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    Australian Freediving Championships 2023

    February 27, 2023 4 min read

    On 17 February at 9.30am, 31 Athletes from 12 different countries, 4 Judges, 2 organisers, 2 medics and a team of safety divers and volunteers gathered at the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre for the first ever CMAS Freediving Competition in Australia. CMAS and AIDA are the two world bodies that run freediving competitions globally, the Australian Freediving Association (AFA) joined CMAS under the Australian Underwater Federation at the end of 2022.  

    The Sunshine state was living up to its name and by the time everyone had gathered together for the event briefing, an excited buzz was in the room. Whilst some athletes were at their first competition, others were there in the hopes of performing national records or walking away with national titles. As well as being the first CMAS Competition this would also be the first time the AFA was running Pool Nationals as a four day competition. Winning the overall competition would require successful, solid performances across all four days of competition, and disqualification would not be an option. 

    CMAS competition also brings with it new disciplines and age categories. The new disciplines for this event were the 2x50m Speed and 8x50m Endurance where athletes swim 50m underwater but can breathe in between 50s with the fastest overall time being the objective. Masters sees athletes age 50 and over able to claim records for their relevant age group. 

    Pool Nationals this year opened with Dynamic with Fins (DYN) and Dynamic Bifins (DYNBF), using a flutter kick in bifins instead of dolphin kick with a monofin (DYN). Athletes could choose which discipline they wanted to do with the same disciplines being run on the Monday. In order to be eligible for Australian National Champion athletes would have to do one dive in each of these disciplines. 

    Leigh Woolley from Brisbane Freedivers took out the Men’s Dynamic with a 222.22m dive, followed by Jarrod Briffa of melbourne freedivers in second with a dive to 218.73m and Ant Judge with a distance of 186.63m took out third place. The women's competition saw Jordy Duncan and Amber Bourke both from Brisbane Freedivers take out first and second with dives of 200m and 184.39m respectively while Paricia Paige Ong rounded out third place with 180.53m.

    Duncan and Bourke again took out first and second for the women’s DYNBF event with 205.22m and 190.34m while Lucja Nowowiejski finished third with 166.40m. The top three in the men’s saw Briffa and Judge in first and second with 177.90m and 163.98m respectively with Jack Hatfield in third place with 158.32m in his first competition in four years. The masters category saw Angus McLeay from Melbourne Freedivers take out a Masters National Record with a dive of 171.76m.

    Saturday was Dynamic no Fins day with many saying it is the purest freediving pool discipline as athletes propel themselves through the water using only their hands and feet. Good technique is crucial to excel, and ex-swimmers frequently dominate this event. Current National Record holders Bourke and Woolley took out the men’s and women’s first places with 154.70m and 161.15m. The women’s event was filled out by Duncan with a swim of 150m in second and Emilia Tjernstrom in her second competition took third with 106.57m. The men’s podium was completed with familiar faces Briffa with 154.30m and Judge with 142.80m.

    The fourth disciple that made up the points for National Champion and overall rankings was Static. Mentally, it is arguably the most challenging discipline: if doubts enter the athlete’s head early in their performance, they can overwhelm the diver and cause the dreaded “early bail”. Good surface coaches, who speak to the athlete throughout their dive and also instruct them to give safety signals, can be invaluable for helping people keep calm and focussed.

    Sunday saw quite a few athletes struggle with the temperature difference between the warm air and relatively cooler water with only one athlete performing a dive over 6mins. Judge blew the competition away with a dive of 7:34min, his closest competitor Matthew Grech from Brisbane Freedivers came in second with a dive of 5:59min followed closely by Chi Wing Lee with 5:51min. The top three in the women saw some familiar faces with Duncan in first with 5:48min and Bourke in third with 5:23min. Sitting between the two in second was Paola Seow with a dive of 5:27min.

    In the 2x50m for the men Frederic Maire broke both the Masters and Seniors National Records with an impressive time of 0:44.86sec. The podium for the Men saw Jarrod Briffa in first with a time of 0:46.73sec followed by Alan Feng Li and Gonzalo Cortes in second and third with times of 1:01.28min and 1:02.82min respectively. Emily Shaw took out the women’s event with a time of 0:56.62sec followed by Paricia Paige Ong in second with a time of 1:01.82min. 

    On Monday the last event of the competition was the 8x50m. Maire broke his third National Record of the competition in the Masters category with a time of 7:08.85. The seniors men’s podium saw Briffa in first place with 5:22.06min, with Feng Li in second with 7:45.81min and Ron Sommerlatt in third with 9:03.97min. Shaw set a Women’s National Record with a time of 6:36.98min. 

    Overall there were eight Australian National Records set at the competition.


    The 2023 Australian Champions were awarded at the closing ceremony, held at the Adreno Gold Coast mega store, with Jordan Duncan winning the women's crown, followed by Amber Bourke and Patricia Paige Ong in second and third respectively. For the men, Ant Judge pipped Melbourne Freedivers’ Jarrod Briffa by 2.21 pointsto become Australian men's champion and Jack Hatfield took third place.  

    Lisa Borg


    Australian freediving Association