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COMPETITION FREEDIVING: HARMING OUR SPORT?

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Azrael3000

Azrael3000

Man with a custom title
Nov 5, 2011
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btw I wonder why there's no such a device with a built-in computer: it would sense/analyse the depth profile on ascent, and if the freediver or a spearo would blackout i.e. re-dive immediately after a lengthy dive or not even reach the surface, the safety device would inflate a west or something. Should not be that difficult to engineer. It won't protect against a squeeze, but would be o.k. for shallow water blackouts.

There is Andy, it's called the FRV (freediving recovery vest or so) that has been advertised here on several threads. I think it's a great tool, but it's high price point (~ 1000 $) surely prevents it from widespread use. Of course I know that your life should be worth that much, but a lot of people don't have that money just laying around and I understand that it's inventor needs to cover his expenses for a low-margin product.

I was talking with Georgina Miller on the comp last Sunday and what she told me about PADI was really shocking. If you are a Scuba instructor and dive to 30m(?) plus 3 min(?) breathhold (whatever the numbers, they were way too low) you are automatically a freediving instructor. Additionally, all these courses that take you in three weeks from zero to instructor I think are absolute madness. I would never do a course with such an instructor but not all of us have this insight and imho this does not foster a safe approach to freediving. So what Harry said above I can only support but unfortunately in todays fast and goal-oriented world a lot of people don't take their time to learn something like freediving with the care and time it requires.
 
REVAN

REVAN

The Right Stuff
Mar 19, 2009
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It is fine to discuss these things, we just might learn something. But, the premise put forth by the OP is that because divers are having blackouts and lung squeezes in competitions, the competition side of the sport is not ready for prime time viewing by the public. That may be true, but I say; "So what! It is not a prime time sport viewed by the public." To some extent this thread may be making an issue where one does not exist.

On the issue of safety: IMO, the competitions are the place to push yourself. If you are going to step over the line, from a safety perspective, a competition is probably the best place to do it. We are far more likely to die from diving beyond our abilities in a training environment than we are from doing the same in a competition. You cannot evolve into a better diver without stressing your limits. That's how I see it anyway.

In a way, I agree with some of what was said in the OP. Competitive freediving is not an activity that is a normal competition like activity. To me, a freediving competition is someplace I can go to train and make PB attempts in a fairly safe environment while cost sharing all the safety systems put in place with the other competitors. I have no chances of a WR dive, so driving for that is not an influencing factor for me. I'm competing against myself and my previous metrics. Most of the divers I know have a similar attitude. Nick M. was the exception, not the rule. He was fiercely competitive and was strongly defiant of anything that stood in his way, including physiology, physics or friends. He was unwavering in that attitude to the end, and I think it would likely have been that way regardless of what sport he would have chosen to participate.

To me, a comp is a place where I can train with and learn from others, and for a few hundred dollars entrance fee, I can benefit from warm-up lines, safety divers, a counter-ballast system, a raft with medical equipment and personnel, etc.... A competition is an event that brings us together.

Let's be careful to not make so many rules designed to make the competitions appear benign looking to a general public that is not even watching in the first place, that they are no longer useful to the people who need them as a safe place to learn and evolve into better divers.
 
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omega3

Guest
Around my sphere...freediving competition and record breaking attempts especially depth opposed to how long a person can hold their breath, which doesn't require water and can be considered to have largely non fatal consequences, ample support if required but missing the "thrill" factor...is a complete freak show circus fanfare. Done on the cheap and completely lacking professionalism, rich in stupidity and largely ego driven. Risk for the sake of risk with no reward.

lets go watch some idiots try to kill themselves all of an afternoon.

Best if all parties concerned kept it out of the public eye and their own perverse secret.

Whatever next..."how high can I go holding onto a balloon?" . Either way the rubbernecking spectators will come for the show but do not for a minute believe it will command respect or admiration amongst anyone apart from like minded enthusiasts, who being like minded...

Competition freediving is the sport, as sport is competition by definition.

Therefore the question you are asking is: Am I crazy/stupid doing this and are competitions highlighting this in massive day-glo
neon bold underlined lettering...with fireworks?

We all know the answer to that one ;)
 
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PJB

Well-Known Member
Jun 2, 2014
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Around my sphere...freediving competition and record breaking attempts especially depth opposed to how long a person can hold their breath, which doesn't require water and can be considered to have largely non fatal consequences, ample support if required but missing the "thrill" factor...is a complete freak show circus fanfare. Done on the cheap and completely lacking professionalism, rich in stupidity and largely ego driven. Risk for the sake of risk with no reward.

lets go watch some idiots try to kill themselves all of an afternoon.

Best if all parties concerned kept it out of the public eye and their own perverse secret.

