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August 6, 2009


US Master Freedivers Dominate with Three New National Records at Freedive Paradise Competition in Hawaii.

A United States Master Freediver is an athlete that is fifty years of age or older and three of them are dominating events and setting overall US national records.  The United States Apnea Association, USAA, is the only national organization that recognizes older athletes in the sport of freediving.  At Freedive Paradise, a freediving competition held in Kona, Hawaii from July 30 to August 2, 2009, national records fell and the athletes breaking the records were competing with athletes half their age and more. 

Annabel Edwards, Bill Graham, and Leo Muraoka are diving deeper, longer and further than anyone else in the US.  Annabel set two new US national records in the disciplines of Constant No Fins, CNF, (she is a former world record holder in this discipline) with a dive to 48 meters / 157 feet and Dynamic No Fins, DNF, by swimming a distance of 116 meters / 380 feet in the pool during the four day competition.  She broke Julie “Jewels” Russell’s record of 44 meters in CNF and Tanya Streeter’s DNF record of 113 meters which was one of the longest standing US records.  Both women are considerably younger than Annabel.  Bel, as she likes to be called, is still the only athlete in the world to set a world record after turning fifty.  She has held three world records in her career.

Annabel said, “It was every bit as fun to get these 2 US records as it was to make my previous 3 world records. Bill Graham with his new static record of 7:39 shows us all that age is NO excuse!"

Bill Graham at seventy can hold his breath longer than any other US athlete at any age.  He managed to complete a performance of seven minutes and thirty-nine seconds breaking Deron  Verbeck’s record of seven minutes and twenty-eight seconds by eleven seconds.  Bill also dives to depth as well.  Bill stated, “The water was the warmest we have tried.  The contractions were gentle.”

Leo Muraoka set a new master’s record in dynamic apnea with a swim in his mono fin of 136 meters / 446 feet.  Leo has held multiple US national records as well, only recently losing his Free Immersion record to Robert King. 

The competition saw great performances from all athletes.  Australian visitor Ant Judge set a new Australian Free Immersion record.  Many of the other athletes had personal bests in several disciplines.  Most notably US athlete Kurt Chambers became the newest member of the seven-minute static club with a performance of seven minute and two seconds.

USAA President Grant W. Graves explains, “We did not setup the Master division because we felt that athletes over fifty needed their own division, we did it because we wanted to make a point that freediving truly is a lifelong sport and athletes of all ages can be winning events and setting records.  We have seen that demonstrated once again in a huge way.”

“These athletes do not just set records in the age group, they set records in all age groups.  It is never too late to enter this sport and be successful.  What we are seeing would be considered remarkable in other sports.  Just look at how much attention Lance Armstrong received for being thirty-seven and doing so well at this year’s Tour.  Bill Graham is almost twice his age and kicking butt.  I challenge Lance to give Bill a run for his money in the pool or ocean.” 

“USAA wants to encourage participation at any age.  We hoped that the Master division would encourage participation later in life.  Youth programs already exist for freediving; no one was letting it be known that this sport really is accessible at any age.  Freediving does not just take you places in the ocean, it takes you places within yourself, builds confidence, is a safe activity, and very low impact, yet really good exercise.”

The low impact nature of the sport is what allows participants of all ages to participate.  At the elite level world records have been set by athletes from the age of twenty to fifty and older.  The impact might be low, but the elite level of the athletes is not.  Freediving at the elite level pushes the body to the very limits at a cellular level.  Freediving and boxing are the only two sports where if you make an error you end up unconscious.  This is why organizations like USAA follow very strict safety protocols and procedures.  Safety while freediving is very important and when respected makes the sport very safe to participate in.

Freedive Paradise took place in Kona, Hawaii and was officiated with the regulations of the International Association for the Development of Apnea, AIDA, and USAA.  The records were officiated by at least two international freediving judges.  In order to claim a US record all regulations must be met and the athlete must be judged as having a valid performance when a record is broken. 

Constant Weight No Fins (CNF) tests the freediver’s ability to swim to depth and return without the use of fins while holding their breath.  CNF is one of the most difficult disciplines in freediving.  Athletes use a modified breaststroke technique to propel themselves to depth and back. 

Free Immersion (FIM) is the freediving discipline that requires the athlete to pull their way to depth and back using their hands to pull down and up the competition line.  It is one of three self-powered depth disciplines in the sport of freediving.   

Static Apnea is performed laying face down in a pool with the athlete holding their breath as long as they can.  The time is measured from submersion of the airway into the water until its exit.  This is the event for time of breath hold.

Dynamic Apnea No Fins is performed by swimming without fins in a pool with the athlete holding their breath swimming as far as they can.  Distance is measured with the use of a metered tape measure.  The pool must be at least twenty-five yards long for the performance to be valid.

Dynamic Apnea is performed by swimming with fins in a pool with the athlete holding their breath swimming as far as they can.  Distance is measured with the use of a metered tape measure.  The pool must be at least twenty-five yards long for the performance to be valid

The USAA is a nonprofit association founded on the democratic representation of freediving within the United States and internationally.  Founded in 2003, the USAA consists of an active membership dedicated to furthering freediving in the United States and abroad. For more information about the USAA, the U.S. National Freediving Team, and membership please visit

The International Association for the Development of Freediving, AIDA, is the international sanctioning body for freediving, individual and team competition, and freediving world record attempts.  For more information about AIDA please visit




Contact Information:

Grant W. Graves, President
United States Apnea Association, USAA

3642 Seahorn Dr.
Malibu, CA 90265
Phone: 310-560-6104

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Pictures provided by Rebecca Garrett, Deron Verbeck, Tec Clark and Jon Zeaman.