The United States Freediving Federation is bringing the first World Underwater Federation (CMAS) sanctioned competition to U.S. waters this weekend when Honaunau Bay plays host to the Hawaii Cup of Freediving.
Taking place Friday through Monday, the USFF championship event will draw freedivers from around the state, California and Florida. It will also feature two members of Team America Freediving, including Kailua-Kona resident Kristin Kuba.
Kuba is currently preparing for the CMAS World Championships in October. She believes the Hawaii Cup could mean a lot for the sport of freediving in the United States.
“With the ongoing conversations of bringing freediving into the Olympics, I’m hopeful this event will push the awareness of freediving in the states and show the true beauty of the sport and the people in it as well,” Kuba said. “Freediving is a sport unlike any other that has changed people’s lives all around the world. I would love for its growth to continue the way it has been in recent years.”
Kuba has been freediving since 2015 and is eager to show what she can do in local waters.
“This competition in particular means the world to me as it will be taking place in my home waters,” Kuba said. “I was born and raised in Hawaii and finally having the opportunity to compete here is truly an incredible feeling.”
Also competing in the Hawaii Cup is Kona’s Shelby “Shell” Eisenberg, who broke the women’s national freediving record by reaching 85 meters on a single breath in the discipline of constant weight at the Deja Blue International Competition in Grand Cayman earlier this year.
“I am really looking forward to it,” Eisenberg said. “Unfortunately I am on Oahu right now, but I bet there are a lot of people training at Honaunau, creating a very fun environment. It’s pretty special.”
While exciting, there is also a feeling of anticipation, mixed with uncertainly for the competition as Hurricane Lane makes its way to the Big Island from the south.
“As of right now it is still on, but they are taking a wait and see approach,” Eisenberg said. “Fortunately I don’t have to travel far, but I really feel for anyone who does if we cannot do it.”
Eisenberg added that the storm may affect the dives if the competition is ruled a go.
“Assuming we get weather, that will throw everyone off,” she said. “I would not be surprised to see some of the seasoned freedivers announcing shallower dives.”
The weather could also take away the home water advantage for Hawaii divers, who are used to great conditions pretty much all year long.
“The water could become choppy and then you add rain and wind, but some people are used to those types of conditions” Eisenberg said. “It’s tough to say what will happen.”
However, a shallower depth and the conditions will not prevent anyone competing from setting a new national record. Since this is the first CMAS sanctioned event in the U.S., there are currently no national records. Whoever does the best in one of three disciplines at this weekends event will hold a record.
That is if the competition takes place. USFF president Jeremy Stephan says his organization takes safety very seriously.
“If we decide the conditions are unsafe, we will cancel,” Stephan said. “Then we will look for another time frame to reschedule.”
Bringing a CMAS sanctioned event to the United States has been a goal for Stephan, who founded the USFF this year, and Hawaii just seemed like a natural fit.
“I chose Hawaii because there are good year-round conditions that afford the opportunity to dive at almost any time. The weather is superb, the water temperature and clarity are great and it’s a waterman culture,” Stephan said. “I chose Honaunau Bay specifically since this area hosts a large gathering of freedivers every Sunday for the last 15-plus years. The community of freediving here on Hawaii is large, very active and supportive.”
The mission of the USFF is to bring awareness to freediving across the U.S. and support the efforts of all those that engage in the sport, whether it be for self-exploration and adventure, therapeutic benefits, or purely competition — in the safest manner possible.
The Hawaii Cup allows for this, while also putting the U.S. on the worldwide map for sanctioned competitions, according to Stephan.
“The Hawai’i Cup puts USFF on the map worldwide and provides support and value to a community that has long waited for sanctioned competitions. There are many divers in the states but until now, they had to travel to other areas around the world” said Stephan. “With the Olympics in sight, this event starts to build momentum around Hawaii as a training ground.”
For more information on the Hawaii Cup or for the USFF, visit usfreedivingfederation.org.