‘Mermaids having fun’: Model-dive depth record drops to 40m

A new world depth record (Pia Oyarzún)
A new world depth record (Pia Oyarzún)

The “Deepest Underwater Model Photoshoot” world record seems to be becoming a literal race to the bottom, as the 30m record set only weeks ago has now changed hands and dropped to 40m.

In September a Canadian team led by photographer Steve Haining with model Mareesha Klups broke their own original Guinness World Record (GWR) with a 30m dive, deliberately making it difficult for themselves in the chilling waters of Lake Huron.

On 5 December Canadian scuba diver Kim Bruneau teamed up with Chilean underwater photographer Pia Oyarzún to model on breath-hold for an underwater session in the more benign waters of the Bahamas.

The resulting 40.2m photoshoot met the GWR criteria, which allows for a fashion-modelling dive-team of “unlimited size”, and has just been verified as a new world record.

A world-record dive (Pia Oyarzún)
A world-record dive (Pia Oyarzún)

Bruneau, a Quebec property investor who runs her own animal-welfare charity, took up breath-hold and scuba diving only two years ago.

Before becoming an AIDA Level 3 Freediver and Master Diver, she had used social media to chart a protracted struggle with infertility issues, which had taken her from Canada to Mexico and Florida over a number of years, with every different treatment appearing to have failed. 

Posing at 40m (Pia Oyarzún)
Posing at 40m (Pia Oyarzún)

“Looking for ways to change my mind, I discovered diving and apnea in May 2021,” she says. “Being under water, weightless, silent and surrounded by unparalleled beauty made me forget my reality for a moment. I’m in love with the ocean, its creatures and its stories.”

Following a miscarriage she decided to abandon the treatments and simply enjoy diving – after which decision “a miracle” happened earlier this year and she gave birth to a daughter, Ella Rose.

When she read about Haining’s team’s latest record, Bruneau decided to challenge it as “a beautiful way to honour my fertility and diving journey”.

She had first contacted Oyarzún on Instagram in 2021 because she admired her underwater photography, and they had become close friends, carrying out modelling shoots on shark dives together in the Bahamas. 

Kim Bruneau (Pia Oyarzún)
Kim Bruneau (Pia Oyarzún)
Underwater photographer Pia Oyarzún (Pia Oyarzún)
Underwater photographer Pia Oyarzún (Pia Oyarzún)

Oyarzún, a PADI diving instructor, has been a photographer for 12 years, based in Brazil, Turks & Caicos and Thailand before the sharks and underwater visibility attracted her to settle in the Bahamas.

“Two mermaids having fun” was how Bruneau described their 37-minute live-streamed world-record dive at the site of the Sea Trader wreck off Jaws Beach, Nassau in New Providence. 

The Sea Trader is a 76m tanker sunk as an artificial reef at a maximum depth of about 24m, but the bow hangs out over a drop-off that falls away to considerable depths. The dive-site lies close to Stuart Cove’s dive-centre.

Getting the shot (Eduardo Pantojo)
Getting the shot (Eduardo Pantojo)

The two women were joined by Chllean diving instructor and witness Eduardo Pantojo and local captain Steven Nixon, who acted as safety diver and air-donor.

While they and Oyarzún dived on air, Bruneau used nitrox to descend to the base of the wreck, where she removed her scuba gear and continued down the wall breathing from Nixon‘s octopus

Canadian diver Kim Bruneau back on the wreck (Pia Oyarzún)
Canadian diver Kim Bruneau back on the wreck (Pia Oyarzún)
Taking it easy on the Sea Trader (Pia Oyarzún)
Taking it easy on the Sea Trader (Pia Oyarzún)

Still wearing a belt with weights at the back concealed by her ballet dress, she posed on the wall at 40m, with Nixon donating air as required. The team then moved up to the wreck, where more shots were taken before Bruneau was reunited with her scuba gear.

Back on scuba (Eduardo Pantojo)
Triumphant back on scuba (Eduardo Pantojo)

Oyarzún, whose other work can be seen here, used a Canon 5DSR camera in an Aquatica housing, a Sigma 14mm lens and two Keldan lights for the shoot.

Also on Divernet: Pushing photo-shoot limits for new world recordFreedivers seal longest underwater kissMermaid at the MuseumGreen hair? You should totally do this!’

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Nigel Haines
Nigel Haines
2 months ago

Depth records for underwater modelling involving breath holding? An accident waiting to happen. Pointless.

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