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Records fall as freedivers rise

Records fall as freedivers rise

Palmerston North based Architect Kathryn Nevatt, 34, held her breath for 7 minutes and 40 seconds over the weekend to set a new New Zealand record in the freediving discipline of Static Apnea, furthering her own record by 6s, ranking her first in the world so far this year and third in the all time rankings. Nevatt also won the overall event completing 143m dynamic with fins and 152m dynamic without fins – events where the diver swims as far as possible (multiple lengths) under water on a single breath wearing a monofin (like a mermaid’s tail) or doing a kind of breaststroke. “I didn’t expect to be ready to break a record at this competition, it’s the start of our indoor season and I have not yet reached my peak, but the static felt great, I was really relaxed and clear headed the whole way through and was able to stay calm and just enjoy being in the water” says Nevatt.

The annual Wellington Winter Champs are held at the Arena Aquatic Centre in Porirua and organised by Wellington’s Lazy Seal Freediving Club.

Wanganui HR Officer Tania Rounthwaite, 40, who trains with Nevatt in the Palmerston North based Breathtakers Freediving Club took out second place overall in the competition, ahead of all the men, and set a new personal best in dynamic with fins of 151m. “I’m thrilled to finally push past a barrier that has been hindering me for a while and add almost a length to my personal best” stated Rounthwaite.

Third place in the overall competition and first in the men’s division went to Sam Barnes, 59, Salesman from Hamilton who completed a personal best dynamic with fins of 168m, re-enforcing the fact that the sport is ageless.

Ali Al Khalifah from the Auckland Freediving Club set 3 new Saudi Arabian national records records with a 4:26 static, 87m dynamic with fins and 79m dynamic without fins.

While most people have partaken in a n impromptu breath holding competition as kids or been snorkelling on their tropical holidays, freediving remains a niche sport in NZ with an immaculate safety record and multiple Kiwi world champions. Divers calm themselves prior to their dive and during the dive experience a “Mammalian Dive Response” which slows the heart rate and forces blood back to the vital organs to assist the body in conserving oxygen and allows for the mind-blowing times and distances achieved. Divers must surface conscious at the completion of their dive and complete a strict surface protocol, or are disqualified. There were no black outs during the competition but loss of consciousness is a serious consideration, and anyone thinking about taking up the sport is encouraged to join a club or take a course to learn safe practises.

The Breathtakers Freediving Club is offering an Intro Night at the Lido 5:30pm on Tuesday 10 June for anyone keen to learn a little about the sport and wanting to see how long they can hold their breath. Nevatt notes that most beginners find they can hold their breath between 2 and 4 minutes with good instruction and a safe environment. Bookings are essential.


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