Vertical Blue 2014, Apnea Games Day
The life of freediver Nicholas Mevoli remembered in a style of which by all accounts he would have thoroughly approved.
I didn't know Nicholas Mevoli, but during the last year of competition I've heard so much about him that I feel connected in a way I never have with anyone I haven't met before. The fondness that's obviously felt for him by everyone who's life he touched, the softness with which his name is spoken, are touching in themselves and paint a picture for me of someone deeply loved and sorely missed.
The day began with a dedication led by writer Adam Skolnick who has followed Nick's life through its various twists and turns, speaking to his parents, relatives and friends as well as fellow freedivers in a quest to tell his story. A banner was unfurled. He spoke about Nick's early life and his journey to the very top of our sport. He delivered a heartfelt message from Nick's sister to us all. Nicholas Mevoli is someone whom it seems impossible to mourn: Every story that I hear about him is so full of energy and passion that a celebration of his life feels somehow more appropriate.
And we did our best: First up was Tandem CNF, a highly technical discipline requiring strength, determination, and a certain amount of overweighting. Points were awarded for speed, grace and finesse as the teams took on a distinctly tribal character. Team NZ or "the chariot" as they preferred to be known were the rowdiest by far. Trubridge lead from the rear, holding one leg each of his teammates, an unfortunate position for him considering that both Jonny "Deep" Sunnex and Moss "The Mossinator" Burmester had opted for the wetsuit top and speedos combination. Points for style anyone? There were none. Despite the presence of a world record holder, an Olympian and the 11th deepest man of all time, the team couldn't quite reach the formidable depth of 15m, turned early in a tangle of limbs and had to resort to cheating to retain a sense of dignity as the competition unfolded. Funniest by far however was team Tunisia comprising Walid Boudhiaf and his better half Marisol. They took 2 and a half minutes to descend as many meters, narrowly avoiding shallow water blackout (geddit?).
Winners, though, were the Royals, a last minute pairing of 2 British aristocrats (they're all related to Royalty don'cha know) George Miller and a certain Freedive-Earth reporter who stormed to victory despite an attempted and wholly unnecessary 'rescue' attempt from team NZ. Bubble rings came next. Trubridge was deemed to have given the best blow job overall with a couple of corkers from 10m and a graceful style reminiscent of a gymnast. This is highly unsurprising: According to the Breathe documentary released in 2011, bubble rings have always been an integral part of his courtship routine. UK safety diver George Miller was given the prize for 'most abundant', managing a whopping 25 rings. Walid Boudhiaf on the other hand continued his abysmal performance in the games by going too deep for us to see anything and Daan Verhoeven, though in full view, was also a bit shit. The same cannot be said, however for the Dutchman's skills with the bottle rocket. After schooling the rest of us in the noble art of explosive de-tumescence , he left us all to blow our loads alone. Austrian Jakob Galbavy was deemed the most potent with the UKs Chris Crawshaw disqualified for being, in the words of the judges, premature. "It doesn't normally happen." He was heard to protest afterwards, a little too loudly. Venezuelan Iru Balic featured strongly too, pioneering a between-the-legs technique on the way down. Wait... that's not what I meant. Somersaults were in there somewhere too. An early attempt to lure Samo Jeranko into the competition was thwarted when he rubbed his name off the whiteboard. Twice. I'm sure he had fun mooching around on the beach, however. It's not as if he's diving that deep tomorrow either. Speaking of deep, Molchanov's ears pricked up as word got round that the world record for consecutive underwater somersaults is only 30, he smashed that, obviously, despite having neither mask or noseclip. Is he even human? He was also in far better shape afterwards than the poor girl who (still) holds the record: WARNING! Contains scenes that some (most) freedivers may find distressing.
Horrendous. But don't worry, as the commentator says "All she's done is taken in a bit too much air in one breath". Despite Molchanov's prowess, it was fellow Russian Krupnitskaya who took the prize. She did less somersaults than Molchanov but looked better in her bikini than he did in his superhero speedos. And that, of course, is what really mattered to Jonny Deep who was judging. And so, finally, to the Ironfish. There was a certain amount of anticipation in the air, crowds on the platform waited in tense expectation as two prime specimens of manhood (and Johnny Sunnex) bounded (or groped their way) up the cliff, standing poised on the brink of a jump that had already cost Russian athlete Evgeny Sychev a trip to the clinic. Then Johnny pulled his speedos up into his butt crack and somersaulted off. Noone needed to see that, but what followed was borderline horrific. With his waistband practically round his knees from the force of the impact, the kiwi set off on his DNF leg. Positioned above him on the platform we saw it all. And I mean all of it. Reaching the dive line in well under a minute Sunnex took a short break to do his hair (that's the hair on his head, though really given the amount on show it could have been anywhere) before completing the CNF leg in a total time of 2:00.05 (that's the level of precision you get when you have an Austrian employed as the timekeeper.)
The clear winner was Miles from Long Island with his swan-dive to front flip combination - I reckon he's done it before. Displaying an innovative no-fins flutter technique on the descent, and minus the hair-related transition time he was more than 30seconds quicker than the world's 11th deepest man. He also kept his white bits hidden. Despite his superior speed, Olympian Moss Burmester lacked any sort of finesse on the cliff jump, managing only an impression of a beautiful little birdie falling out of its nest. Cameraman Rich, who caught the whole thing from the top of the cliff needed very little encouragement to flash his ass tattoos (can you believe they're of his own FACE?!) and take the plunge himself. Special kudos to him. So that's how it went down, dear fans. Lots of laughter, a few quiet tears and prizes for everyone afterwards. Just another day for us in paradise. Tune in tomorrow for the penultimate day of competition, I've seen the start-list and it's going to be abyssal.
Note: Picture taken by AIDA International.