Northland hosted New Zealand's biggest 2020 freediving competition over the weekend, thanks to the impact of Covid-19 on the sport.
A dozen divers from across the country gathered at Kawakawa's Te Papawai Pool from Friday to Sunday to compete in the AIDA Taniwha Challenge 2020. While the competition was held in 2018, this year's edition was the first to be approved by the sport's international body, AIDA.
Divers competed across two grades - competitive or recreational - in three separate events in which divers accumulated points by how long they could hold their breath and how far they could swim with and without fins.
The Pōhutu Trophy was also competed for between the clubs in attendance. Despite a strong showing from Northland's six divers, the trophy was won by the Auckland Freediving Club.
Gemma O'Brien was the pick of the Northland bunch, winning the women's competitive grade and finishing second across both genders, beaten only by Auckland's Phil Clayton.
Emily Collings also performed well to top the women's recreational grade and Pietro Aoliosi executed some strong dives in the men's recreational grade.
Covid-19 had played havoc with the national freediving calendar, cancelling a large Auckland competition and restricting divers' travels to competitions in Wellington and Queenstown, which only saw about five or six divers competing this year.
O'Brien, who was also the Northland Freediving Club president, said she was very happy with the turnout and level of competition.
"We had double the numbers of any other competition and we also had a huge community that got to come together and it was really important for me, it was a chance to re-group and meet in person because it's a very small but very supportive community," she said.
Northland's team featured divers from across the region including Kawakawa, Ōpua and Whangārei. While the sport was still growing in Northland, O'Brien said local divers were commended by others on their potential.
"Everyone remarked about their technique and the potential they all have to step up to become international divers in the next year."
O'Brien hoped the tournament would be hosted every second year.