Freediving's Explosive Growth Potential - Avatar 2 Launch
Freediving's Explosive Growth Potential
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How did you discover freediving?
Was it an obscure documentary? Maybe you stumbled upon freediving while scrolling the internet. For me, I happened upon an Instagram post by a freediver. How lucky I was!
For those of us who are deep into the freediving scene, we know that the beauty and thrill of freediving is an amazing marketing tool all by itself. Instructors and companies offering courses and gear have stunning visuals and life-changing stories to share on social media.
Despite its history as one of the oldest forms of diving, we have seen the popularity of the sport increase thanks to a growing social media presence. Now, with the much-anticipated release of Avatar 2 on the horizon, I believe the exposure and practice of freediving are poised to go absolutely NUCLEAR.
The Big Blue - The Original?
Many freediving enthusiasts can recall their first exposure by way of Luc Besson’s film Big Blue. Released in 1988 and loosely based on a true story, it was the first introduction many had to freediving and remains a significant part of the freediver culture.
The film, originally released under the French title Le Grande Bleu, is the reason many freedivers became freedivers! Many share that they were unaware that freediving was something you could learn through courses and instructors. Now, thanks to social media, the internet, and films like Avatar 2, I expect the practice to grow exponentially.
Alenka Artnik and Mainstream Media
I was pleasantly surprised by the positive mainstream media coverage when Alena Artnik broke the (women’s) world record for constant weight (apnea) freedive in November 2020 with a depth of -114 meters in 3m 41s. That’s 374 feet!
Since I began freediving, there have been many world records broken but none receiving the attention of this freediving world record. They featured this feat in the New York Times and Washington Post; two of the largest publications in the US with worldwide influence. Usually, and unfortunately, freediving makes it into the news only when someone dies.
Could this be evidence of changing sentiment within popular media? Is it finally primed to shout about freediving when Avatar 2 premieres? I hope so.
Alenka Artnik ascends from her record-setting dive with her support team. (Nanna Kreutzmann)
Ultimate Fighting Championship - a Comparison
The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is an example of how an unconventional sport could go unnoticed, despite the backing of billionaires, and then take off following a catalyst.
At the brand’s inception in 1993, “ultimate fighting” was a super niche sport. You might’ve only heard about it if you were involved in martial arts at the time. If you were not involved in martial arts, you’ may have heard it in passing as politicians denounced it as a “blood sport”.
In 2001 it was purchased by Zuffa, LLC which was backed by billionaire casino tycoons Fertita brothers. Even with their backing and charismatic high school friend Dana White leading the charge, they were still bleeding money for four full years.
The reality TV show The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) began in 2005 as their last-ditch effort to save the organization. Up-and-coming fighters were locked in a house and gym for 3 months to compete in a single-elimination tournament while viewers followed along. The season culminated in The Ultimate Fighter Finale for a grand prize of a six-figure contract for the winner.
Before this, all UFC events were Pay-Per-View. This was the first opportunity for an audience to watch matches for free. Due to the popularity of the show and the spectacular fight between finalist Stephan Bonnar and Forest Griffin (pictured above), interest in the UFC skyrocketed in 2005 and never looked back. Now, names like Ronda Rousey and Connor McGregor are not only familiar but wildly popular.
So what does this have to do with freediving? Well, they have a few things in common.
- Both sports fulfill primal desires.
- Both have/had a strong niche following but have gone unnoticed by mainstream media for a long time.
- Both sometimes have poor optics. Freediving often involves blackouts and squeezes. UFC obviously involves violence and blood.
- Both just need/needed a strong catalyst for explosive growth.
UFC found it with The Ultimate Fighter and I believe freediving will erupt with Avatar 2.
The Queen's Gambit
The Netflix show Queen’s Gambit premiered on October 23, 2020. The main character, Beth, is a chess prodigy. Why is that special? Because she’s a female, it’s the 1960s, and chess is (still) a male-dominated field.
Seemingly overnight, the show sparked huge interest in the game.
- eBay reports a 273% increase in searches for chess sets in the 10 days after the show’s release.
- Google search queries for “how to play chess” are near all-time highs.
- Searches for the keyword “chess” is at a 9-year high, worldwide.
- The number of players on chess.com has gone up fivefold.
- 62 million households have watched the show.
Those are some big numbers.
While freediving and chess are quite different, I think the influence of Avatar 2 on the freediving movement will be similar to what The Queen’s Gambit has done for chess.
Avatar 2 - Freediving Catalyst?
James Cameron’s Avatar 2, starring Kate Winslet, Sigourney Weaver, Vin Diesel, Zoe Saldana, and more is in the midst of production with an anticipated release date of December 22, 2022. (Thanks, COVID.)
James Cameron is changing the game with motion-capture technology, but the real, unrecognized star of the film is freediving. Winslet and Weaver have been sharing their experiences learning to free dive in the media. They proudly boast of being able to hold their breath for over six minutes. (Winslet’s record is 7m 14s.) The cast and crew were trained by Kirk Krack of Performance Freediving International.
Kate Winslet - Deeper Blue
According to Box Office Mojo, Avatar is the 2nd highest-grossing film of all time, worldwide. As of January 2021, it’s just US $8M behind Avengers: Endgame. With both films grossing close to a massive US$2.8B, it’s basically a tie.
Hollywood executives adore sequels as they love familiar franchises and formulas. Nevertheless, that doesn’t guarantee success as there have been some sequels that have absolutely flopped; did you know Dumb and Dumber had a sequel? Exactly!
If I were a betting man, I’d bet it all on Avatar’s sequel being a monster triumph given the first film’s record-setting performance. Director James Cameron’s achievements as a director are legendary. He’s enjoyed phenomenal success with the Terminator and Alien franchises. It’s no wonder that he has plans to take Avatar even farther with 3 more Avatar films planned. You read that right; we could be looking at an Avatar 5 one day.
Although this film will not exactly be spotlighting freediving as the focus of the movie’s plot, we are going to see stars like Kate Winslet and Sigourney Weaver all over mainstream media advertising the film. They will certainly be discussing their experiences learning to free dive. In fact, they already are.
Hopefully, Avatar 2 will act as an inspiration for more people to take up the sport through offerings ranging from beginner’s classes to instructor certification courses.
Are you running a freediving business? How are you preparing for the increased exposure?
Since publishing this 3 months ago, I've seen more mainstream media coverage:
Alexey breaking the sub-ice depth record
Article profiling Alexey Molchanov by Men's Health, the largest men's magazine in the world. .
Are you interested in learning how to freedive? Let me teach you.
Are you ready to see freediving in the mainstream? I am!