Organised and hosted by AIDA Philippines and Freedive Panglao, the first Freediving School in Bohol, supported by the Department of Tourism (Philippines), Dive Philippines and Freedive Superhome, the Philippine Depth National Championship is a top freediving competition in the Philippines and is sanctioned by AIDA International.  Located at Panglao Island’s beautiful turquoise waters, with its stunning visibility and snug water temperatures of around 29 degrees Celcius, the Philippine Depth National Championship welcomed more than 40 competitive freedivers from all over the world at the Kasadya Function Hall in Linaw Beach Resort on May 17, 2019, 2pm, as everyone gathered for the competition’s opening ceremony.

With the competition proper being held on May 18 and 19, 2019, the function hall was a cacophony of smiles and laughter as the athletes, armed with their passports and lanyards for CWT, FIM and CNF, registered for the event with medic Normandy Albuero examining the athletes who needed to be cleared for the competition. Head judge, Air Yang (China), second judge Jayden Kim, third judge JooYoung Chun (South Korea) and fourth judge Carlo Navarro were all on hand to answer queries with Hyge Zafra, John Tolentino, Jen Plecerda handling the administration duties while Martin Zapanta, Jake Alejandre, Edwin Castillon handled media duties.

PDNS Pre-Competition Briefing

Seated next to John Folkvord, the consultant for PDNS, Freedive Panglao founder, PDNS organiser and Chief Safety Officer, Stefan Randig, took the microphone and addressed the entire congregation of PDNS competitors as he provided a detailed breakdown of the mechanics of the competition.

Open to freedivers of all levels in good health, the competition allocates one point per metre of depth for CWT and FIM, 1.15 points for CWTB and 1.25 points for CNF, less any penalties. The Filipino male and Filipino female athletes with the greatest number of points will be crowned the men’s and women’s overall champions respectively, with the best discipline awards open to all nationalities.

Announcing the starting point to be Freedive Superhome, Stefan detailed the location of the official line and the distances between the four buoys in the competition area, where the standby boat and shuttle boat will be. The standby boat will have oxygen for surfacing freedivers and a medical doctor on hand to handle any emergencies. The shuttle boat will take only five minutes to ferry the freedivers to and from the competition site.

As there were a lot of freedivers competing for the first time, Stefan then went through a checklist for all competitors. Citing the start list created by John Folkvord, competitors will see their names, their nationality, their announced dive and the three important times they need to remember. First is the official top time, the official start time at which a freediver needs to begin a competition performance. The second important time that competitors must remember is their warmup time, which is exactly 45 minutes before their official top time (ie the start of their dive). The judges and safety divers will keep an eye out on who is diving and who is warming up and competitors caught warming up too early ie longer than 45 minutes before their official top time, will be disqualified. The third time that is important is the check in time, which is one hour before your official top time. Athletes must be at Superhome at least one hour before their dive.

When the athletes are checked in at the registration table, they will be measured for their oxygen saturation levels in their body with an oxymetre just as a baseline before their dive. They can then warm up before their dive.

The competitors of the Philippine Depth National Championship - ready to take on the depths in Panglao!

Stefan also reassured the new freedivers that there will be safety divers in the water to watch out for any competitors who need help. He also gave pointers on when to move to each warmup buoy as their top time approaches.

The safety diver will give freedivers their dive computer, the official watch, which be worn on the wrist that has no lanyard. There will have no alarms set on them.  The freedivers will be told when they are allowed to move to the official line. Stefan advised the freedivers that the judges will let the contestants know when they can get closer to the official line. Those who want a 10 minute preparation to start their breathing preparations should at the buoys as once you approach the official line, there would be at most a four to four and half minute horizon to the start of their dive.

When freedivers come to the official line, they are to clip in their lanyard. Then the officials will give a countdown, 2 minutes, 1 minute, 5,4,3,2,1. When freedivers are instructed to start, they will have 30 secs to take their final breath and then dive. The dive starts once your airways are submerged so freedivers are cautioned not to accidentally resurface out of the water once their airways are submerged.

The rope is set to the diver’s announced performance. On the way down, freedivers can slide their hand across the rope, they can make a ring with their finger around the rope, that’s fine too. However, Stefan cautioned that they are not allowed to twist the carabina of the lanyard to manipulate it to slow their dive.

Stefan cautioned that freedivers are only allowed one turn in their dive. Freedivers are not allowed to turn to equalize then dive down again to continue their dive. Once they turn, they have to start ascending. Freedivers are also not allowed to stay at any depths for more than five seconds.

Stefan also gave tips on what to do when divers reach the white bottom plate at their announced depth – the two-metre brace zone demarcated by the “candy cane” stripe on the official line and a tennis ball located one metre before the bottom plate. The tennis ball is there to stop the freedivers’ lanyard so they will not crash into the bottom plate. Freedivers were instructed to get to the tennis ball and reach down for one velcro tag. If they are doing constant weight, its alright to keep the tag in their hand. They can also put it into hood or stick it into their jacket.

Safety divers on underwater scooters will also be stationed at half of the freedivers announced depth to provide any safety assistance if necessary. If you have any trouble, just reach out and open your palm as a signal that you are in need of rescue.

After going through the rest of the pointers needed to complete their dive,  Stefan also gave a breakdown on the white/yellow/red cards shown by judges in the competition. A white card means a good performance without any penalties, a yellow card is a good performance with penalties and a red card is for disqualifications. The contestants were also briefed on surface protocol – which is a series of actions freedivers are required to perform following any competition dive, swim or static. The diver must remove all face equipment, give an okay signal and say “I’m okay” in English within 15 seconds of their airway breaking the surface. Failure to do so results in a disqualification.

After a short question and answer session, everyone was gathered for a group photo on the beach as the entire contingent looked forward to the official competition on May 18 and 19, 2019.


Gen Reyes


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