From Gary: On the weekend of 20/21st of October I travelled to Bristol in the UK for the 2nd Bristol Blue Freediving Competition. I had heard a lot of good things about the comp from friends who attended last year, and wanted to see for myself what it was all about.
After finding out I would be at a loose end, comp co-organiser Alice Hickson bombarded me with info on cheap flights she had found online and offers of a room and free food to persuade me to compete. So, I decided to step up and have a go! However, coming off the back of a summer of teaching - and with September being the busiest month of the year for us here in Ibiza – I didn’t have the best base for an intense 3-weeks to train for my first competition in a couple of years. I was soon struck with the dreaded ‘flu and had to pull out of the comp. Freediving with a fever is a good recipe for a blackout!
To be clear: when men get the ‘flu its far worse than when women get it… someone proved it once or something…fact.
Saturday came and we arrived at the Horfield Leisure Centre. Registration was in the afternoon and after socialising and a short recap of some key rules from co-organiser Andy Jardine, we were ready to start. I thought I might have travelled the furthest to compete, having come from Ibiza, but then Mike Board (UK depth record holder) walked in to register having flown in from Indonesia and stole my crown! Now that's dedication!
Dynamic No Fins was up first (DNF is swimming as far as you can underwater in a pool with no fins on). The afternoon saw some great performances from many including Beci ‘Pauline’ Ryan swimming 120m and a men’s national record for Ireland from Eoin Clarke with a dive of 137m!
The Bristol Blue club members are a really social bunch and after the comp we were straight to a local pub for dinner and ‘debrief’.
Sunday was Static in the morning and then Dynamic in the afternoon. Static (STA) is holding your breath as long as you can laying face down on the surface; Dynamic (DYN) is swimming for the maximum distance underwater using either bi-fins or a mono fin.
Static events are very peaceful affairs, with everyone trying to calm their nerves and be as quiet as possible. I can’t imagine what non-divers must think, looking in and seeing a bunch of rubber-clad gimps face down in a pool while their friends just stand and watch! There were certainly 50 shades of blue on competitors faces as people tried to hold their breath as long as they can!
Hannah Thurston-McGowan held her breath for a very respectable 5:08 in her first ever comp to win it for the ladies, and Adam Drzazga held for 6:35 to win the men’s event.
Dynamic came after lunch. Competitors were sent off three at a time. Meanhwile divers waiting their turn spent time stretching and meditating at poolside. In all disciplines there was a really nice amount of time between divers meaning you were never on top of other athletes and the day had a nice calm pace to it.
Michael board swam a massive 200m to take first for the men and Lucelle Simms swam 134m for first place for the ladies.
The competition had very few red cards, partly due to the maturity of the athletes, but also the smooth running of the entire organisation making it so much easier for athletes to reach their full potential.
This is a great event with the best prizes I’ve seen at any comp, and is perfect for new freedivers wanting to test their mettle in their first comp. It is fast becoming the most popular event in the UK. There are whispers of the Bristol Freedivers crew putting in a bid for the UK nationals next year. I hope they do, as it will be sure to be a success. I’m looking for flights already!
See you in Bristol in the spring.
Now where is my honey and lemon?
25 yard super swimmer was awarded to Alice Hickson for giving it a really good go despite having a little bit of woman-flu. Well done you xx