The Fabulous Vertical Blue Competition starts on Saturday, 17th April.

It has been a long time since we wrote anything about freediving – surely one of the most extreme of the extreme sports – not necessarily because the participants push themselves to dangerously deep underwater levels, but because they are in an environment that is totally alien to mankind – especially without breathing apparatus.

Guillaume Nery descending

We covered, fairly extensively, the Vertical Blue 2009 competition last year, and this year will certainly be keeping our eye on it again.

Vertical Blue, the globe’s premier freediving invitational competition which begins on April 17, 2010 at the 203m deep Dean’s Blue Hole, Bahamas, is set to determine the world’s best all-round freediver with something called the Suunto Dive-Off. This is the first time this will have been done and will be a definitive contest to confirm who is the best all-round freediver in the world – at the present moment.

It means that 15 of the best freedivers from nine nations will attempt to reach new depths in three different disciplines. The athletes can earn up to 100 points in each discipline, depending on the ratio of their best performance compared to the best dive in the event.

Sound complicated? This is how it works:

In each of the three disciplines, (CNF, FIM and CWT) an athlete can earn up to 100 points, depending on the ratio of their best performance compared to the best dive in the event. So if Jack registers the deepest FIM dive, with 110m, then he receives 100 points, whereas Joe’s dive to 90m earns him 90/110 x 100 = 81.8 points. This way each discipline has the same weighting, and the freediver with the best aggregate (out of a possible total of 300) wins the Suunto Dive-off and is crowned the best all-round freediver of the year.

The athlete with the most points at the end of the competition is crowned Suunto Dive-Off champion.

So who are these paragons?

Eric Fattah  (CAN)
Carla-Sue Hanson (USA)
Misuzu Hirai   (JPN)
Robert King   (USA)
Dave Mullins   (NZL)
Guillaume Nery   (FRA)
Herbert Nitsch   (AUT)
Niki Roderick   (NZL)
Alfredo Romo   (MEX)
Jared Schmelzer   (USA)
Carolina Schrappe  (BRA)
Ryuzo Shinomiya   (JPN)
Walter Steyn  (AUS)
William Trubridge  (NZL)
William Winram  (CAN)

Unfortunately Martin Stepanek from the Czech Republic has pulled out of  VB2010, so between the remaining 15 there are a total of 58 world or national records and almost all of them are national champions in one or more disciplines. It’s going to be better than the clash of the titans!

William Trubridge (29), is the current record holder in the unassisted constant weight, no fins (CNF) category with a depth of 90m. He is also the host of Vertical Blue 2010, and warden of Dean’s Blue Hole.

Herbert Nitsch (AUT), often described as “the greatest freediver ever”, is the reigning world champion and record holder in the constant weight (CWT) category. The 40-year-old descended to 123m at the Freediving World Championships in December 2009, also held at Dean’s Blue Hole, and has throughout his career achieved an incredible 28 world records.

main freediving contenders at Vertical Blue 2010

In the history of freediving only four men have EVER broken records in competition.  They are Herbert Nitsch, Martin Stepanek, Carlos Coste and William Trubridge.

It has been William Winram’s goal to join the elite club of 4 for many years, as he chases the continually receding CNF record.  He is still deciding exactly which wetsuit to use for VB 2010, and says “I am working on relaxing and not thinking about the depth.” Meanwhile Ryuzo Shinomiya has been hammering out 95-100m CWT dives, and today was seen cruising up from a 100m Free Immersion dive that lasted almost four minutes.  Guillaume Nery dives too early in the morning for anyone to witness what he is up to, and Dave Mullins has the ultimate tactic in secrecy – he is training 15,000 km away in Lake Taupo, New Zealand (where rumour has it he is reaching 100m in icy water and at slight altitude) and arriving in the Bahamas the day before the competition.

The water in Dean’s Blue Hole remains at 24ºC, but the allegorical waters of rivalry are already starting to simmer…

How to follow VB 2010

We will also bring updates to this site.

Good luck everyone.

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