Vertical Blue, an annual event which takes place at Dean’s Blue on Long Island, Bahamas, is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this year. It’s considered to be one of the premiere freediving competitions in the world, due to its professional organization and near perfect diving venue. For this reason, it attracts world-class freedivers from around the globe. Spots for athletes are in limited supply, as the first few slots are by invitation and there is a cap.
This year five divers from the US are competing at the world-renowned event, hosted by freediving icon William Trubridge; National Record holder Claire Paris, USA Freediving legend and record holder Leo Muraoka, Freediving Instructor Ricardo Paris, Team USA-eligible Kristin Kuba and the now Deepest US American Man in history, Daniel Koval.
This is Daniel’s first visit to Dean’s Blue Hole and his second major competition. He’s been training steadily for 10 years and has worked diligently to develop the skills and depth adaptation needed to be able to dive more than 100 meters/ 328 feet deep on a single breath of air.
Daniel has enjoyed the ocean since childhood, as a former resident of Southern California and a current resident of Kona, Hawaii, he has always had access to the planet’s most precious resource. A passionate spearfisherman, he became aware of his diving limit when he moved to Hawaii. To improve his bottom time and diving safety, he enrolled in a course with one of the licensed US freediving schools, Freediving Instructor’s International (FII).
The skills he learned set him on the path to his future profession and athletic achievement.
After months of intense preparation and one failed attempt two days before, he achieved his goal. On July 18th, 2018, Daniel Koval officially became the third US American Man to break the 100m barrier, with a Constant Weight with a Monofin (CWT) dive to 102 meters. Deepest US man in history.
Tanya Streeter continues to hold the title of deepest US American in history, with her No Limits dive to 160 meters, which she achieved with the aide of a sled, that shuttled her to the depth and back.
Daniel Koval’s descent and ascent was muscle-powered. Sporting only a wetsuit, nose clip, and weight belt, he propelled his mono-fin with a dolphin kick, all the way down to 335 feet and back up, with a dive time of 2 minutes and 50 seconds.
His partner and fellow diver, Kristin Kuba, had coached him on the surface, supporting his head gently as he relaxed and inhaled deeply. Once the official count-down was up, he turned and began is long journey down the the competition line. Kristin, the judges, VB crew and safety divers waited for Daniel’s return, while spectators around the world followed Koval’s dive, meter by meter all the way down to the bottom plate, where he retrieved a velcro tag.
The Diveye submersible camera followed him back to the surface, recording his hydrodynamic form and powerful kick, that propelled him through the 300 feet of water above. At 100 feet below the surface, he’s greeted by two safety divers who escort him back, monitoring his condition, ready to assist at the slightness indication of distress.
On this day, Daniel didn’t need any assistance, the voluminous breath of clean Bahamian air he had taken at the surface still had enough O2 and the CO2 he’d accumulated wasn’t affecting his propulsion or consciousness. When he broke the surface, Kristin was close by to remind him to breathe and remove his nose-clip, while looking at the judges, so that he could complete the required safety protocol. 30 seconds later, having proved that he hadn’t dived past his physical limit, he was awarded the white card by fellow USA Diver, VB judge and AIDA President, Carla Hanson.
With this impressive achievement, Daniel has surely stimulated Kurt Chambers to win back the title, which he had held since 2016.
Congratulations Daniel Koval!
CWT= Constant Weight with Monofin. Diver must descend and surface with the same weight, which can be no weight, a neck weight and/ or weight belt. A monofin is used in this, one of three, depth discipline, to propel the diver to her/ his announced depth.