Over the past several years, I have met several members of a particular breed of people known as freedivers. It is an activity as old as man has fished, and 20 years ago some French in Nice set up an association to promote freediving as a competitive sport, developing rules and guidelines for athletes, and holding regional, national, and international events world wide.
Freedivers are an amazingly disciplined bunch of people, and those I have had the pleasure of meeting are a wacky, but great hearted group, who, due to the nature of the sport, see the world differently to the rest of us. New Zealand’s freedivers are among the best in the world across all the sport’s disciplines, and are a highly regarded group internationally.
But I digress. I have had this sport explained to me in great detail over many years, and as a result, I have followed the competitions, the records and the developments with some interest. The technical aspects are absolutely fascinating.
So, I found myself in Nice, with a day to spare, and it just so happened that the final day of the AIDA world team championships was being held a few blocks from my hotel, and it was the dynamic with fins discipline (simply put: how many laps of a 50m pool can you do on a single breathe without surfacing using either bi-fins or a monofin – like a giant fishtail – and without passing out or not completing a regimented set of actions – surface protocol – when you come up for air, and thus finish your dive). Being the last of a 9 day competition, and being team rather than individual this year, everything was based on points, and while the Japanese were set to take the women’s comp going into the last day, it was quite a different matter with the men: the French and the Croats were neck and neck. The kiwis could unfortunately not send a team this year, otherwise I’m sure they would have been challenging too.
So I found myself up, and waiting for a fellow kiwi, the lovely Julia -just beginning in the sport* – at half six this morning, to try and find this place, and watch the comp. We needed 45 min to do that, but managed to get in, and get seats at the 25m mark before the top time (start) at 8am.
And it was great. This was my first freediving competition to watch, and will probably be my last for a long while (I’m superstitious), and I really enjoyed putting faces to names, seeing the different techniques in action, and who cracked under the pressure, and who kept their calm. The atmosphere was wonderful, and the poolside antics, and music playlist, were just as entertaining as the dives themselves.
The only irksome aspect was the complete lack of information given, no updates or results were given anywhere and some athletes were not announced. I ended up counting the metre points on the lane ropes to guesstimate distances.
Julia and I ended up leaving after waiting for an hour for the final results after the protests (athletes have the right to appeal results), and the athletes were being let out lunch with no end to the deliberations in sight. So, when we left, the Japanese women had taken out their comp, and the French men were allegedly the provisional champions with 2 phenomenal 210+ metre dives in the last set of the day. Facebook now tells me, however, that Croatia took the title so I must find out what happened there.
Having several hours to kill after the comp, and having bid Julia au revoir as she headed back to Aix, I took the opportunity to wander around parts of Nice such as the Vieille Ville, Le Port, and the ruins of the Parc Château. It was beautifully warm, the sea was calm, and the skies clear. All in all, a fantastic day, and I’m lucky to have had seen some top athletes in action, and soaked up some more Cote d’Azur sun.
Tomorrow is our last day in Provence, and since France closes on a Sunday, it will be a day at the Villefranche-sur-mer, before the night train to Paris.
So much to do, and little time to do it. Au revoir!
*I don’t freedive, I would learn to judge before I would swim.