In February Emperor Divers launched the Covid Diver Heroes initiative, aiming to recognise 8 people who have stepped up in the pandemic with free liveaboard trips in the Maldives and the Red Sea. They received hundreds of nominations and left it up to a varied panel of loyal staff to sift through the entries. All inspired, many amazed and some brought tears. What is clear is that divers are awesome, and it came as no surprise that within the international underwater community there were so many selfless, empathetic heroes.
The Emperor Divers’ panel have made the final choice for the 8th liveaboard prize, this time for a trip of a lifetime in The Maldives. Nominated by his cousin, Alex Chan, this is his story:
“There will be no greater reward for this selfless cousin of mine to win a liveaboard trip to the Maldives where he can find solace in SCUBA diving, the holiday activity he enjoys most. I have not seen him physically for more than a year nor did his parents because he has isolated himself for fears of inadvertently bringing the virus home.
I, Alex, nominate KK Tan, 38, a doctor from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for his tireless efforts as a supporting role to the Frontliners during this time of pandemic. By day, he takes up the administrative role to procure quality medical equipment and ensure proper distribution to health facilities throughout the country an uphill task in view of the rising number of cases in my country. By night, he would return to his former hospital to help out with the outpatient cases there. If not working on weekends, he would visit a couple of old folks home to provide encouragement, free medical consultations as well as deliver medications where able. He tells me always “Since I cannot go diving in the sea, I might as well dive in the sea of COVID19. There are many beautiful things to see here too.”
Alex has been in contact with KK and said: “He was ecstatic! Thank you for selecting my nominee for the final winner for the liveaboard. I’m sure it will be a beautiful light for him at the end of the tunnel.”
As a roundup, here is the full list of winners who will enter the Covid Diver Heroes Hall of Fame:
- Deborah Brabham, UK
- Noam Har-Tzvi, Israel
- Megumi Gotada, Germany
- Phuong Cao, USA
- Ingrid Stubelius, Sweden
- Lily Lancaster, UK
- Susana Garcia, Spain
- KK Tan, Malaysia.
The Emperor Divers Team have even been lucky enough to meet Susana Garcia already, she has just been out on a liveaboard trip in the Red Sea and we were able to give her a trophy as well as spend time with one of our Heroes.
Questions and enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org
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 (www.daanverhoeven.com)
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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