Monday, 17 October 2011

SSI Dive Trophy Madness



Ronny Kaiser Kain conviced me to do it again: join the madness that the guys in Wendelstein disguise as the SSI Dive Trophy semi final in Siegburg. I was the surprise guest, although maybe not such a surprise, since the only video online from last years' event is me demonstrating the freediving challenge. I had a sneaky feeling all the candidates have been secretly practising.

Since around thirty of the mad people made my - clever and difficult, or so I thought - freedive challenge last year, I was a at a loss as to how to make it harder this time round. The problem is: they don't care what happens to them, as long as they get a point for it! Seriously. It is amazing. If you ever had a student who can't equalize, send him to the dive trophy, and he'll be down and up in record time.



We went for simplicity in the end, and just had people dive as deep as they could, 20m being the bottom of the tank. Four of them did it in the first fifteen minutes, all sprinting, in all kinds of unorthodox styles, but touching down nonetheless. I was having visions of lots of twenty meter dives in my imediate future, but some of the candidates had mercy on me and stopped before the 15m mark. All in all, I was impressed by the level and what is possible with a little motivation, and am looking forward to seeing the top ten at the Dive Trophy Final at the Soma Bay Dive Week. This happens at the Robinson Club first week of December, and I'll be around teaching workshops and having fun, so join me if you like!

I got out of the water after only 57 dives and had to rush off to the airport. This is clearly a mistake! A promise to stay around for the beers next year had two candidates announce that in that case, they would make sure to be back. Oops - not quite the message I meant to send about freediving...

Since it is too late now, you may as well come for the Dive Trophy madness extravaganza 2012. Start collecting those points and have a drink with a freediver, who is, as of now, ON HOLIDAY!!!!

Well. At least from training.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Water/Wo/Men Event



Having contained the suitcase explosion, I set off to the stunning Six Senses Lamuu (Maldives) resort, to join the first water/wo/men event. An hour after arrival, we gathered at the jungle cinema to introduce ourselves to the other water people. This was an intimidating experience. Everyone was either some kind of impressive action sport hero, or impressive conservationist, or both, with the odd rockstar thrown in for good measure. And then there was me - just a freediver who is rubbish at static! I left with a sense of slight worry, wondering what possessed the organizers when they invited me. See the jungle cinema below, photo taken from Grace Deliver's album:



After a stunning cocktail party on a sandbank, surrounded by funky people looking beautiful, we were shown the new windsurfing movie, starring guys like Levi Siver, Jake Miller and Keith Teboul. I was well impressed, if not to say blown away. Whatever happend to the windsurfing I remember, that simply involved some (albeit handsome) guys zooming across the water at top speed? Now it appears to all be about flying 20m up into the air, perfoming insane stunts, while waves that can only be called monstrous are coming up to get you. These guys are NUTS! See video below for evidence.



I woke the next morning thinking: this will be interesting. My job was to teach a static session, for which a whole lot of the crazy people turned up, including surf diva Bethany Hamilton, whose villa pool we highjacked. I was quite baffled, for they all seemed to think doing a bit of static was pretty wild, and a great experience. As usual, people have little understanding of what happens when you hold your breath, and as one of them was kind enough to push his limits for all others to see, I believe I managed to get the point across that training underwater by yourself is not a good plan. The picture below was taken by Mariah Sievers, who held her breath in between - the girls rocked!



The rest of the stay passed in a whirl of teaching clinics, attending talks, meeting people, and trying each other's sports. I had the bright idea of doing a little stand up paddling with Keith, which quickly turned into a longish session as we made our way out to the sandbank. Having managed well enough on the way there, I was surprised to be falling off all the time on the return journey. It took my blond head a little while to process the situation: the waves were now coming from behind, secretly sneaking up to get me! That is just wrong, that is. I have no idea how anyone does this in monster waves. At least when I am snowboarding, the bumps stay put!



I cleverly had my first ever surfing lesson a couple of hours later, which involved - and I know this should have been obvious - more paddling! Noted surf coach Terry Simms had us out on a lovely small wave, which broke very shallow over a reef, and, overexcited by standing up on the first try, I managed to find (and hit) the one bit sticking up to just below the surface, thus earning the first reef cuts of my surfing career. An hour later I was unable to lift my arms, or head, but blissfully happy with it all.

