The Caribbean Cup: Roatan’s International Freediving Competition
May 17th marks the opening day of the sixth annual Caribbean Cup. It’s an exciting time on the island of Roatan. World renown freedivers walk the streets toting their gear. People watch and chat about world record attempts. It’s an interesting and different buzz from the norm on this scuba-centric island.
The event has become a major competition with many of the world’s top freedivers participating. Men and women alike will be diving beneath the island’s clear waters in hopes of beating world and national records. Most of the competitors are top freedivers representing their countries as national champions and/or world record holders. Since its conception, 13 continental records and 100 national records have been established during the competition.
For the next week contestants and observers will gather at San Simon Beach Club in West Bay where boats are available to shuttle them a whopping 3 minutes to the 189 meter (620 feet) dive site.
If you’re a freediver already, then you probably know about the Caribbean Cup. However, if you’re new to the sport, contemplating taking a course or just plain curious, hopefully I can shed some light on the basics.
What is Freediving?
In my experience, there are many misconceptions about the sport. Freediving is, to keep it simple, breath-hold diving. While there are many techniques and disciplines, the main goal is to submerge beneath the surface of the water without the use of any breathing aids such as tanks or supply lines.
To the people who practice freediving, it’s not so simple. As Esteban Darhanpé—the Caribbean Cup’s creator—once said: “I think freediving is amazing because it is a lot of things. It involves art, science and lifestyle.”
Disciplines of Freediving in the Competition
There are three freediving disciplines practiced in the Caribbean Cup: constant weight with fins, constant weight without fins, and free emersion. Bear in mind, all dives are done alongside a rope with the diver attached via a lanyard.
Free immersion is a method of freediving utilizing the rope as a means to descend and ascend. The diver pulls themselves down the rope and back up again.
Constant weight with fins is a technique in which the diver descends and ascends along the rope using either a set of fins or a monofin. Divers are not allowed to pull or otherwise touch the rope aside from the initial descent and turning to ascend.
Constant weight without fins is a technique where the diver descends and ascends along the rope without wearing fins of any kind.
If you’re worried about these aquatic athletes, toss your fears to the curb. First, understand that freediving, if practiced correctly, is already a very safe sport, even at the competitive level when athletes are pushing themselves more than most. Second, the amount of planning and personnel involved in the safety considerations for the event is impressive and should be enough to quell any doubts or fears.
Along with equipment to monitor the divers’ movements during their dives, there is an abundance of well trained safety divers, doctors, and paramedics on location. An ambulance and an evacuation boat will also be on standby throughout the event. The platforms are capable of quickly pulling the divers up should there be a complication at depth, which is very uncommon.
Thanks to competitions like this and the increasing sophistication of underwater surveillance technology, freediving is rapidly growing in popularity and negotiations are even taking place to make it part of the Olympic Games.
If you happen to be in Roatan during the event, it’s worth the time to have a look. Head over to San Simon Beach Club, in West Bay. You can spectate, arrange a class for yourself, or just have a chat with some amazing and down to earth athletes. Assuming that the weather stays consistent, May 24th will be the final day of competition along with the closing ceremony, so don’t wait too long.
Because of sponsors like Mayan Princess Resort, The Honduran Tourism Institute, Padi, Cressi, and Splash Inn Resort, this event is Possible.
For more specific information about the event, please visit Roatan Freediving School and Training Center’s Caribbean Cup page.