Just over a week ago, freedivers from all over the country travelled to the beautiful Bay of Islands for the last event in the 2020 National Pool Series. Gemma O'Brien from Northland Freediving Club had pulled all the stops and put together a fantastic competition weekend. Not only did we get the chance to push our limits thanks to the excellent set-up, but we also got to spend lots of time together outside of the water. We were able to stay at the marae just next to the Te Papawai pool in Kawakawa - which was an amazing experience in itself - cook and eat together and even try our hand at a hangi!

A good number of people from Auckland Freediving took the opportunity to compete close to home and many joined to help out as volunteers. Nick Rhodes put in hours of admin work running the comp over the weekend, Ash King lead the safety team, our lifetime member John Wright was on judging duties with Ali Khalifah, Liz Ackles was our comp medic, Ben Jeffares, Andy Babbage and Nicky helped as safeties, Ben Cook worked his magic behind the camera, Teresa filmed for the judges and I (Kat) took some in-water videos of the dives. Everyone who was there lent a helping hand in one way or another, which really made this event a wonderful team effort.

Thanks to the outstanding performance of the safety team, competitors were able to push out their personal bests and get a feel for their limits. When it didn't quite work out, the safeties were right there and on point. Everyone got to learn a lot over the weekend, from the dives, from each other and from the more experienced people who attended. We also had the honour of a visit from Myra, who is a swimming coach of legendary status in Northland.

Some great results were achieved by those who took up the challenge of the Taniwha as competitors. With beautiful dives and all white cards, Phil 'Nofins' Clayton placed first in the mens and also took home the overall National title! The silver medal went to Simon, with Nate in third place. Our host Gemma topped a strong field of female competitors, followed by myself coming second and Zaïa taking home the bronze medal. Congrats to all comp and rec graders for their achievements!

The competition was sponsored by Dive Zone Bay of Islands, who provided an excellent haul of prizes and numerous spot prizes for all the volunteers who helped make the competition a success. Gemma's handcrafted boards and medals were an absolute highlight and made the competition even more special. The 2020 Pōhutu Trophy for top-scoring club went to the Auckland Freediving Club!

This was a comp we won't forget too quickly! Thanks to our freedive family for a great time, until we meet again!

- Kat


"Gemma O'Brien outdid herself organising a competition which encompassed the community spirit of New Zealand freediving. Achievements were celebrated for all competitors from those with decades of experience through to those with only a few months. It is competitions like these which keep my enthusiasm high to continue attending competitions." - Nate

"It was a pretty intense comp from a safety point of view but seeing that everybody was confident to push themselves in that environment was great." - Ash

"For me, it was all about the admin and running the comp, so I missed the Welcome and eating with the group. I really like the venue and the cultural experience - it is a unique factor that the other comps don't have. Seeing old friends and making some new ones was also a highlight." - Nick

"One of the smoothest competition that I have judged. Competitors were relaxed, the safety team were well prepared, great help from the medic, lots and lots of beautiful pictures from the cameraman and of course the organiser made sure everything ran smoothly with lots of hours spent in the background. " - Ali

"Meeting Myra and watching Phil swim was what I enjoyed most. It is mesmerizing." - Liz

Photo credit: Ben Cook topside, Kat Mager in-water 

For media coverage by Stuff click here.

For underwater videos of most of the dives, visit our Auckland Freediving Club YouTube channel playlist.

Find more photos on Facebook in our group: www.facebook.com/groups/AucklandFreedivingClub/media

(I endeavour to make all photos available through the website soon)