Whatever next..."how high can I go holding onto a balloon?" . Either way the rubbernecking spectators will come for the show but do not for a minute believe it will command respect or admiration amongst anyone apart from like minded enthusiasts, who being like minded...

Competition freediving is the sport, as sport is competition by definition.

Therefore the question you are asking is: Am I crazy/stupid doing this and are competitions highlighting this in massive day-glo
neon bold underlined lettering...with fireworks?

We all know the answer to that one ;)

Hi Omega3,

I'd stepped back from this thread but, noting some of the events at the current AIDA World Team Champs its perhaps time to pick it up again. Just 2 things to (lightly) touch on :

First comment on your post: It seems clear to me that while you 'can hear the bell', you're struggling 'to see the church' regarding what competition diving is to apnea as a general endeavor, and as a sport. Reasonable persons can agree that not all 'sport' is competitive in the sense you seek to establish here; just go ask someone who comes last in a marathon with a big, fat, weary smile on their face. This thread was always intended to be read in context by persons who are well grounded in the sport in general - which, with respect, you apparently are not. But in a sense your negative perspective makes my original point rather compellingly. That said, perhaps you should give it a go and see what all the fuss is about; you might surprise yourself!

Second comment: I note that AIDA has, for whatever reason, elected to host the current championship 'off piste' and in rather muted fashion. Good thing, since there have been several uncomfortably embarrassing incidents. Again, this underscores my original point. Except THIS time around I reckon its that much harder to find fault with the promotional/media side of the event (I'll leave criticism of the - pretty serious - mistakes to more informed insiders) since AIDA finally seems to be developing the competition model AWAY FROM mass media for a change.

IF my sense of their intent is correct, then I say 'chapeaux'; good luck, and safe diving - hope you get the model right someday.
 
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omega3

Guest
Hi PJB

Seriously...a lame marathon analogy?
The topic title says it all.

"Good luck and safe diving"


You must be diving in De Nile.
 
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PJB

Well-Known Member
Jun 2, 2014
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Omega2: Even though your further comment neither advances nor augments the discussion at hand, it does once again highlight the kind of perspective that an irresponsible approach to competition freediving can elicit from uninformed persons. Then there are of course persons who expend much energy to NOT understand - like yourself, for instance - but this is beyond the scope of this discussion. I might, just for completeness, point out that the 'marathon' analogy that troubles you so was a simple refutation of your (purposefully?) obtuse assertion that 'all sport is competition by definition' . Having been shown to be incorrect, your rather immature reply has only served to place the combative incoherence of your first post into sharper focus to Deeperblue readers. Now, I can't be sure if you read the original post-thread (or perhaps had it read to you) out of any genuine interest in freediving and/or the subject matter at hand, or whether you might simply be lonely and in the habit of looking for someone, somewhere on the Internet that you can joust with. Either way the evidence suggests that freediving is most likely not for you; safety protocols require that it be done in groups of 2 (or more) persons.
 
Stephan Whelan

Stephan Whelan

Papa Smurf
Staff member
Admin
Jan 7, 1999
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Guys - this is first warning. Keep it civil or people will start earning warnings that carry potential to get people banned. It's a good discussion don't spoil it with aggressive wording.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 
REVAN

REVAN

The Right Stuff
Mar 19, 2009
812
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It's sad when people who are in shape, lean, have a lot of stamina and are getting out to do something they enjoy and striving to improve at that thing, are labeled as "freaks". What does that say about the bulk of society, if this is perceived as unusual?
 
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PJB

Well-Known Member
Jun 2, 2014
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OK, so its been 3 years since I first floated (the QUESTION) whether "Competition Freediving is Harming Our Sport". Just to quickly recap: my question specifically attempted to explore whether the MANNER and METHODS through which event organisers (and athletes) were trying to steer apnea competition towards "mainstream" media coverage - in a facebook/twitter world - was premature or even reckless given the sheer number of mishaps and distrubing visuals that were emanating from comps at that time. The same question could perhaps be restated as follows: it is my opinion that freediving comps, in their current form and execution, risk distorting what the activity AS A WHOLE is about. Elite competition represents a small fraction of all freediving, and a rather narrow channel of experience in comparison to the overall experiential package that practitioners can enjoy and take from the sport. Yet I challenge you to go and ask ANY random sample of (otherwise water-loving) persons and I submit that the vast majority of them will state that their perception of freediving - with no distinction made between competition and/or any other non-competitive effort - is (go on, pick one) "extreme", "reckless", "irresponsible" or "for nut-heads". As a freediving instructor I come across this pervasive perception all the time. It is not only acting as a brake, holding back faster growth of the activity overall, but one has to wonder whether it isn't serving to attract more people chasing pure numbers and ego than it otherwise would. That point was certainly valid in 2015, but recently I'd just started to believe that we'd moved on to a more responsible framework ... until someone sent me visuals from the recent CMAS world champs fiasco.

