By freedivinguae

‘SWIM FREE, BROTHER’ Tributes to ‘hero’ freediver who drowned while trying to help another swimmer in Egypt

A RECORD-breaking dive champion has drowned at a popular spot off the coast of Egypt while trying to help a fellow swimmer.

Stephen Keenan, of Dublin, has been described as a “hero” and “guardian angel” by pals following his death in the Red Sea at the weekend.

Irish diver Stephen Keenan who died in Egypt

The 39-year-old died on Saturday while freediving at the Arch of the Dahab Blue Hole — a world-famous dive site.

It is understood he was providing safety cover for a female freediver who was attempting to dive the arch when he suffered an in-water blackout.

The Arch, a 26metre-long (85ft) tunnel in the Dahab Blue Hole at a depth of 56m (184ft), is considered challenging due to its depth and the requirement for distance swimming.

Stephen had been active in the freediving community since 2009.

An image of Stephen while he was practicing his diving

An image of Stephen while he was practicing his diving

He went on to co-own Dahab Freedivers — described as one of the world’s most dynamic freedive schools — as well as set a number of Irish National Records.

Stephen was a qualified instructor-trainer and had coached hundreds of divers in the Gulf of Aqaba, Spain, and the Philippines.

Sport insiders revealed he was best known for his role as Chief Of Safety for a number of the Vertical Blue Freediving Competitions, as well as regularly providing safety at freediving competitions across the world.

He was hailed as one of the best “guardian angels” a racer might wish to have during a record attempt.

Among the last photographs of the popular thrillseeker, Stephen told of his excitement at hitting the Blue Hole Dive site.

Stephen with friend Alessia Zecchini, who paid tribute to the Irishman

Stephen with friend Alessia Zecchini, who paid tribute to the Irishman

He uploaded a snap of himself to Facebook last week with Freediving World Champion Alessia Zecchini and Mohammed Frag.

His message said: “Blue Hole bound with The Sheikh of ­freediving @mohammedfrag_dahab and the Queen herself, @alessia.zecchini.”

Heartbroken Alessia and Mohammed were among those who have paid tribute to Stephen.

Italian Alessia changed her profile picture to an emblem of a fish in honour of Stephen while Mohammed said: “Goodbye my dear friend.”

Grieving Mohammed described Stephen as “one of the most beautiful characters and friends who lived with us in Gold City”.

He added: “Even the children of the city mourn the passing of the beloved man to all the inhabitants of Dahab.”

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs ­confirmed they are aware of the case and are providing consular assistance.

Stephen was a winner of numerous Freediving competitions and helped to ensure that many others were safe for novice divers

Stephen was a winner of numerous Freediving competitions and helped to ensure that many others were safe for novice divers

Tributes continued to be paid to Stephen last night. One said: “Swim free, brother.”

Another said: “Bon voyage  . . . dear friend.”

A third said: “I feel orphaned my coach. An honest, hardworking, passionate guy, totally committed to sharing an unrivaled sport.

“We all lose a friend, an interested blue look, a bright smile, an incomprehensible Irish accent.

“Stephen Keenan, thank you for taking care of me and everyone at Dahab Freedivers and Dahab.

“Thank you for your sense of abnegation, it means a lot for all.

“Rest in peace my friend.”


By freedivinguae

Philippines Government Names Guillaume Néry As Country’s Freediving Ambassador

French celebrity freediver Guillaume Néry, who arrived in the Philippines last week, is the goodwill ambassador of the Department of Tourism, tasked with promoting the country as a top freediving destination in Asia, according to a DOT announcement on Monday.

“To have a world-renowned figure like Néry on board is both a privilege and opportunity for the country to position ourselves better in the diving industry of the region,” Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo Teo said in a statement.

“The Philippine waters is comprised of nearly one million square miles of sea covering major parts of the Coral Triangle which contains more than 2,500 species of fish and over 500 species of coral. Our extraordinary array of marine life and calm waters makes the Philippines an ideal place to learn and engage more tourists in freediving,” Teo added.

The DOT, in collaboration with Freediving Planet, arranged a month-long freediving expedition in the country for Nery.

A freediving yoga class open to the general public, film viewing of the most notable works of Néry and his team, and a meet and greet for his fans will be held at Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort & Spa, Cebu on Wednesday (July 19), in time of the grand opening of the hotel’s marine sanctuary.

Néry, a filmmaker and an environment advocate, conducted two freediving workshops in Mactan, Cebu over the weekend. He will conduct another one in Moalboal on Aug. 4 to 6.

The three-day workshops will be a full immersion with Néry and will cover the basics of freediving – yoga, deep breathing exercises, complete with practical sessions (dry, pool, and open water practices).

Néry will also be touring Malapascua, also in Cebu, as well as Coron and El Nido, both in Palawan. He will also freedive with Badjaos in Davao as part of his month-long expedition.

