Right, so the Russians won, as expected. I mean, they were wearing golden suits, so it was a foregone conclusion:
and the Japanese were wearing silver suits, so guess where they ended?
So let’s get to the less obvious categories, like best T-shirt. I thought it was a shoe-in for this dude:
but then June-bug’s shirt is one i’ve loved for years:
now best turn was an interesting one, for there was this rather splendid example by a Russian guy
but then Tomoka had this oddly beautiful style, kinda poetry-in-motion, or Haiku-in-motion, in her case
Best shorts were undoubtedly the Russian’s, who took ‘shorts’ quite literally -almost too literally
the reactions to which were mostly summarised by this
Best pyjamas were worn by Jesper
best swim cap was by Goran
or maybe that was just ‘most unexpectedly pink’ swim cap. Goran -who knew?
Onwards to most inexplicable position during static, which was definitely Tomoka:
Ok, i know i take a lot of pictures of the Japanese girls, but can you blame me? They are spectacular; fantastic athletes, and when you ask them to play, they do this:
And really, the freediving men just give me a complex. They’re all shaped like action figures
some even have the action figure suit:
amongst these depressingly well-build action figures, my new favourite is Stig Pryds
He’s so cool i suggest we change the surface protocol from “I am ok” to “I am Stig Pryds”. He also has ‘best tattoos’.
Most chill pre-dive judging position? Ute. You can tell it’s near the end of the day:
As a photographer, i’ve also added the category ‘best positioning’, as most freedivers tend to completely ignore my silent pleas to face the sun. Ashleigh was a very pleasant exception to this rule:
Of course, at an Italian competition, you have to pay tribute to Umberto. Best one either goes to Radek
or this lady
But in the end, the best picture for me was the one that brought the biggest smile to my face
ok, 1 more of a Japanese girl
Last week, i had the pleasure and honour to document Danes diving deep at their annual depth championships, this time held in Kalamata, Greece. The winner of the women was Dena Parsa, who also set a national record Free Immersion with 61 meters:
and the winner of the men was my friend Jesper Stechmann, who broke the record for Constant weight no fins:
The comp had a great ambiance and it was good to see old friends and meet new ones. When i started freediving the Danes were the best ones out there, especially in the pool, and it was nice to see some of the old still being on top/bottom and teaching the new. And i was glad they didn’t pick Sweden this year, for the visibility most days was set to epic:
In Crete last month, the UK static record holder Georgina Miller broke her own record of 6 minutes 20 by 7 seconds. I got to stand by her side and say stuff like “come on”, which she said helped:
And if that wasn’t enough, she also won silver in the depth competition with these three beautiful dives, which i got to film:
Plus she did a perfect tag grab on her no fins dive, which was one of my favourite pictures of the comp
The water’s so clear here in Crete that there’s barely a point for me as a photographer to go deep -you can get overview shots at 10 meters, like this one of Monika, who did a national record Free Immersion for Poland
Beautiful dives again today -and a turtle! Only caught that one on video -poor battery on the main camera died of sheer exhaustion.
I’m a firm believer in lots of prizes at competitions, so here are the ones from the first day. Best nerves before the dive went to cool newbie Monika, who then also won most relieved smile after her dive:
Quikest dive while blocking yourself with your palms went to Yaron:
Best Jesus went to Aurora:
Aris got the ‘managed to look bigger than the boat’ prize:
Nicholas had the most definite ‘those are my fins’ award:
Do won most inexplicable position:
But the picture of the day goes to Chris:
2 months ago today, Nick had his fatal accident at Vertical Blue. It has affected many people profoundly and you can still see ripples of the shockwave in the community. For me, i struggled with a whole complex mixture of emotions; i was there as a cameraman and i’d caught the hole thing on video and in pictures. So not only did i see what happened, i had to review it in order to make sure i had it. Then i had the duty to make it available to the people investigating the incident -these people are my friends, so i’d have to expose my friends to traumatic footage. And i was feeling somehow dirty for having kept filming. The professional part of me knows it was the right thing to do, that it was my job, that the footage will be used to learn from, and that i couldn’t have helped in any other way. But another part of me, the part that gets angry when i see people playing tourist around the scene of an accident, was a little disgusted. You pay your respect by turning away, and instead, i pointed my cameras right at it.
That, combined with the raw trauma of watching someone die surrounded by friends, made it very difficult to do anything with this footage. I knew it was important, and i knew i was not in a good place to judge what to do with it -i wanted to delete it, wash it off me, have nothing to do with it. So i trusted another person to be my moral compass in this matter, and asked William Trubridge what to do. He was my guide through that first couple of days and weeks, and he made sure the right people got access without the footage or Nick’s accident getting exploited. I had my first taste of a bit of a media frenzy, and thanks to Will’s clear guidance, it wasn’t as beastly as i’d feared. As a matter of fact, most contacts were quite understanding in my refusal to share the footage.
But then there was a mountain of other material, 7 days of competition before the accident. Normally i’d do something with that in the week after an event. Usually, i have a vague idea that sort of takes form as i’m working with the material, much in the same way i shoot. But this time, i had nothing but a heart full of grief and a head full of doubts. I kept seeing my friend fading away, i kept wondering if i’d done the right thing, if there had been anything else i could have done. I was very far from being able to create anything. Then a couple of weeks later, on a trip through Belgium on the way to see my family in Holland, i hear a song. It often starts with a song, and this one, ‘Free’ by Rudimental, planted a seed. I made a note of it on my phone, and started listening to the song that night. I know my process, i have to obsess with a song for a bit, so i listened to it over and over again, till i knew what to do.
But then i had to do it, and i knew the video would have to end with Nick. And i didn’t want to. I wasn’t ready to do that yet, not ready to get so intense with his last diving pictures. So i took a lot of time making everything ready, preparing all the images and footage, doing the stuff around the edges, laying some of the groundwork. It wasn’t until i got back to the Bahamas that i had the time and found the peace to really work with it. A couple of dives in Dean’s Blue Hole re-affirmed to me that it was alright to celebrate freediving, celebrate this magical place. Yes Nick died here, but he didn’t die because of this place. Like my father said: “Water is innocent of the temptations that well up from it -it even washes away its own sins.” After that realization, it was just a matter of putting in the days of editing, and this date seemed like a natural point to aim for.
So this might be my most complex video to date, which is slightly ironic, since the thing Nick and i had been planning to do was a very simple one: him pushing an old shopping cart with used freediving material around underwater, making fun of him being ‘the freediving bum’. This video might be a bit too sombre for his tastes, i’m afraid.
He might not have made this dive today, but on the way down Nic Mevoli was looking stylish and strong -for a freediving hobo.