The other thing that changed since the original post is that I decided to give "maximum-effort" freediving a shot by assisting in the planning, athlete preparation and execution (as safety diver) in a successful national record attempt at Andrea Zuccari's Freediving World last May, and the experience gave me even further insight into the pure number-driven dimension of the sport. So, seeing Ramon Carreno Paz blacking out, without a safety diver anywhere near him, then falling back down the line was as disturbing to witness as it was disappointing. And all this took place WHILE LIVE-STREAMING the event. C'mon. Really? Alas, it seems evident that the those who have taken it upon themselves to be "custodians" of the sport's image have learnt little in the interim.

P.S. Before the usual suspects howl at the moon and pick up theor rocks, let me restate my persective for new readers on this thread: I have NOTHING against competition record attempt per se. Personally, I simply prefer the idea that PB and record efforts should be a matter for athletes to pursue in the presence of their close friends, assistants, supporters and professional organisers, AWAY FROM from the mass media - at least until after the event - until such time as competitions reach a level or professionalism and responsibility that can reasonably be accepted as a showcase for the sport as a whole. Sorry, we're just not there (yet)
 
J Campbell

J Campbell

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Sep 17, 2001
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Actually, if you ask random people about freediving - half of them will not really know what you are talking about - they never heard of it.
 
Bill McIntyre

Bill McIntyre

San Clemente, CA
Staff member
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Jan 27, 2005
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I'm just a bystander- a spear fisherman who does it freediving. But it does seem as if most times I hear of a competition, its because something went wrong and someone almost died. Of course that may be because I don't pay much attention to news of competitions that went right. I really don't care who set a new record at some event for which I have to look up the meaning, so maybe I just pay attention when the headline of the article hints at a mishap.

But anyway, I think its not realistic to expect competitors to seek records away from the mass media and just in the presence of friends. Its just part of human nature to want recognition for our efforts. We want people to watch. The world records for the 100 meter dash and the marathon would not be nearly as fast as they are were it not for all the people who watch on TV. Its just fortunate that no one dies while trying to beat those records.

And that brings me back to my main problem with free diving records. No matter how you try to explain it away, the point is to come as close as you can to death without quite dying.
 
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cdavis

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Jan 21, 2003
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Public freediving knowledge depends on where you are and what kind of group you are talking to. In my world(Florida among water interested people), most people are aware of freediving and have a general opinion similar to what PJB described. I think he is right about competive freediving being what people remember, and their impression of freediving as expressed in competition is pretty bad. I had so many off base questions after Melvoli's death from people who saw that as freediving and had no concept of what most of us do.

On the positive side, it seems to me ( I could be wrong) that AIDA has taken Melvoli's death to heart and is making a serious attempt to make comps safer. CMAS doesn't seem to have gotten the message yet, not sure about any other organizations. I've had the pleasure of diving with some of those that plan the safety for AIDA comps, very serious and thoughtful divers. After talking with them, it doesn't seem to me that it would be all that difficult to design a comp that was safe and looked it. Some of the numbers chasers might go nuts, but thats not a bad thing
 
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PJB

Well-Known Member
Jun 2, 2014
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Hi Conor. Spot on. On both points. For now my take’s as follows: in theory it shouldn’t be hard to design a comp structure that is able to showcase the sport, but it comes down to the ultimate objectives of those driving the effort. This won’t be a popular view but it seems fairly obvious to me that by offering “competition” as an opportunity for athletes, many of whom quite obviously have little or no business being there - to risk it all just so they can try punch out numbers for their own sake - or a selfie or 2 - does more harm than good. And, frankly, I find the now well-worn rebuttal that “competition gives divers an opportunity to push maximum efforts in an accessible, safe environment” to ring hollow; Sorry, I know everyone at a comp chose to be there but it’s gratuitous when amateurs think it’s “cool” or permissible to put teams of (safety crew) volunteers through extreme stress just so they can indulge in their own dash for local or national glory....ON LIVE TV/LIVESTREAM. Look, I get it: self-aggrandizement is the culture dujour, and everyone's looking to feel special or get their 15mins of fame, but a part of me believes that apnea might actually have some small role to play in how our very confused society realigns it’s priorities - but I just can’t see how this could happen when the sport’s “elite clique” insist on chasing media exposure at the cost of the overall ethos and appeal. But then again, that’s just me.
 
Stephan Whelan

Stephan Whelan

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@PJB why shouldn't the sport have heroes that push the limits and be someone to aspire to. I work across the whole diving industry and one of the major reasons Scuba is dying is because it is no longer a sport young people want to do. It is a boring, safe activity that their middle-aged parents do.

