World Champion breath-hold diver, Martin Stepanek, and teammate, Niki Roderick, are partnering with the ocean conservation group, Oceana, leading up to their World Record freediving attempts next week. "The SONY Free" event is organized by FIT (Freediving Instructors and Trainers) in partnership with SONY, and will run from August 5 -11 in Dahab, Egypt.
During the SONY Free event, Stepanek, with a single breath of air, will attempt to swim down to a depth of 112 meters and return to the surface using only his monofin, his strength and his endurance. Roderick will attempt to break one of free diving's longest-standing World Records in the Women's Variable Weight discipline by diving 123 meters feet first on a weighted sled that runs along a rope.
Stepanek and Roderick are helping Oceana through online ads, blog entries and a video public service announcement that connects people with the group's conservation campaigns. They will also post an Oceana banner onsite at the SONY Free event, and will have literature available to interested fans. After the event, the freedivers will continue their support for Oceana's work by spreading awareness among the diving community.
"We are very happy with the exposure this event is raising not only for the sport but for the important efforts of Oceana," said Stepanek. "The Red Sea is well known for its beautiful coral reef systems; however, as we all know, she is not without her wounds."
To reverse the declining health of the world's oceans, Oceana's team of marine scientists, economists, lawyers and advocates focus on specific and concrete policy changes. Oceana's campaigns seek to protect essential ocean habitat such as corals from destruction by bottom trawling and global warming; reduce the accidental killing of marine wildlife as bycatch from industrial scale commercial fishing; reduce fish contamination from mercury pollution; and eliminate government subsidies that promote over-fishing. As the largest international group focusing solely on protecting the world's oceans, Oceana also works with the diving community to engage divers in its conservation efforts.
"Divers spend a lot of time in the water and see the physical changes that are taking place as a result of human activities - if they communicate these changes and get involved in conservation, they can literally give the ocean a voice," said Suzanne Garrett, Oceana's dive program coordinator. "Martin and Niki are true ocean ambassadors."
Freediving has been practiced as a competitive sport since the early 20th century and has swelled in recent years into a global lifestyle phenomenon. The boom began in Mediterranean France and Italy, and has rapidly spread all over the world. The movement has been inspired largely by Stepanek of the Czech Republic, and a new generation of divers including Roderick of New Zealand.
"Throughout my childhood I developed a very close affinity with the surrounding seas and its inhabitants. My ambition is to be accepted, welcomed and to go about unnoticed in the seas", said Niki Roderick. "Working with Oceana is helping me feel like an effective advocate for the ocean's health and protection."
To read Martin Stepanek's blog and view video diaries about the freediving team's preparations leading up to the SONY Free event, visit: http://www.martinstepanek.com/. Information about Oceana can be found at: http://www.oceana.org/. High resolution photos of the freedivers are available upon request.