As freediving ambassador, Néry will be also joining the DOT in future international dive shows and exhibitions to engage and invite more freediving competitors and enthusiasts alike.

Néry, who specializes in constant weight diving, became the youngest freedive record holder in 2002, diving to a depth of 87 meters at Villefranche-sur-Mer in southern France in 2002. He became the world team champion in 2008 and the individual world champion in Kalamata, Greece in 2011, diving down to 117 meters.

In 2014, he was featured in the the Austrian documentary “Attention – A Life in Extremes” which tackled athletes involved in extreme sports.

He was also shown in the 2015 music video of “Runnin’ (Lose It All)”, a song by British record producer Naughty Boy, featuring American recording artist Beyoncé and English singer Arrow Benjamin.

Source: globalnation.inquirer

By freedivinguae

Freediving brings peace, adventure

At the 60-foot depth, the ocean allows gravity to take control, creating a vortex that pulls divers to the fringe of Davy Jones’ Locker.

That free ride downward is caused by negative buoyancy and it’s one of Michelle Marsh’s favorite things about freediving. She calls it the sink phase.

“It’s exhilarating and when you pass 100 feet, you start flying,” Marsh said. “I can’t explain it — it’s a very free feeling that people usually don’t experience underwater.”

The peacefulness of the deep ocean also drives Marsh underwater as often as possible.

“It’s serene, and there’s a lot of physiological changes that happen to your body that you don’t really ever experience unless you’re freediving,” she said.

Marsh is one of Kauai’s deepest freedivers, currently reaching depths of 164 feet. She can hold her breath for five minutes, two seconds. Marsh was part TEAM USA World Freediving competition in September 2016.

As far as depth, Marsh is tied for the deepest freedive on Kauai — at least among those who have documented their dives.

During the TEAM USA competition, Marsh broke all of her records and the women’s team came in seventh place overall. Marsh hopes the team will place higher in the future.

“There are other countries where it’s a major national sport, so those countries tend to do better because they (freedivers) can make it their life,” Marsh said. The American team freedivers are “all pretty much part-time.”

As the United States becomes more interested in the sport, Marsh expects more support will follow for TEAM USA’s freedivers.

The Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) began certifying freediving instructors in 2016, and Marsh sees that as a good sign for the sport’s popularity in the U.S.

“Once PADI puts its eye on something, it blows up,” she said. “We became certified in SCUBA in 2009 and PADI said ‘You shouldn’t be freediving.’ Now they’re teaching it.”

When she’s not training to compete, Marsh works with her business partner and fiancé, Josh Meneley, teaching the sport through their business, Freedive Kauai.

Meneley started freediving in 2012, after he started spending time with Marsh.

“I surf, and that kind of pushed my surfing, so I was getting bigger surf and diving deeper,” Meneley said. “Mainly, I coach.”

Meneley can reach depths of 146 feet and can hold his breath for about four minutes, 46 seconds.

Marsh has been on Kauai for 16 years and started freediving recreationally when she was a teenager growing up in Los Angeles.

“I didn’t know what I was doing,” she said. “In 2012, on my birthday, I went to Seasport Divers in Kapaa to get some longfins and this guy in there had a little class advertised.”

She and Meneley took the class, which was headed by world-class freediver, Kurt Chambers, and they never looked back.

Chambers has been setting national records in the freediving world and can dive to depths surpassing 330 feet. He also competes internationally and placed second in the Caribbean Cup in 2016.

“Kurt, he’s the one pushing the board for the sport. In the U.S., he’s the deepest diver,” Meneley said.

Chambers has been on-island, teaching a freediving class at Anini Beach Park over the weekend through today. The eager attitude among Kauai’s residents, paired with the low-key atmosphere, makes the island a favorite for teaching.

“I always think of Kauai as being the island with the most ‘stoke,’ as I have had my biggest classes there, as well as my youngest students,” Chambers said.

Some of those students have been as young as 9.

Kauai has a lot of people who spearfish, which is a “strong force for developing freediving ability,” Chambers said, but there’s also a large group of non-spearfishing divers that join classes.

Some of those people are into big wave surfing and sunrise shell collecting.

Anyone can learn how to freedive, and technically any time spent under the water without a breathing apparatus is considered freediving. But there are some prerequisites that help when learning the sport.

Being comfortable with the ocean is perhaps the most important. Others are understanding entry and exit with the waves, negotiating current, and not being afraid when the bottom isn’t visible, Chambers said.

While the Big Island is a favorite for freedivers because of clear, deep water and a plethora of sealife, Kauai also has a healthy population of sealife.

“I would still rank it above some of the other ones for convenience of reaching moderate depth within reasonable swimming distance from shore,” Chambers said.

Kauai’s challenges include exposure to tradewinds and wild weather.

“You don’t need to have any crazy experience to be able to freedive, you just need to be able to overcome stressful things, things your body isn’t used to,” Meneley said.