Amazingly, everyone there thought freediving is nuts. Well guys, at least it is a non-contact-sport! Really. Lunatics, all of you. I had a fantastic time meeting the other watermen, and it was very interesting to see how we instantly got along with each other. It seems we think alike. On this trip, we were united in a common cause: our love of the ocean, and wish to look after it. The charities present doing great work were +H2O, Water Charity, BLUE Marine Foundation, Plant a Fish...I hope we can do more together in the future.

Oh, and: all my fears about surfing have been confirmed. It is completely, utterly, and instantly addictive.

Ohhhhh shit. Now what?

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Bronze Medal party

Right, well, I got distracted from writing emails, blogs, press releases and such things. It's simple: things went surprisingly well, and you can see me here with Jarmila, who took silver, celebrating easy dives with iced coffees.



First I ended the constant weight competition day, also known as day of darkness, with a very easy dive to 76m, which put me into fourth place and had me ready to go on holiday and straight to the party. A day of darkness it was, with waves high enough to roll right over my head at one minute to official top, the majority of athletes messing up their dives and judge Linda longing for her chicken card. When I surfaced, the safety divers fell into hysterics over what a beautiful dive it had been, which had me quite baffled, until I found out later that I was only the second white card after eight divers, and the first one they saw smiling.



I was very well looked after by my friend William Winram, who is of course married to Michèle (my trusted coffee companion), but she allows him to have me as a second charge, see below, which is just as well, since it appears that every time I need to do a proper dive, I am in some way broken and need Will to fix me.



After the constant weight mess, Stavros thought divers might take it a bit easier for the free immersion day, but no such thing, people were announcing PB's all over the place. My announcement devil made me put 71m into the box, which was not quite the holiday I had in mind. On the comp day Jesper found me all by myself, paddling vaguely into the direction of the warm-up zone. He read my thoughts, which were much along the line of don't want to dive, will turn early, am on holiday, but he was having none of it, gave me a bit of a talking to and put me on the line, where I proceeded to do a super easy bronze medal dive. Then it was time for the party!!! This was much fun, as usual, and as I am not at all a marketing pro, the only picture taken with my bronze medal has me and Liv waving cans of beer at the camera.



After braving the taxi strike/public transport strike/air traffic control strike/customs strike in beautiful Greece I made it home, where my suitcase somehow exploded, leaving me with just enough time to consider what to take to the water/wo/men event at Six Senses Laamu, a beautiful resort in the Maldives, where I am headed to take part in a very exciting environmental charity event. It has a long guest list full of fantastic water pro people, surfers, windsurfers, kiteboarders, etc etc, and me. I am still a bit baffled as to how they came to invite me, but I'm not arguing and who knows? I may get hooked on surfing...



Oh no. Another addiction sport! Danger!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

News from the worlds

Am sitting in the lobby with 150 athletes buzzing with nervous wrong announcement nerves, waiting for the startlist to come out. I tamed my devil and went conservative with 76m, which may not sound like a safe bet, but I confess I got into the secrecy game and hid my last training success. It's oddly conservative, as it is for once not a personal best in competition. I was ranging from 71m-79m - and am currently thinking: oh nooooooo! Should have done 79, should have done 79! Had I put 79m into the box, it would be: oh nooooo! What have I done? Why? Why? In any case, I can reveal that Sara has gone for 102m, 15 men have gone for 100m or more - amazing. They're all mad, they are.



Meanwhile, all training was cancelled for the last two days: after the earthquake last week, we had a storm with thunder, lightning, wind and highish seas that flooded the shops in town. Our waterworld decided to go for a swim and entered deeper waters about 500m to the right. Must have have known something about the announcements...anyway, freedivers all around were trying to find ways to pass the non-training downtime. See some examples below.



After granny-style-swimming competition held with Guillaume Nery at the hotel pool, the British team were having a tea party to celebrate victory.



A stray dog made the mistake of adopting a bunch of bored athletes, and was turned into a freediving dog instantly. It is clearly planning to go deep, as it was seen sporting an enormous neckweight and using a noseclip.



The female armwrestling night was dominated by fanny, who beat nearly everyone, except Junko from Japan. Note the intent bad-ass look on her face.



Judge Linda was rocking the Italian with a Zebra bathing suit. She remains unbeaten at the top of the stylish judge list.



Pim was so enamoured of the zebra bathing suit, he carried Linda off there and then, to talk about some lists. He said.

