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Dive Pirates launch Virtual Challenge to celebrate diving while landlocked



In its 16th year of celebrating life after injury and changing lives through adaptive diving the Dive Pirates Foundation found a fun way to continue one of its trip traditions while awaiting the lifting of travel restrictions which delayed the annual trip to Cayman Brac.

This year we’ve kicked off the ‘Virtual Deep Down Challenge’ asking our recipients, members, and anyone who would like to play along to take a picture of how they are celebrating diving while landlocked, be creative with it, and use it to launch their own online fundraiser,” said Dive Pirates President and Co-Founder Sophie Wimberley.

Usually this time of year the Foundation hosts a large trip to Cayman Brac Beach Resort and Reef Divers II with its annual recipients (adaptive scuba divers), returning recipients, friends, supporters and family; a total crew of approximately 75 people of all abilities welcoming new recipients to the fold and rallying around them as they complete their open water certifications and explore the underwater world uninhibited by mobility issues on land.

Leading up to the trip, trip-goers rally to fundraise to pay the adventure forward and dedicate one dive to honor the pledges received in their name.  This year the Foundation is keeping connected with its base while inviting the world to join in the fun.

There will be a prize for the most creative picture, so make us laugh!  Be sure to include #DivePiratesWanderlust, and we just ask that if you use your shower, tub, sprinkler, etcetera to be safety conscious, and by all means remained clothed,” Wimberley mused after taking to her pool last week with fins on, Dive Pirates rash guard, head phones and a strategically- placed laptop to take conference calls.

The challenge runs now through July 16, 2020 and prizes for playing include:

  • Best Photo: $100 coupon to the Dive Pirates Store.
  • Raise $250 or more: Receive a Dive Pirates mask to cover your booty!
  • Raise the most by July 16th: Win an Aqualung i200c Dive Computer.
  • Raise the most as a team: Win a limited run trip shirt honoring the 2020 postponed trip. (teams up to 12 people allowed)
  • Participate in any way and receive 10% off the Dive Pirates Store.

Those participating are creating individual fundraisers on their Facebook Pages, using the virtual dive event fundraiser on the Foundation’s Facebook page, or uploading their photos and pledges on the Dive Pirates Foundation website.

The following dive centers have Dive Pirate recipients who will directly benefit from this effort:

  • Diventures (SSI) – training TSgt. Melissa Nueva and Jennifer Radil and their adaptive buddies
  • WaterDogs (PADI/HSA) — training Jared Davis and is adaptive buddy team
  • GR8 DIVN (SSI) — training  Sgt. Kamron Lopez, Jason Kelly and Sean Conroy and their adaptive buddies
  • Ocean Enterprises (PADI/DDI/HSA) — training Lance Cpl. Kenta Otawa and his adaptive buddy
  • Dive Pirates Training School (RAID) — training Gabriel Yammine, Scott Dunkel, Debbie Taylor, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Darrell Taylor
  • Dive Masters (RAID/SSI) — training Scott Wilson and his adaptive dive buddy
  • Denver Divers (SSI) — training Cpl. Jim Roos and his adaptive buddy
  • International Scuba (PADI/HSA) training Dr. Danni McMahon and Joshua Hamilton and their adaptive buddies
  • Dive Georgia (PADI/HSA) — training SSgt. Derrick McMillon and his adaptive dive buddy

For the stories behind these amazing men and women who have overcome so much and strive to enjoy a fulfilling life with their spouses, family and friends, and about the dive centers who welcome them into the mainstream world of scuba go to

Freediving Blogs

British freediver sets new national record with 112m dive



British freediver Gary McGrath has set a new national record at the prestigious Vertical Blue freediving competition in the Bahamas.

Using only a monofin for propulsion, Gary swam down a measured rope to a depth of 112m (367ft), returning to the surface to receive a white card from the AIDA International judges to validate his dive.

Gary, 41, held his breath for three minutes and 13 seconds to complete the dive.

Freedivers descend underwater on a single breath of air and the atmospheric pressure on their bodies increases as they go deeper.

At 112m deep the pressure is 12 times greater than the surface, meaning the air in Gary’s lungs would have shrunk to less than a twelfth of its original volume – around the size of a golf ball.

Freedivers train to cope with the physiological strains placed on their bodies by their sport, and Gary uses his background of yoga and meditation to help his physical and mental preparation for deep dives.

He has also had to overcome physical challenges after contracting Covid last year during preparations for a previous national record attempt.

Gary said: ‘Diving below 100m is a totally unique environment, it’s my therapy. 

‘This year has been extremely challenging for my mental health and freediving has helped me overcome that for sure. 

‘At depth I have complete isolation from the everyday world we live in. Down there it’s just me and nature. It’s that escape that all freedivers crave. 

‘There are moments of extreme mental clarity and purity that I can only achieve when underwater. The flow state that a deep dive allows me to experience is unique and addictive.

Gary, originally from Twickenham, began freediving in 2006 and has been competing since 2008.

A former tree surgeon, he became a professional freedive instructor in 2014, and he and his partner Lynne Paddon run Yoga and Freedive Retreats in Ibiza.

Remarkably, he completed his 112m national record dive on Tuesday (August 9) despite being forced to compete wearing a borrowed monofin which was a size too small for his feet.

His entire kit bag containing his monofin, bifins and two wetsuits was lost by an airline as he travelled to the competition.

Despite his careful preparation, Gary said he suffered nerves on the morning of his national record dive, and relied on a phone call to his partner Lynne, who helped him focus on breathing techniques and visualisation to calm his nerves.

Speaking immediately after his dive, he said: ‘That was all for Lynne – this whole week has been about her. I could not do it without her. I hope that everyone finds someone they can click with, it’s the most magical thing in the world.’

Gary also thanked supporters who helped him to crowdfund to raise the money needed for him to travel to the Bahamas and compete.

Vertical Blue is considered one of the most elite events on the freediving calendar and has been dubbed the ‘Wimbledon of Freediving’.

Owned and run by world record freediver William Trubridge, the event takes place in a 202m (663ft) deep sinkhole known as Dean’s Blue Hole, off the coast of Long Island.

The previous British national record of 111m was set by Michael Board in 2018, also at a Vertical Blue competition.

All Photographs courtesy of Daan Verhoeven (

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Miscellaneous Blogs

Film Review: Thirteen Lives



Ron Howard’s recreation of the 2018 rescue of a Thai junior football team is impressive. Even though we know what happens in the end the tension and drama played out is palpable.

On 23 June 2018, 12 members of a Thai junior football team, the Wild Boars, and their coach became trapped deep in the Tham Luang cave system by rising flood water. The film details the incredible international rescue efforts that ensue. And Ron Howard has judged the tone perfectly. There is no Hollywood glitz and glamour and the two leading actors: Colin Farrell and Viggo Mortensen, who play John Volanthen and Rick Stanton respectively, capture the intensity of the situation perfectly.

The diving scenes are claustrophobic in the extreme. Although I suspect that the visibility was even worse than the film depicts as you have to be able to see something in the dramatization! All the way through the film I found myself shaking my head in disbelief at the extraordinary feat these divers pulled off. The skill and bravery required still impresses after watching films, hearing them speak in public and reading about the rescue.

I loved that, whilst the divers took centre stage in the film, the heroic rescue efforts of the water engineer and his team was also given the attention they deserve, as well as the incredible Thai Navy Seals and the thousands of people that flocked to the region to help.

Thirteen Lives is a must watch movie about an incredible cave rescue. It’s sober tone hits the mark. The cinematography is skilled and creates an impressively tense experience. It is available on Amazon Prime right now.

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