Down to 146 Meters with One Breath!

The free diver’s companion in this category is a weighted sled that helps speed up their decent great depth. Picture shows Coste during a training session. Picture courtesy of underwater photographer Casper Douma

The International Association for Development of Apnea (AIDA) judge in yellow shirt holds up his two hands: eight minutes to go. Boats are circling the platform next to which Carlos Coste will attempt to break the world record freediving in the Variable Weight Category.

Seven minutes and Coste is sucking in air and letting it out again – getting ready. He will have to freedive to 146 meters in one breath to break the record.

Six minutes. Other freedivers as well as divers with tanks are at the ready. The rescue divers will be waiting for Carlos at 70 meters, the freedivers accompany him from 30 meters upward to the surface.

Five minutes. The paramedics are on standby and the rescue boat is alongside the dive platform.

Four minutes. Exactly the amount of time Carlos expects to be able to go down and back up again.

Three minutes. Curious snorkelers, kayakers and underwater photographers are in the water surrounding the boat geared to send Coste to an unimaginable depth on a weighted ‘sled’.

Two minutes and everyone quiets down and starts focusing on the athlete. Coste focuses inward.

One minute. He closes his eyes, holds on to the sled rope, breathes, opens his mouth wide and, as his chest lifts up, he dives.

Tension is palpable, everyone looks at their watches. Four minutes. Will he make it?

Boaters, divers, snorkelers, cameramen, medical staff and support team surround Coste on his attempt to break the world-record freediving in Variable Weight. Picture courtesy of underwater photographer Casper Douma

Deep Sea Challenge 2015
This is the first year that Coste and his wife Gaby hosted the Deep Sea Challenge – a freediving competition on Bonaire, from June 17th to 23rd. In that time a rigorous training schedule was set for the freedivers that were competing in the various disciplines. And, like the cherry on the cake, Coste aimed to break the world record in the Variable Weight discipline that currently stands at 145 meters. Divers from around the world competed in four categories: Static Apnea, a discipline that focuses on time, and Dynamic Apnea involving distance, constant weight and constant weight without fins, both categories focus on depth with pre-depth announcements.

Overall winner Edgardo Andrade from Honduras also placed tops in the Constant Weight and Constant Weight without Fins Category. Coste took first place in Dynamic Apnea, and Sebastian Lire from Chile finished first in the Static Apnea category. Courtney Williams from the USA was the only female competitor.

Suspense as the AIDA judge awaits Coste’s return to surface. Picture courtesy of underwater photographer Casper Douma

Freediving is trending according to Coste. All over the Caribbean different freediving events are coming to life. The Caribbean Cup in Roatan, Vertical Blue in The Bahamas, Deja Blue in the Cayman Islands, Nirvana Ocean Quest in San Andres, and this year the Deep Sea Challenge in Bonaire.

Carlos’ freediving passion started in university when he participated in a CMAS World Underwater Federation course. Coste formed a team with other participants and in 2000 the team competed in their first freediving world cup hosted in Nice, France, where they placed third.

“It was so motivating,” says Coste. “It made me want to push on to see what else I could do. In 2001 we entered another world championship in Ibiza. One team member wasn’t that well trained and kept the whole team back. I decided to go it alone and broke two world records in one week; the Constant Weight record at 90 meters and the Free Immersion record at 93 meters.”

He also became the first human being to dive down to 100 meters in one single breath.

The Costas moved to Bonaire in 2013 and started a freediving school. The clear and calm waters of Bonaire as well as the immediate depth that surrounds the island make it a great freediving destination.

“What makes it exceptional,” Coste explains, “is the fact that Bonaire has everything else too, a decompression chamber, a good hospital, supermarkets with a wonderful variety of foods, especially the organic super foods that I love, and all within a couple of minutes drive from home or hotel.”

Slowly, the minutes tick away. The boaters, divers and snorkelers are quiet – everyone is counting the seconds. Then he surfaces—the public claps and waits to see which card the judge will pull. Red will disqualify him, yellow means he hasn’t reached over 145 meters and green signals he’s broken the record. The judge checks his equipment and the fish tracker and pulls a yellow card: 126 meters.

Coste has not broken the world record, but he had everyone in suspense. Although he has managed to reach 135 meters in the past, ear problems prevented him from achieving his goal. Will he try again in Bonaire’s Deep Sea Challenge 2016?

Carlos Coste, world-renowned freediver and host of the Deep Sea Challenge 2015 in Bonaire. Picture courtesy of underwater photographer Casper Douma

Sanny Ensing is a Bonaire-based writer and reporter with an MA in Cultural Heritage Studies and a passion for Caribbean preservation efforts.