Will have some tea now, to calm the non existent nerves. Something is wrong here. I am not in panic mode. Might need stressing out...

Monday, 19 September 2011

World Championships: CNF comp day



You might ask what a banana is doing in my wardrobe, and I suppose that is an entirely fair question. Let me explain. I have been attacked by cramps in random body parts over the last few days. Apart from the usual leg thing, I am capable of getting a cramp in the oddest places, such as the intercostal muscles in my back when taking a mouthfill. Hence I have been stocking up on bananas with the firm intention of consuming one of those with my porridge every morning. Problem is, after several deep dives, I am now also afflicted by a severe case of freediving brain, and have left the bananas behind in my room every single day. Blond girl solution: put banana next to slouchy breakfast pants, hence impossible to forget. It worked! Fred Buyle, our freediving photographer (see his images of the WC at www.nektos.net), who has been doing around ninety dives a day taking pictures, thus erasing 95% of memory storage cells from his head, now has a packet of green tea residing next to his morning shorts.

The last couple of training days before the comp were kind of weird. Saturday was simply wild, with rough conditions and 120 athletes trying to find out where exactly their limit might be. Alexey Molchanov did a good job on that one, doing an 80m no fins dive the one day and then asking for the rope to be set to 122m the next. Turns out the rope was only 121m long, which was plenty, as he went there easily but checked out in around 10m on the way up. He said he was a bit tired from the day before. No kidding! He is very strong this year and joined me today in having a coaching day, and we both shared a moment of pleasure at not having to dive.

Just when I had convinced myself that after the 70m I was done with all my training and almost on holiday, I was tricked into doing another deep dive by judge Linda, who came to share my warm up rope and then, when I wanted to go back to have coffee, said: "why don't you just go on the line and turn early". She knew perfectly well that my brain is simply not wired for early turns. I got lulled into agreeing by the lovely weather, and before I knew what happened, I touched down at 73m, swam up rather easily and celebrated with two coffees afterwards.



Opening ceremony was the usual stuff, waiting around, then waving flags, then running away as quickly as possible. I took coaching bookings and picked up Will Winram, with an announcement of 88m, finnish giant Antero Joki with 70m, no fins prodigy Jody Fisher with 56m (we will start to feed her wrong information to slow her down) favorite UK tough guy Dave Tranfield with 58m, and Ilka with 35m. This list meant I was out on the first boat and back on the last. Rest day, anyone? I had high hopes for my deepest diver Will, but when the sonar guy shouted "early turn", I had to defect there and then - I will only hang around for people who make their depth, since I cannot waste my expert services on yellow cards. Truth is, I only had a few minutes until it was Antero's turn, so sped off to distract him from nerves and rescue his neck pillow floatation device situation: the thing conveniently burst just as he reached the line, leaving me to hold his head during breathe up. Nice to be useful.

All was well, he took his time on the way down, making the judges a bit fidgety, but nothing was going to stop him from reaching the plate today. Just as he was on his way up, I got elbowed out of the way by a large man in a black wetsuit, who tried to jump past me into the competition zone, shouting: can we get on the line? Well. That's what he thought, but he had the wrong girls on this one. I grabbed his arm and yanked him back, while Linda gave him the you-are-dead-if-you-touch-my-rope look. I told him to go away, which appeared to surprise him. Duh! If a guy on the boat is shouting out depth and everyone is looking down, in a DIVING competition, is usually because someone is DIVING! Imagine! What a concept! Anyhow, he wasn't going to get past me, and Antero finished with a white card and a new Finnish record, which pleased him as much as his coach - see him below looking smug next to the enormous Finnish flag.



While I was busy looking after my charges, someone removed my bright green pool noodle from the dry area boat. I am shocked and hurt by this act of sabotage and went round the rest of afternoon, chasing people with green noodles, convinced that they must be the evil noodle kidnappers, but it has not turned up. Whoever the noodle thief is, he best be aware that bad noodle karma will follow him for the rest of his freediving days, making him mess up all of his duck dives in the future.



The safety guys felt like they had a day off - see above, wasting time soaping themselves - since most freedivers are sissys (much like me) or non swimmers (again, like me) and so don't do the no fins thing, hence there were only sixty competitors out there today. The calm will be over tomorrow, when 100 crazed athletes will head to the ropes to push their constant weight dives again, as no one knows what on earth to announce for Thursday. Psychological warfare is on everywhere, and the announcement game has started, with people hiding their depths while trying to spy on the competition. Me, I of course know everything - just a question of the right sources - so I will sell information to the highest bidder and finance my beers at the final party this way.

