The highlight of November was especially bright, as it was a highlight within a highlight. Blue Element is one of my top 3 favourite competitions of the year, partially because of the friends who organise it, partially because Dominica is such an incredibly lively island. It's so green and verdant and lush and alive and literally bubbling, so energetic, bursting with energy. It might be the combination of volcano and tropical forrest and waterfalls, but whatever it is, Dominica has a way of recharging you like no other place i've ever been.
And the sea is a welcoming 29 degrees of very fish-rich waters, so life continues to surround you in the water, and people thrive in those circumstances. No wonder the place is getting more popular with freedivers, who are beginning to discover that you have all you need there to do amazing dives - everything is optimal, from the stable platform and professional safeties to the fresh groceries and lovely accommodation. This was going to be our third year there, so we came prepared - well, Georgina did. She knew she does well in Dominica, as she'd done PB's there and always feels good, so this year she had worked towards the Blue Element comp. For a long time, she had been stuck with her depth diving, hitting 50's to mid 50's with relative ease, but then suddenly swallowing her air. She knew she had to change something, so she switched to goggles and noseclip last year, and it took her a while to get used to it. In April she was making good progress in Mexico, she braved the cold here in Cornwall during trainings, but she struggled with the thermocline in Cyprus - lots of people have trouble holding the mouthfill when they hit a sudden cold layer.
I had seen her doing the dry training exercises every morning, admired her dedication and perseverance - being stuck at a certain depth for such a long time can be very demotivating. But George has such a good attitude towards diving, so much love for it and the process, that she just kept on trying, slowly adjusting to different ways and other techniques of equalising. I knew she was prepared, we'd discussed hopes for this trip, so every dive she did i felt a bit nervous, hoping all her hard work would pay off. And very steadily, i her own pace, she got to a point where she could ask for a new depth for herself during training: 60 meters. I was so nervous for her, but she smashed it, with air to spare. She did 3 more in training, and was then ready to announce it during the comp, where she did it again. A few days later she announced 62, and got that one as well.
A big part of why i love photographing competitions is that it's really exciting to see friends do well. Of course world records are always exciting, but PB's and comeback dives and emotional dives and all the other smaller stories you know behind dives, make for a very rich sentimental experience during a day of competition. So when the person you love the most in the world overcomes some old adversity and does well in something you both love doing, in a place you both love visiting, that just makes your heart sing with joy.