The Australian Freediving Association Pool National Championships 2019 will be held at the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre, Friday 29th to Sunday 31st of March. Hosted by the Goldy Freediving Club, it is set to be the biggest freediving competition ever held in Australia, with over 50 athletes from 11 nations already registered. The Gold Coast Aquatic Centre, located in the suburb of Southport, is a state of the art facility that was completely renovated for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Freediving competitions in Australia are run following the rules of AIDA International who are the governing body of the sport. The Australian Freediving Association is the national governing body for the sport here in Australia. Pool freediving competitions consist of 3 separate disciplines; static (STA), dynamic no fins (DNF) and dynamic with fins (DYN). Athletes are watched poolside by official AIDA judges and closely supervised by in water safety divers at all times during the competition.
The STA discipline involves the athlete floating face down in the pool and holding their breath as long as they can. An athlete will most of the time have a coach in the water alongside them for this event who will coach the athlete by giving verbal cues; often announcing time elapsed, gentle reminders to relax parts of their body that are tensing up or even telling them a story to distract the mind. Points are awarded for this discipline of .2 points per second.
The DNF discipline is swum without fins in a modified breaststroke style. In this discipline the athlete is awarded points based on the distance swum rounded down to the nearest metre. Points are awarded at .5 points per meter.
Traditionally DYN could be performed with either bi fins or a monofin. This is still the case, however AIDA last year voted to create a separate category for record purposes for dynamic bi fins (DYN BIFINS). In the DYN BIFINS category the athlete must only use a bi fin flutter kick and is prohibited from using the dolphin kick traditionally used with a monofin. Points are awarded per distance swum of .5 points per meter.
This new discipline only came into effect on 1 January 2019, creating a new category without any records. With many highly accomplished local and overseas athletes in attendance there is an excellent chance of seeing one or more National Records set in the DYN BIFINS category.
On completion of the performance in all three disciplines the athlete must complete a surface protocol within 15 seconds of their airway exiting the water. For all disciplines an athletes coach is only permitted to assist the athlete verbally. The surface protocol consists of three separate steps: 1. Removal of any facial equipment such as masks or goggles. 2. Giving an OK signal with their hand. 3. Saying “I’m ok” to the judges. The athlete must then maintain their airway out of the water for a total of 30 seconds before being given the judgement for their dive.
The judges award the athlete either a white, yellow or red card. A white card is for a completed performance with no errors or penalties, scoring full points. A yellow card is given for a completed performance with penalties for minor errors, deducting from the total number of points earned. A red card means disqualification from that discipline, earning zero points.
The athlete with the highest point total over all 3 disciplines is the overall winner. It is not uncommon for the winning athlete to not necessarily be the strongest competitor, rather one who dived conservatively where others pushed themselves and risked red cards. It’s a well known saying in competitive freediving circles that, “white cards win comps!”
There is a great buzz around freediving competitions. There’s no other sport where you will see such great camaraderie, sportsmanship and friendly rivalry. One minute an athlete will be performing to the best of their abilities, the next they’ll be poolside cheering on their mate/competitor. Even at world championships it is common for athletes from different countries to coach each others dives!. If you’re in South East Queensland the last weekend of March, come down to Southport and see what makes our sport so great.
If you are interested in finding out more about the sport of freediving in Australia or would like to get involved and start training with a club please contact the Australian Freediving Association through their website: www.australianfreediving.org. The most important message we can give to new divers is to do a freediving course with a reputable instructor and to all freedivers - no matter how much experience you have, never ever dive alone!
By Gavin Phillips and Lisa Borg
Organisers of the AFA Pool National Championships