Tequila, anyone?

Friday, 16 September 2011

New record - moving along



Right, moving along nicely - after the 50m and the 60m dive, I continued in "not-messing-about" mode and went for 70m next. Much to my surprise, I went there, only needing to equalize once before the bottom. I might not like to say this, since he has been impossible, trouble, and bossy recently, but boss-instructor Andrea Zuccari is directly responsible for this result. Thanks! But I hate you! I do! Impossible!



The hotel is packed with freedivers, doing yoga everywhere, demanding weird foods, and being generally freediving athletes. Yesterday we had official registration for the worlds, and 150 sweaty athletes stood in line to get their lanyards destroyed by judge Grant - see below. If your lanyards survives that one, it will be good for sure, believe me. Not all of them did, though, and I squeezed my eyes shut tightly and said a little prayer while mine got pulled in all directions. It held! Hurrah! Ken from Denmark had a clever business idea and set up a little lanyard fixing station in one corner of the room, so various bits were stuck together again and all was well.



We have had three days of competition: the mediterranean freediving cup, held directly before the worlds as a kind of practice run. On day two, it got well rough early on, and with 68 athletes out to dive, the dry area pedalo boats got seriously overloaded, and two of them did the titanic thing, tilting slowly and then finally heading to the abyss, with freedivers jumping off into the waves. When the poor safety crew came to the rescue and tried to tow them away, the zodiac nearly sank, too! All going well for organizer Stavros, who is existing on his diet of ham and eggs. Note the token healthy apple in the picture - must be what keeps him going...or is it the hugs he gets from all the girls? We still have not given up hope that he will let us clamber up onto his waterworld plattform/island, but he is being very hard and mean about this. Sniff.



Divers here are mostly amazingly deep, there are totally unheard of people left right and center going to 100m and more. Women are in the eighties - it's impressive and fun. People are pushing themselves, too, so there have been some black outs and the scooter rescue pioneered at Only One in Sharm is in good use for deep safety here. I hit my 70m dive in the med cup, so it is now a clean and clear new German CW record, which I am well pleased with - something is working. Sergio Martinez Alvarez took the mens German CW record with 83m, impressing the freediving community and leaving the German team proud to have such a great new depth competitor among us. More to come from that diver!

News and gossip will be up regularily over the next week. I have bailed from the no fins competition, so will be taking bookings for coaching, thus being able to see all the fun first hand. Since I am much in demand, I will only accept divers who look the part, which unfortunalety means Johan from Sweden, whom I enjoyed coaching to a Swedish record last year, is out of favour, since he is sporting a monofin with pink (!) footpockets.

Can't have that, now. I have a reputation to lose, after all.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Kalamata at last



I sat around in Sharm for two whole weeks, without diving. On some days, I was allowed to come to the center and do my (now daily - it's too strange) pathetic attempts at breathing exercises there, see above. On other days, Marco simply locked me in the apartment as even the heat was giving me terrible headaches. In the evenings, I was fed lovingly by my Italians - see below an amazing amount of homemade gnocchi which we polished off in no time - but nothing was helping so by the end of week two, I was on all the drugs I could get my hands on and ready to switch sport.



A final attempt to do a dive on Saturday was thwarted by a freak current, which had me flying away horizontally with the line while I was down there doing a rather nice hang. Even Luda, the barracuda, looked surprised. I was contemplating a career in competitive knitting, but thought it might be fun to go to the worlds for the party, so I boarded the plane to Kalamata in the end. Considering my aquaintance with Murphy over the last months, getting stuck in Cairo for four hours, missing my connecting flight in Athens and having to spend hours on a bus did not come as a surprise anymore, I tell you.



First thing we had in Kalamata was a beautiful thunder storm! Waking up to catch the Zodiac taxi out to the training zone was lovely and I felt happy and had my motivation back. Stavros has built a waterworld style island for us to dive from, plus we have three dry area boats and six warm up lines in the water. The whole thing is around 1.4km out in the middle of the Messinian bay, so it really feels like you are floating around at sea, but the water is flat calm. Perfect.

More athletes are arriving by the day, and every evening we have the ritual sign up brawl. It's first come, first serve for your training slot, but since everyone comes early, it's elbows out and every man/woman for him/herself when Stavros pulls the list out of his bag. The poor man has another 100 Athletes arriving by next week, and another three weeks of this to go. I wonder if we will manage to break him this year?



