Final thoughts about the FREE-AIDA joint verification issue.


We have started training for Yasemin’s attempt in the Limited Variable Ballast category to 125 meters. If successful, she will break the old FREE record of 105 meters (held by herself) and better the AIDA mark of 122 meters held by Tanya Streeter for some years now. Of course, since no AIDA judges will be present to verify the event, the new record will not be accepted by AIDA. Thus, it was suggested by many, and discussed on this forum at length, that Yasemin should have judges from both organizations to make it the first truly cross-organization record. Given our long history of animosity and differences with AIDA and many of its principals, this proposal seemed somewhat ludicrous and even hypocritical at first, but as we thought that such a step would indeed be beneficial for freediving, we gave it serious consideration and undertook the needed steps to establish contact with AIDA.

Easier said than done. When we made this decision, we didn’t know that the AIDA board was in severe disarray, in fact, it seemed to have been dissolved. We don’t know exactly what happened or how it happened, but as best as we could find out, there were problems between president Bill Stromberg and the rest of the board, some people opposing his presidency, others supporting it, and ultimately Bill himself re-instating himself on his own will. Again, we don’t know how much of this is truth or how it happened exactly, but the above version was the one given to us by everybody we contacted related to AIDA. You can imagine our doubts and concerns to find that organization in such a state. It was suggested to us to contact certain people within AIDA whose integrity and clean reputation would put them above any such issues and who were sure to remain at AIDA once their problems were solved. Thus, through common acquaintances, I contacted Grant Graves, who is AIDA’s best known and most respected judge. Grant was very receptive, open, intelligent, civilized and open to the idea of a record verified by both organizations. We exchanged several e-mails and once we covered the initial ground, I posed to him the main issues that in my opinion had to be discussed and resolved to make this cooperation happen. There were some rules and procedures within both organizations that were really incompatible with each other, and asking the athlete to follow a set of those rules would mean she could surely be disqualified by the other organization. First of all, we did not want this to happen to Yasemin obviously, since it would not be fair to go through all this trouble just to have this good will gesture backfire on her. Second, and just as importantly, there was truly a chance for both organizations to learn from each other and emerge from this experiment with a common (or as close to common as possible) set of rules, something that can only benefit freediving. I agreed that FREE’s position on safety was somewhat restrictive, as we saw a team of safety scuba divers as the main option, while AIDA was more flexible and relied more on recovery systems like counter ballast systems. I expressed to Grant the same that I have expressed to many others, that we had nothing against counter ballast and similar systems as long as they showed a proven track record, which is not something the systems sanctioned by AIDA had shown until then. We were willing to develop a system that satisfied our strict requirements and allow it once it passed our inspections. We were also willing to look for alternatives that made safety and organization cheaper WITHOUT compromising safety. I also endeavored to work on finding common ground between the surfacing protocol of both organizations, a marked point of contention. I wrote a very long letter to Grant explaining our points of view on these subjects, and where I felt FREE could improve and likewise, where we felt AIDA needed to be flexible. At the time, Grant was busy with some work issues in the USA and we were in the middle of our last training period on October of 2009. For whatever reasons, Grant never got back to me afterwards, and once we postponed our record attempt from December to this May, we also forgot this whole issue for a while. The time passed, nobody ever contacted us from AIDA, and we continued working on our own. We don’t know exactly what happened at AIDA, except that we believe Bill Stromberg got re-elected as president once again, but all signs seemed to point to the fact that everything would go on as usual at AIDA. Now, even if Grant Graves never returned my questions and concerns, and whatever reasons he had are valid, it was not ultimately his job to represent AIDA in this matter. I have a feeling that the people that could have actually made decisions knew about the possibility of a dialogue with FREE, but a) they never contacted FREE, and b) we never knew who to contact with all the disorganization at AIDA. So, after consulting the other members of the FREE committee, we decided that the logical next step would be to await contact from AIDA, and this did not happen, then we would forget about it. And this is what happened. So, both on FREE and Yasemin’s behalf, I can confirm that AIDA will not be present at this attempt.

As for Yasemin, I’ll leave it to her to explain her personal feelings on the matter, but as an athlete that was both instrumental in the formative stages of both FREE and AIDA, I know she feels just as certain and comfortable about her records being verified only by FREE as she has always been. As for FREE, while I regret the fact that this cooperation did not happen, I am however at peace with the fact that we took the first step, a step that was never reciprocated, and that in fact, some changes to our rules came from having to reconsider our philosophy. I don’t honestly feel that the powers that be at AIDA had any real interest in a dialogue with us, and I respect that completely, but I also hope people understand that I don’t have any need or desire to go begging AIDA to please listen to me and please work with me. So, we’re back to where we always were, and although the world of freediving will continue forward and freedivers worldwide will not loose much from this cooperation not happening, in fact most people will never even know about this story, the sport surely would have been a bit better if we had been able to work together. Please feel free to comment at will and let your opinions be known, but be aware that I won’t answer any posts pertaining this issue as my time now is better served making sure that both Yasemin and FREE are properly represented and served on this record attempt.

Lastly, and as point of interest, we also considered having CMAS verify this record, but in truth, that organization is so messed up and so incapable of approving rules with any shred of logic or to even have its board agree on the most basic of issues, that their presence here was impossible. In fairness, I’m happy this was the case, because CMAS really does not deserve to be involved in freediving, they are so far behind the current times in terms of logic, fairness, safety and plain common sense that I hope they go back to disallowing freediving from their sports and dedicating themselves to the other things they are good at, whatever they are…

8 Responses to “Final thoughts about the FREE-AIDA joint verification issue.”

  1. Ivo Truxa says:

    Hello Rudi,

    Bill Stromberg resigned from his function in December last year, and we now have Kimmo Lahtinen as president at AIDA. In the few months in function he and the new team already managed to do a very good job, changed and improved many things, and especially rendered the organization more transparent and more democratic.

