CNF-AIDA-102m of Defiance
Live Televised CNF World Record Attempt: Is this the Future of Freediving?
At 14:00 EST on 2nd December 2014, 15 times world record holder William Trubridge will make history by attempting to break the world record in unassisted freediving (CNF) live on television. Is this the dawn of a new age for freediving competitions? A necessary and important step in the evolution of our sport? Or a high stakes gamble with the media beast? Whatever it is, it's pretty frickin' exciting!
Dubbed by sponsors Steinlager Pure as "102m of defiance",
and publicised widely in William's native New Zealand, as well as in France, the attempt will take place during the Vertical Blue competition just prior to the 'Apnea Games Day' to be held in memory of Nicholas Mevoli who tragically died whilst competing in the same discipline last year. Trubridge himself, however, will be doing well if he manages to make it into a game. Announcing the attempt in this way poses unprecedented challenges for the world record holder: Although he's made numerous record attempts before, he's generally preferred to do so with as little fuss as possible. The last (successful) attempt he made on 101m, for example came at the end of a series of judged dives around the 100m mark, so there was no more pressure on that dive than any of his previous attempts. There was no crowd, and no-one watching live. Here, however, there's not only the pressure of it being a single dive, but also the pressure of expectation, the world (or a small piece of it at any rate) will be watching and there'll be a substantial gathering of people at the Blue Hole. Conditions, too, will not be ideal: In order to coincide with New Zealand breakfast TV, the attempt will be held at 14:00 local time, some time after the peak light conditions in the hole which come at around 11:00.
Watch the 101m CNF world record :
A true professional, William has remained inscrutable throughout the preparation period for the competition so far. He's made the depth easily on at least one occasion and, fair result or foul, has maintained the same calm and quiet demeanour as always. The signs are that, despite the hype, he's still intending to take the rest of VB seriously. The rules require a compulsory rest day and he's opted to take his preferred day 1, an indication, perhaps, that it's business as usual for him, and the 2nd December might be just another competition day as far as he's concerned. He's cracked out dives both with the monofin and in Free Immersion too in training, so is clearly intending to stake his claim to a place on the podium, and a share of the $20,000 worth of prizes. As one of the most famous and highly sponsored freedivers in the world, Trubridge has an increasing number of obligations to fulfil these days. He's featured on CBS television, CBC, National Geographic, NHK in Japan and numerous American newspapers including the New York Times. He was one of 3 featured athletes in the big-budget Vauxhall (Holden) commercial in the UK and has held a sponsorship deal with gauge manufacturer Suunto (who remain the primary sponsors of Vertical Blue), as well as wetsuit manufacturer, Orca, for a number of years. All this plus the latest addition, Steinlager Pure, who've identified a match between his clean-cut lifestyle and their clean-cut approach to brewing beer. Let's face it, it's still pretty difficult to get rich out of freediving and in his own words, one of William's main aims in raising his profile, even in breaking world records, is to give himself a platform to promote an ecological agenda. One of his primary goals for conservation is the Maui's Dolphin, found only off the North West coast of New Zealand. At just 1.2-1.6m it's one of the world's smallest cetaceans and is at serious risk of extinction: only an estimated 55 individuals remain. Another issue he's adopted is the accumulation of plastic in the world's oceans and its toxic effects on marine life. It's rare to find an interview with him that doesn't feature one or both of these topics, and perhaps this attempt will help to spread the message even wider. Beyond that, money from big business will help to put freediving on the map, get more people involved at grass-roots level, and allow more divers to turn pro, all things which can only be good for the sport worldwide. It'll make great TV too. For the production company and the sponsors, it's probably a win-win situation. Even if the dive doesn't go as planned, for the watching public it'll serve to highlight the danger involved and Will's bravery in taking up the challenge at all. Steinlager and TV One, who are broadcasting the event, can't fail to gain by association. Despite all this, I can't help but think that a lot of people in the freediving community will feel some discomfort about the introduction of media hype and corporate sponsorship into the freediving mainstream. In the past, that kind of thing has been limited to the more extreme disciplines of No Limits (Red-Bull, Breitling) and Oxygen-assisted Static. Coverage like this tends to give freediving the atmosphere of a high-adrenalin stunt, along the lines of a tightrope walk or Felix Baumgartner's parachute jump. Not bad company to be in perhaps, but not really capturing the essence of freediving as a quiet, life-changing, spiritual undertaking either. Perhaps all this is just a bit luddite, but for me, and I'm sure many others, Dean's Blue hole, and other perfect diving spots around the world, not to mention the hearts and minds of freedivers themselves are special places, sanctuaries, and, like the Maui's dolphin, worthy of protection from the relentless march of progress. When all's said and done, the goal of companies like Steinlager is to sell more product, and the goal of freedivers like William is to dive deeper. Sometimes, like now perhaps, these goals will overlap, but as Freediving makes its way into the mainstream, I think it's important that we retain control over the way our sport is performed and perceived, because no-one else will do it for us. Whatever the politics of the situation, Freedive-Earth, and freedivers everywhere, are 100% behind William in this brave and inspiring attempt, his conservation objectives and his work to bring Freediving into the public awareness. And we know William well. If anyone can ride out the pressure, achieve the unbelievable and put on a good show, it's him. I for one will be hanging over the barrier and willing him on.