I have been out to dive twice, and briefly contemplated taking it easy, especially since warm ups were ugly. But then I do not have time to waste any more, so instead of messing around I did a 50m and a 60m constant weight dive. They were not beautiful, but completely fine, and although I still get a headache for hours afterwards, at least I can equalize! I keep looking around for surprises that Murphy might have in store for me, but it appears that he has been taken over by Jodie from Australia, so I can focus on moving ahead - thanks Jodie!

Fingers crossed! Am putting the chocolate and the knitting needles away for now. Day off today, so plenty of time to get funky ideas into my head...

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Go away, Murphy!



I know I have been quiet for a while. I have been back home, in what can only be described as a wintery summer (note the woolly hat...). Truth is, my messed up dive had me puzzled, and I felt I needed to figure out what exactly had happened, before continuing to train. Mostly I wanted to exclude any possible physical causes that could catch me out again, and went in search of a completely improbable, magic Dr. House style person, who, as one would hope, would get all excited by the weirdness of the case presented to him, and would, after much testing, deliberating and grouchiness, come up with a wicked, unheard of explanation, all inside of a one hour episode. I know what you are thinking. I thought the same. Fat chance, and all that.



Never underestimate the ability for random hopefulness in a woman, though. We like to entertain faith in the existence of impossible things, such as the perfect pair of high heels (am close), a perfect bikini (still looking), and, even, a magic doctor. Off I went, and amazingly, found the Dr. House of Berlin: a specialist in internal medicine, pulmonary medicine, sports medicine, and - it's true, I swear - diving medicine! An email describing what had happened to me raised the curiosity of Dr. (House) so much, he found time to listen to my improbable story and take a first hand look at what most people would consider to be a crazy person - a blond freediver. And no, I did not have to attach a pdf of my arcticle from the April issue of Penthouse magazine to the email, to convince him to see me! Really.

Going to visit this man was a bit of a revelation. Rarely have I encountered a doctor who listened with such attention to detail. I did not have much hope in finding out what was wrong on that day, and expected him to simply order a range of tests to check for damage from the incident and any possible causes. I described the dive to him, trying my best to include all details, such as the fact that the silicone skirt of the mask had been squeezing onto my eyes and I could not open them at the bottom. I wanted to be honest about all factors that had caused stress, however small, during the attempt. By the questions my Dr. House was NOT asking, it became clear he knew almost all there is to know about freediving. When I was done, he clarified a couple of things. Then he spoke the magic words:

I think I can tell you what went wrong.

My jaw dropped. I looked at him, stunned. I expected the hidden cameras to be revealed at any moment. He proceeded to explain to a speechless (unheard of, I know) Anna a thing called the oculocardiac reflex, which I think is well worthy of a Dr. House episode. If pressure is applied directly to the eyes, such as in my case by the squeezing mask, it causes the heartrate to drop dramatically and the bloodvessels to dilate. Just what you want in 130m! The heartrate will drop to the point of fainting, and if the pressure is kept up, it can even lead to cardiac arrest. To manage to do this to oneself on a world record dive - one might say it wasn't my lucky day.

My first reaction was disbelief, then immediate relief at having found out what exactly went wrong - fortunately an incident that does not mean I have to stop diving. Then, when I was in my car, driving home, I was hit by the inevitable "Ohhhhhh nooooooo!!!! My beautiful 130m dive!!!!"-moment. By now, I have put it down to (albeit more colourful than I wanted) experience. Berlin Dr. House has a stern and bossy streak, too, and I had a feeling he would outright forbid me to go training if he could find anything wrong, but a CT of my lungs showed all was fine, so he put his signature on a piece of paper and declared me fit to dive, shaking my hand quite firmly, clearly with thoughts along the lines of: "she's mad" and "I wonder what trouble she will get herself into next" on his mind.



With the piece of paper in my pocket, I left rainy Europe behind and flew to Sharm El Sheikh last Tuesday, ready to train for the world championships in Kalamata. This clever plan has yet again been put on hold by my friend Mr. Murphy himself, as I have managed to pick up a nasty cold on my last day in London. I had five weeks back home to be sick! It is infuriating. Today I dived to all of 37m, but the sinuses were complaining, so I got out of the water and grumbled to myself for the rest of the afternoon. Might as well eat chocolate, drink beer, and get fat.

