualified as an AA instructor alongside you. You might then recall that, on our course, any candidate that blacked out or even had a samba was disqualified because of Pelizzari's argument that: "a diver who can't demonstrate sufficient knowledge of and control over their own body can't teach the sport to others". You seemed quite happy with this philosophy then. Is competition exempt from this value system? Why? Personally, and after 3 decades of trying to kill myself via an assortment of other adrenaline sports, I've elected not to dive at or near my limits. That's my choice. But I repeat: I fully support maximal efforts at the cutting edge of the sport, just not in mass competition. Not yet. And I have as great a stake as anyone else in our sport's overall health.
So Adam, in the final analysis I think rational people can agree that there are problems with, and not a little discord within, competition diving. Thing is, competition represents just a fraction of the sport but casts a VERY big and (too) often negative shadow over the activity as a whole. The public image and reputation of the sport belongs to all of us, not just an elite clique. I can't wait for the day competition divers demonstrate greater humility in how they approach their responsibilities and yet, ironically and despite all the negative publicity, the sport is growing. This is a good thing on one hand but it also means that, very soon, even more competitors will be lining up to chase numbers, play 'poker' and spit blood behind the buoys & bushes while AIDA wrestles with 'democratic volunteerism' and the challenge of shoving its competition agenda into the limelight. I'll leave you with a final quote; it's by someone you know: "I'm glad the sport is becoming more popular, but I'm also concerned amateurs do not assess the risks properly" (Adam Stern, 2015).