S.E.A. Freediving Challenge – photo highlights

As I mentioned last week, I was invited by Freediving Planet to be the official photographer for the S.E.A. (South East Asia) Freediving Challenge, a mini AIDA competition which took place this weekend in Moalboal, along with Ma Leung from HKFDA.

The competition consisted of contests in three disciplines — static, which was held in a neigbouring hotel pool; and constant weight, with and without fins (CWT and CNF), two depth disciplines. Right now I’d like to share some photos and impressions from the depth events.


Above: Setting up the boat for the depth disciplines — the boat has a rope and pulley mechanism for easily adjusting the depth of the line, and more importantly, to haul up divers quickly in case of an emergency.


The CWT contest was held on Saturday with some 15 divers taking part from Europe and Asia. Below: Kim Sun Young Bianca, from Korea, diving to 41m.


Below: Ken Kiriyama, from Denmark, who dived to 74m. He had announced 84m but turned early, which does not invalidate the dive; it simply incurs a points penalty.


Below: Potti Lau, China who did a clean 66m dive.


Below, Timothy Oehmigen, from Germany, who dived to 54m, also an early turn dive. The monofin has a big Sea Shepherd logo on the front: I wish I’d positioned myself front-on so it could be seen. Something to work on.


Athletes aiming for deep dives invariably use a monofin, which is powerful and efficient for propulsion through the water. However, a monofin is not compulsory. Some divers aiming for lesser depths went down with bi-fins, and one chose to do a no-fins dive within the CWT contest, which is also allowed.


The boat crew kept track of the divers’ depths using a sonar, as well as the time of the dive, announcing both at regular intervals. Two safety divers would go down for each athlete to meet them on their ascent, one as a ‘deep’ safety diver and the other shallower.



The next day, the CNF challenge was set up in the same way, although it was delayed to later in the afternoon and the location moved due to sea conditions. Almost all of the divers from the previous day took part.

below: lowering the bottom plate, with velcro tags attached for divers to grab.

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The challenge with no fins is even more strenuous. It takes a huge amount of energy to overcome your positive buoyancy in the shallows and propel yourself down using a frog-kick, so by the time the diver has turned and is heading back up, he/she is already physically very tired. Below: Stefan Randig, Germany.

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Below: Potti Lau heading down for his successful 47m CNF dive, which is a new China national record in the discipline.

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Below: Lee Jisu from Korea, heading down to 33m. Jisu was the overall winner of the women’s competition.

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On the surface, the diver must observe a surface protocol, removing the mask/nose clip, giving the OK sign and saying ‘I am OK’ to the judges within 15 seconds, whilst holding themselves on the line, up and out of the water. They also give the tag to the judges if they managed to retrieve it. There then ensues a tense 30 seconds while the judges check the diver’s state and deliberate on their fate — a white, yellow or red card — to indicate whether they have successfully completed their dive, whether they received a points penalty, e.g. for turning early — or whether they are disqualified, which can be for a number of reasons.

Below: Stephen Keenan from Ireland shows his tag after his 51m no fins dive.

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These two days of underwater shooting were exciting, exhausting, and sometimes overwhelming. Exciting because I got to watch the peak of the action, close up, better than pretty much anyone else in the whole event team, most of whom stay on the surface — it was incredible to watch these top class divers zoom past and disappear below to unimaginable depths. Exhausting because I was constantly diving down to around 7-10m to catch each diver’s descent and ascent, with little recovery time in between, as well as trying to grab surface snapshots. Finally, overwhelming because of one or two hairy moments with divers blacking out or nearly — something I knew all about from the theory but had never seen ‘in the flesh’, and it was a pretty alarming sight. Thankfully the safety and medical teams did an excellent job and all the divers are OK.

As far as photography goes, I was literally in at the deep end with this new, demanding style of photography that was pretty much new to me, and I would like to thank my co-photographer Ma Leung and also my former instructor Jussi for their advice and tips on freediving photography before this trip. It was an incredible challenge and I hope to get more chances to improve my freediving photo skills this year!

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Above: me, shooting one of the photos used in this post — can you see which one it is?

Here is a full album of these depth competitions.

Results of the depth disciplines:

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Categories: General, TravelTags: , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Wow thank you so much for sharing these amazing pictures! It’s so interesting to see a freediving competition below the surface! By the way, very happy too that you work is recognised 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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