Kurt Chambers and Ashley Chapman have been whipping up a storm at this year’s Caribbean Cup, an annual freediving competition based on the island of Roatan off of the coast of Honduras. They have collectively set four new nation records, two each, over the course of the seven day event. They both did so in Constant Weight (CWT) and Free Immersion (FIM).
Ashley, who hails from Wilmington, NC, broke her own USA Freediving National Records with a CWT dive on May 28 diving to eighty-three meters / 272 feet surpassing her previous record by one meter / three feet set in 2012. She bettered her FIM record June 1 with a depth of eight-three meters / 272 feet bettering her previous record by two meters / seven feet set at the same event in 2012 in the Bahamas. Ashley’s dives took two minutes forty-one seconds and three minutes twenty-seven seconds respectively.
Kurt, who lives in Kona on the big island of Hawaii, reset his own record in FIM with a dive to ninety-four meters / 308 feet bettering the old record by two meters / one foot set last year at this event. He became the second American to enter the sport’s figurative 100 meter club with a CWT dive of 101 meters / 331 feet on May 31. This dive betters the previous record set by Nick Mevoli by one meter / three feet set in 2013 at this event. Nick’s untimely death later the same year remains the sport’s only fatality in competition. Adam Skolnick’s book One Breath, telling the story of Nick’s life and the incident, has taken Nick’s story well beyond the usual reach of freediving. Kurt’s dives took two minutes fifty-nine seconds and two minutes fifty seconds respectfully.
Ashley won the overall gold for the event tying with Sofia Gomez Uribe of Columbia, winning gold medals in CNF and FIM and a bronze in CWT in the individual events. Kurt won the overall silver medal with a silver medal in CWT and a bronze medal in FIM.
Kurt said, “I was never acquainted with Nick Mevoli, who held the CWT record for the last three years and was the first American to reach 100 meters. But his accomplishments, though I was envious of them at the time, did provide motivation, as he demonstrated that USA 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 USA Freediving Team at world championships.”
He stated further, “This record (CWT) 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.”
Ashley said, “This training season has been a humbling one…and I’m grateful for that! I’ve been struggling with depth and my no fins dives have felt hard, but I have used the set back to work on dropping any pride that I’m carrying around. After failing yesterday’s record attempt and letting my pride creep in and make me sour, it felt great to let it all go and just focus on relaxing and being grateful for my dives and my beautiful family.”
Kurt is a long time waterman who has been creating captivating freediving images and teaching freediving through his company Hawaii Freediving. He has been freediving for many years and has been on a record run for the past two years. His breathtaking images can be found on Instagram @chambersbelow .
Ashley is a three-time freediving world record holder having held over ten national records. She teaches freediving with her husband Ren with their company Evolve Freediving. She has been away from competitive freediving for a couple of years having given birth to their daughter Ani in 2014. This competition certainly establishes that she is back in form and picking up where she left off.
Americans Daniel Koval, Ty Rothschild, and Kerry Hollowell are also participating in this event.
The Caribbean Cup is an annual event that is hosted by Esteban Darhanpe of Roatan Freediving in the sheltered waters of West Bay on the island of Roatan. The event headquarters are based at the Mayan Princess Beach and Dive Resort, and The Beach Club San Simon. The event includes all three freediving depth disciplines (Constant Weight CWT, Constant No Fins CNF, Free Immersion FIM) crowning the best of depth; awarding the overall winner with the most points from all three performances. This year’s event featured athletes from thirteen different countries. For more information visit roatanfreediving.com.
Constant No Fins (CNF) is one of the most difficult of competitive freediving disciplines, as it requires the athlete to swim to depth and back under their own power with no swimming aids while holding their breath. The athlete may only use arm and leg strokes to perform. The motion is a modified breaststroke style.
Constant Weight (CWT) challenges the athlete to swim to depth and back with the use of fins or a mono fin under their own power while holding their breath. The athlete is not allowed to contact the competition line other than to recover their tag at depth while turning. Upon reaching the surface the athlete must perform a surface protocol within fifteen seconds of their return to the surface. Constant Weight is one of the most respected and contested disciplines in freediving.
Free Immersion (FIM) is the freediving discipline that requires the athlete to pull their way to depth and back using their hands to pull down and up the competition line while holding their breath. It is one of three recognized self-powered disciplines in the diving to depth arena. The other two are constant weight and constant weight without fins. Both require the athlete to swim to depth and return under their own power.
USA Freediving is a non-profit association founded on a democratic representation of freediving within the United States and internationally. Founded in 2003, USA Freediving brought together a diverse group of 21 founding members, all interested in the development and growth of freediving. In just six months, this highly dedicated group was able to create an association recognized as the voice of freediving in the United States by the international community. The association has grown to over one hundred members with continued growth expected. For more information visit www.usafreediving.com.
The International Association for the Development of Freediving, AIDA, is the international sanctioning body for freediving, individual and team competition, and freediving world record attempts. For more information about AIDA visit www.aidainternational.org.
Photo: Lia Barrett