Freediving has an element of danger, is both recreational and competitive, and has fit, sexy heros people can aspire to. If you didn't have competitions you wouldn't have any of that.

As for the latest CMAS incident. There are a lot of competitions run every year at local, national and international level. There are very few incidents at all compared to number of competitors. As for the recent incident - I think that speaks more to the inadequate organisation of the event and cutting corners (costs) the organisers went with. CMAS is a lot less experienced at running international high-profile events in recent years and it very nearly cost a competitors life this time.
 
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PJB

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Jun 2, 2014
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Hi Stephan. A fair opinion. Absolutely. But with respect you're raising a bit of a straw man argument here. Consider the full thread from the outset: at no point did I say competition is "bad". My propositon all along has been that the plain evidence is that the people currently running, and competing, are trying too hard to push coverage of these competitions into the broader public domain when it is as clear as day that the sport/setup is not ready for it, and that the net effect is negative. It is a question of "are we ready for the Big Time" and, if not, perhaps live-streaming/direct feed and mainline promo isn't the way to go. YET
 
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PJB

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Jun 2, 2014
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PS. Care to share your personal opinion of what you felt when you watched Ramon Paz falling down the line without a safety diver in sight?
 
Stephan Whelan

Stephan Whelan

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Hi Stephan. A fair opinion. Absolutely. But with respect you're raising a bit of a straw man argument here. Consider the full thread from the outset: at no point did I say competition is "bad". My propositon all along has been that the plain evidence is that the people currently running, and competing, are trying too hard to push coverage of these competitions into the broader public domain when it is as clear as day that the sport/setup is not ready for it, and that the net effect is negative. It is a question of "are we ready for the Big Time" and, if not, perhaps live-streaming/direct feed and mainline promo isn't the way to go. YET
I disagree - if you look at AIDA Worlds, Vertical Blue, even new comps like the Molchanova Invitational in Ibiza - all run successfully without any major issues or athletes causing any harm.

Same at local and national level - hundreds of comps run successfully away from “live feeds” and all run very safely.

Just because one immature set of organisers for one comp make a major mistake does not mean you should tar the whole competitive side of freediving in my view.

PS. Care to share your personal opinion of what you felt when you watched Ramon Paz falling down the line without a safety diver in sight?
Horrified and immediately very obvious whoever was running safety was poorly equipped for the job

There are a strong set of people in the world now who are experts at running competition safety - including Johny Sunnex who was drafted in to help the CMAS worlds and ensure it was run safely.
 
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cdavis

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Jan 21, 2003
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Stephan, with all due respect, I think you are getting a little off base on the content of the thread. There is very little sentiment here to get rid of comps. The point is that bad things keep happening in some comps and that those things get publisized, dramaticly and negatively affecting public perception of freediving. The damage is not limited to comp divers, it affects many of us. My local pool is no longer available for any level of reasonable training due to the perception of danger triggered by some bad things that happened in a particular comp. This not a small problem. Legislation could easily follow public perception.

Comps can be safer, and need to be. Comps, by their nature, push the edge of danger. I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with that, but they are inherently dangerous and we need to make every effort to effectively address the dangers we know of . As an example of what we didn't know, Melvoli's death in the well run and relatively safe Vertical Blue , seems to have been primarily a lack of knowledge about the dangers of repeated lung trauma. That lack of knowledge is being addressed, but there will be others, no way around it. Comps need to be safe enough to minimize the danger while still allowing divers to push the edge. Its possible, but I think we have a ways to go.

On a slightly different subject, I think comps need to figure out how to separate the true experts from the divers doing depths that they should not be. I've dived with divers who do serious depth and are super competent, vastly better divers than me in every way. I've also dived with divers who could dive much much deeper than me , were training for even greater depth and were, IMHO, incompetent. The latter are dangerous to us all.
 
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PJB

Well-Known Member
Jun 2, 2014
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Hi Conor - And Stephan.

Sorry, commerce drew me away for a bit...

To add (very little I suspect) - and again just in my personal opinion...

Stephan, to me your core sense of it carries weight in that you - by definition - see the future of apnea through the prism of your web portal, your personal experience, and your relationship with the pathfinders in one channel of the sport. Fair call, and I really respect that. In fact, I sense that in general our opinions overlap more than you possibly expect.

But Conor's last paragraph succinctly frames the core of the issue; sorry, but right now the evidence is clear: comps are struggling to filter ego divers - and their ego support participants - from "true/bona fide" apnea athletes and enthusiasts. So my view remains that, until they do, we're all off better without the cameras, the lives feeds, the "let's make apnea an olympic sport" whackheads and the "look at me!" wannabe (hell, pick a name) Pelizzari/Trubridge/Nitsch/Molchanov/Zecchini social media junkies. It does no-one any favours, least of all the sport (once you view it holistically).
 
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