    If you asked Grant to change the AIDA rules to match your needs, then I am not surprised he did not answer. It does not work this way, and he has no power to do it. AIDA is a democratic organization with Assembly of representants from each of the tens of AIDA nations, who make the decisions. However now, we are all in the preparation of the coming World Championship, so in this period changes of rules are unacceptable.

    Could you exaplain, Rudi, what exactly did you find incompatible between AIDA and FREE rules? It is certainly not the counterweight system, since AIDA rules permit the use of safety scuba divers. They only do not require them, and allow for other alternatives. And it is also certainly not the AIDA’s Surface Protocol, since when Yasemin completes her AIDA protocol, she will automatically fulfil also the requirements of FREE, or am I wrong here? OK, AIDA’s surface protocol is stricter, but asking AIDA to abolish it and making a special waver for Yasemin would be the exact opposite of what one would expect of someone trying to break the record done under certain set of rules.

    If you want AIDA sanctioning the record, the procedure is quite simple and transparent, but it certainly does not include changes of the rules – that part is not available to any other freediver, so I think it is right and just no to make privileged exceptions.

    Can you tell us more details about what you found incompatible in AIDA and FREE rules, Rudi?

    It would be very unfortunate not to invite AIDA. As I already stated earlier you would gain much more respect, and I believe that Yasemin would have absolutely no problems fulfilling the requirements of AIDA, so it would be definitely pity not doing it, just because you feel AIDA does not want to change the rule in the way you ask. When thousands of other freedivers can compete under the rules safely, Yasemin certainly has the capacity too.

    Wishing good luck, regardless of the way you chose!

  2. Kars says:

    Thanks for your efforts Rudi,

    Clearly put Ivo.

    Anyway good luck with your record, I’ll still list it on my humble site, marked as ‘sanctioned by Free’


  3. will says:

    Interesting. It would be nice to see a list of competitions and record attempts that FREE has officiated in the last several years, as I am not aware that there have been any at all.
    I am sure that it must have appeared a little odd to AIDA that the ghost of an organisation that never really got off the ground was requesting AIDA, an international organisation with thousands of members and hundreds of annual competitions, to meet it half way.

  4. Rudi Castineyra says:

    Ivo and co.

    First, I find this somewhat funny, you demanding explanations from me as to what my problems with AIDA are. I guess you have not been paying attention or have a very short memory, because in previous posts we discussed at length what I consider to be the main problems with the AIDA system, namely the surfacing protocol and the safety system underwater. We talked about that for quite a while, and that still is where the differences reside between both organizations. Those of you who defend AIDA based on the fact that it is an active organization with thousands of members worldwide have a right to do so, but you seem to be forgetting where you are. This is , a private site, not a public forum, and the opinions, profile and attitudes you’ll find here will pretty much reflect the thinking of the owner of this website. Yasemin has been a FREE member and supporter since 1999 and, besides being her husband and trainer, I am the founder of FREE, so honestly, what did you guys think you were going to find here? If you don’t like the political views here, then don’t visit this site, because honestly, those views are not going to change. But you are welcome to make use of all the valuable training advice we have been posting here, free of charge and devoid of politics, as our way to contribute to the freediving community, if of course, training knowledge is important to you besides politics. But if political argument is what you are after, then this is not the best place to come to because, it should be obvious to all you by now that neither Yasemin nor I will change our positions and we are quite happy doing what we are doing outside of the AIDA system. Now, if you feel bad for us and feel pity or dismay about these two fools telling themselves and the world that they are doing a world record without the knowledgeable AIDA judges and not based on the proven AIDA rules, then just laugh at us and don’t waste your time with us. Or, you can go on a crusade to tell the world that we are liars and cheaters, but if that’s what you want to do, then this is the wrong place to do it, so you should try other venues where it will make a difference, because here, we really don’t care about what anybody has to say about our way of doing things. Now, you can write as many lengthy and passionate answers as you want, but since we are after all in the middle of a world record attempt here, I won’t waste my time engaging in this futile argument, so I suggest you don’t waste yours either. In the meantime, for those of you who believe we are not cheaters and know what we’re doing, there are plenty of articles regarding our experiences with this dive event.


  5. Ivo Truxa says:

    Rudi, I am very well aware of the differencies we discussed earlier, but I do not remember any principal incompatibility. In certain ways the FREE rules are stricter (i.e. requiring the bottom judge and cameras all along the path), in other ways the AIDA rules have higher demands (i.e. the shorter and sctricter surface protocol, or doping control). That means I am not aware of anything that would prevent you from complying to any of both sets of rules without violating the other one as you seem to claim in your article. That’s why I asked the question in my comment, and still would like to know it. On my mind you could easily comply to the rules the existing record was set under, while being conform to FREE rules in the same time too.

    However, at this moment I just wish Yasemin a fast recovery. The question of rules is unimportant now.

  6. Demarcus says:

    That’s really a shame to hear but I definitely congratulate you for extending the olive branch and trying to make this happen. Sometimes things just aren’t meant to be but our best wishes are with Yasemin on the historic attempt! Good things happen to good people, so I have high hopes for success!

  7. ShedsToBuild says:

    Your bravery was used in a good sense. This is what freedom is all about. If you felt something biased happened, then go and check for it. It’s your right…use it.

  8. Peter says:

    Thanks for your efforts Rudi,

    Clearly put Ivo.