LAWAI — Kalaheo native and snorkeling tour guide Elijah Aasand, at least for a little while, held a national freediving record.
Recently, his friend and freediving mentor Kurt Chambers surpassed Aasand to claim the record. But, he is in good spirits about it.
“I knew it was coming. He was posting training videos, and he was going deeper and deeper every day,” Aasand said Tuesday. “I was stoked for him, for sure.”
Freediving, simply, is diving underwater as deep as possible while holding your breath. In freediving, divers don’t use breathing equipment such as scuba gear.
“In the beginning of the dive, I’m just focused on what I’m doing at the moment — just focus on my technique and be as streamlined as possible,” Aasand said. “As I get down to maybe 80 or 90 feet, that’s when I start the freefall. The deeper you go, the less buoyant you become. So, you begin to sink. Mostly, I just focus and try to be as relaxed and as streamlined as I can. It’s kind of nice. You just sink, and it’s really relaxing — almost meditative. It’s really nice.”
Aasand, 24, has been freediving since he took a class, which Chambers taught, in 2014.
“I’ve been snorkeling since I was a little kid, snorkeling and diving, but not really anything deep until I took that class,” he said. “When I took the class, I didn’t realize at the time that he was the deepest guy in the US. So, it was cool. I got a good instructor.”
Aasand took part in a handful of unsanctioned freediving competitions on the Big Island.
Then, this past April, he competed in his first event sanctioned by the International Association for Development of Apnea (AIDA) in Mexico. The event was called, “Xibalba 2019”.
“Xibalba, yeah. That means “the underworld” in Mayan culture,” Aasand said. “We were diving in these cenotes, they call them, which are sinkholes. So, it was fresh water, and it was super-clear and super-deep water. Really, really cool.
“That was my first time out of the country. I went with my friend from Oahu. We were both looking to do, I guess, next-level competition. And, we were just looking for somewhere cool. They have them all over the place, and that one in Mexico looked awesome.”
Aasand did not win the event, but on the last day of the competition, the Kauai freediver set a record in what was a new discipline — constant weight bi-fins. Aasand set the bar at 78 meters (256 feet).
“Technically, I was the first one to set a record for that because it was brand new, but they had a minimum depth requirement,” Aasand said of the record.
He added: “I kind of had mixed feelings. It’s weird to say you have a record, even though it’s not the deepest. I think Kurt may have done 300 feet or something like that before in the constant weight discipline with a monofin. So, it’s kind of weird but cool, I guess.”
Aasand added that diving in the cenotes of Mexico was especially beautiful.
“Usually, diving in the ocean, it’s just blue. You just see blue, and that’s it,” he said. “But in the cenotes, you can see the wall — this rock formation — going up. It’s really cool. It’s really pretty, and the water is really clear. I was really happy, and I was just enjoying the experience.”
Aasand got to enjoy having that record, until Chambers surpassed it earlier this month during the Asian Freediving Cup in the Philippines.
Chambers’ record in the constant weight bi-fins discipline is 98 meters (321 feet). Chambers also set a new national record in the free immersion discipline, descending to 100 meters (328 feet).
When asked if he’d like to get his record back, Aasand humbly replied, “Maybe in the future. It might be a while.”
He’ll get his chance in July when he travels to Honduras for his next competition.
“I want to increase my depth again,” Aasand said. “I’m hoping, I don’t know, to maybe dive in the 80 meter-plus range. 85 is where I’m thinking. But, yeah, who knows.”
He lastly wanted to thank his supporters.
“I want to thank my mom for all her support,” Aasand said. “My friends, my dive partners and everyone that’s just been super-stoked on everything.”
Nick Celario, sports writer, can be reached at 245-0437 or email@example.com.