02 Jun Kurt Chambers: My National Record Dive to 101 meters
May 31, 2016
Caribbean Cup – West Bay, Roatán, Honduras
My primary goal for this competition was to close in on and maybe even earn the U.S. record for constant weight. Three years ago I dabbled around the depth using variable weight, but reaching it on my own power had eluded me all this time. Considering that my previous best was 92m last year at Big Blue, and my expected equalization difficulty haunted me acutely in the week of training here, by midway through the comp, without a decent CWT dive yet, my goal seemed to be drifting out of reach. Fortunately, other objectives in this comp went in my favor, such as improving my FIM record to 94m and nabbing a competitive CNF of 61m, probably sufficient for placing overall in spite of the field containing several legends, some of whom were focused on a single discipline for the entire comp and would thus not be in contention for overall. Without having to worry about that further I could devote the latter half of this comp to the original CWT goal. My 96m CWT yesterday went well, so I opted to go ahead on the 101 meters attempt today, allowing me another opportunity on the last day if necessary.
I felt by far the most relaxed today—not only was the comp area quieter without the anticipation of big dives from Lozano/Trubridge, but I had also convinced myself that I had a ‘secret weapon’ that would assure me a successful dive. I was playing with an idea for keeping my mouthfill using my hands, and practicing it dry it really seemed to work. It’s amazing how much more relaxed you feel going into a performance with confidence—if only we could summon this mentality before every performance. But it turned out to have been a mental trick I played on myself (which I don’t regret, for how relaxed it made me before the dive); at ~50m when I began my experiment it became clear it wasn’t so dependable! After focusing on making it work through ~70m, unsuccessfully, I realized I might be blowing the dive by neglecting my normal concentration on keeping the mouthfill. So I snapped back to reality, made the most of what little mouthfill I had left, and miraculously heard my 96m alarm within moments of my Eustachian tubes closing. After grabbing the tag I knew I’d make it because I hadn’t gotten significantly hypoxic yet in this comp. But I made sure to hide my tag deep in my hood, as I wanted to leave some fun suspense at the surface. 😊
This record means more to me than my previous in FIM because it was harder to earn, the culmination of more work on different skills both in the ocean and pool. It also remained out of reach for so long that it feels like it took me years of pursuit to accomplish. To have earned it before the end of the comp, along with hopefully placing well in the overall standing, makes me feel like I got a bit lucky here. It’s a testament to how favorable the circumstances are at the Caribbean Cup.
I was never acquainted with Nick Mevoli, who held the CWT record for the last three years and was the first American to reach 100m. But his accomplishments, though I was envious of them at the time, did provide motivation, as he demonstrated that U.S. freedivers could still be competitive internationally. I regret that he and I won’t be able to compete against one another, as we would have enjoyed a close-matched and hopefully friendly rivalry. Perhaps we could also have been teammates on a strong U.S. world championships team.
I’d like to thank C4, Merman Custom Gear, Molchanovs, Maverick America, and Oceanic for their support. I am also in debt to all the dive partners I’ve troubled to watch me in the ocean and join me at the pool, especially my girlfriend Katie, without whom I could not have spent enough time underwater preparing for this event. I would also like to thank all the students I have had throughout Hawaiʻi over the last several years, as they fund my attendance of these comps (which I think of as continuing education for myself, to share the knowledge back home) and allow me to otherwise live off of my passion.
I am not sure what other event(s) I will attend this year, but I must say I prefer the warmth of the Latin American/Caribbean comps, both above and below the water. I’m not the only one hoping that the Caribbean Cup gets to host the world championships some day! It really is a fantastic venue and organization, and I highly recommend it for newcomers wanting to participate in their first international comp as well as veterans desiring the best possible conditions.
– Kurt Chambers
(photos courtesy of Alex St. Jean)