A United States Master Freediver is an athlete that is fifty years of age or older and three of them are dominating events and setting overall US national records.
At Freedive Paradise, a freediving competition held in Kona, Hawaii from July 30 to August 2, 2009, national records fell and the athletes breaking the records were competing with athletes half their age and more.
Annabel Edwards, Bill Graham, and Leo Muraoka are diving deeper, longer and further than anyone else in the US. Annabel set two new US national records in the disciplines of Constant No Fins, CNF, (she is a former world record holder in this discipline) with a dive to 48 meters / 157 feet and Dynamic No Fins, DNF, by swimming a distance of 116 meters / 380 feet in the pool during the four day competition. She broke Julie “Jewels” Russell’s record of 44 meters in CNF and Tanya Streeter’s DNF record of 113 meters which was one of the longest standing US records. Both women are considerably younger than Annabel. Bel, as she likes to be called, is still the only athlete in the world to set a world record after turning fifty. She has held three world records in her career.
Annabel said, “It was every bit as fun to get these 2 US records as it was to make my previous 3 world records. Bill Graham with his new static record of 7:39 shows us all that age is NO excuse!”
Bill Graham at seventy can hold his breath longer than any other US athlete at any age. He managed to complete a performance of seven minutes and thirty-nine seconds breaking Deron Verbeck’s record of seven minutes and twenty-eight seconds by eleven seconds. Bill also dives to depth as well. Bill stated, “The water was the warmest we have tried. The contractions were gentle.”
Leo Muraoka set a new master’s record in dynamic apnea with a swim in his mono fin of 136 meters / 446 feet. Leo has held multiple US national records as well, only recently losing his Free Immersion record to Robert King.
The competition saw great performances from all athletes. Australian visitor Ant Judge set a new Australian Free Immersion record. Many of the other athletes had personal bests in several disciplines. Most notably US athlete Kurt Chambers became the newest member of the seven-minute static club with a performance of seven minute and two seconds.
United States Apnea Association President Grant W. Graves explains, “We did not setup the Master division because we felt that athletes over fifty needed their own division, we did it because we wanted to make a point that freediving truly is a lifelong sport and athletes of all ages can be winning events and setting records. We have seen that demonstrated once again in a huge way.”
“These athletes do not just set records in the age group, they set records in all age groups. It is never too late to enter this sport and be successful. What we are seeing would be considered remarkable in other sports. Just look at how much attention Lance Armstrong received for being thirty-seven and doing so well at this year’s Tour. Bill Graham is almost twice his age and kicking butt. I challenge Lance to give Bill a run for his money in the pool or ocean.”
“USAA wants to encourage participation at any age. We hoped that the Master division would encourage participation later in life. Youth programs already exist for freediving; no one was letting it be known that this sport really is accessible at any age. Freediving does not just take you places in the ocean, it takes you places within yourself, builds confidence, is a safe activity, and very low impact, yet really good exercise.”
Freedive Paradise took place in Kona, Hawaii and was officiated with the regulations of the International Association for the Development of Apnea, AIDA, and USAA. The records were officiated by at least two international freediving judges. In order to claim a US record all regulations must be met and the athlete must be judged as having a valid performance when a record is broken.
The USAA is a nonprofit association founded on the democratic representation of freediving within the United States and internationally. Founded in 2003, the USAA consists of an active membership dedicated to furthering freediving in the United States and abroad.
For more information about the USAA, the U.S. National Freediving Team, and membership please visit www.usfreediving.org.