I feel I have had my share of Mr. Murphy's company for one year. Someone else can take over now. Any volunteers, please contact him on murphyslaw@hotmail.com. He is available immediately.

Meanwhile, I would like to get back to my training. Pleeeeeaaaaaaaase! Please let me train, please let me train, please......

I know, I know - fat chance, and all that.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Oops...

that one went wrong. What I had in mind was along the lines of: get over the nerves, do a solid dive taking a look around in 130m, then: party for a week! What I got was the first proper, solid black out of my freediving career. It seems there is no point in doing things by half, so I went for it in a spectacular fashion, blacking out deep enough for my scooter guardian angel Andrea to get to do the first scooter rescue in freediving history. He says I owe him ten years of his life, and he looked at me quite sternly, but I think it's only fair, as I am sure he took much more than that off the life of his mother who had to watch him crash his motorbike on the racetrack. What goes around, comes around!



The beauty of freediving is, you recover quickly, so after my coaches allowed me to have a dinner of lemon ice cream, I was on the mend. We spent the rest of the week at the mercy of photographer Andy Fox, who showed no qualms in attacking a woman with a camera and a flash at 04:15 am, when I was sitting on the nabq desert beach trying to reflect on the beauty of the sinai sunrise! Well. Good luck with that, there were paparazzi everywhere, even taking pictures of each other:



After I got to chill for one night in the desert the danish feedivers turned up for a minicomp, and I did my usual coaching session, looking after Jakob, who did a national record in CW with 96m, Rune, and new diver Carsten. These guys are always fun and I love to take care of them! When everyone had left, I twisted Andrea's arm a little bit - I might have batted my eylids and said: please take me on a scooter dive, pleeeeeease! Anyhow, we cruised down the reef and took a few turns in 25m. The little devil in me wanted more, the blue was just so beautiful, but Andrea has become annoyingly good at taming it, so no chance in hell, not a single extra meter.



Now I have a hectic month at home where it is - how could it be any different - raining and cold. I will try to follow my homework as closely as possible. I have been told what to eat, and when. Somehow I don't think my coach will agree with my usual breakfast & lunch of coffee, and then coffee.

This is going to be hard work. Will go and have a coffee...

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Murphy loves me



When I was still going deep with lots of tanks - see photo above - my fantastic trimix instructor, Aaron Bruce, once told me never to forget that Murphy loves tech divers. I now realize that he also loves female athletes. All attempts at timing my world record attempt for the perfect time of the month have failed miserably, and so my training has gone rapidly downhill.

During one of the sessions I felt so bad, I hit the brake in 80m, because I had finally failed to keep contractions away on the way down. I was lucid enough to realize that having contractions at well below 100m would most likely give me a massive lung squeeze, so I turned early, grumbling the whole way up. It is a frustrating thing to experience in freediving, which is a sport largely controlled by the mind, but there are moments when you can mentally be as ready as you like but your body just won't play along. Murphy remained in full attack mode for the rest of the week, so I had to listen to super coach Andrea and take two days off to let my body recover. He has been with me on all my dives, as he has developed a new deep safety system: he comes down to meet me in 50-60m with a tech diving scooter! It is a really great moment to see him on the way up, just when I am thinking, am I there yet, am I there yet...



The break had me feeling great in the water yesterday, no stress at all, and I was psyched and happy heading down to 120m, when a freak incident hit me at around 70m: an enormous burp/hick-up! I felt like I had a bubble of air stuck in my throat, went into a full panic as what to do with this - unfortunately, I was unable to find a way to add it to my mouthfill - and by the time I reached 80m equalization was pure chaos. The chaos and I made it to 115m. Then I was so annoyed I kind of sprinted back up, which had Andrea struggle to follow me with the scooter, and earned me a telling off by both coaches. I know, I know, I will be good next time, I promise! Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr.....and I know what you are thinking, but I have NOT been drinking beer before the dive! Honest!



After training I always have to wait around in the pool for Andrea to come and get me out of the 7mm Zodiac suit, so this is when we usually have our debriefings. I believe I might have wailed something along the lines of "I don't want to do another training dive, I don't want to, I don't want to" and the coaches agreed it was time to quit messing around and just go for the record.

Rope has been measured (in the dark, see above), judges are here, all is set. Minor detail: me doing the dive. Ah well...

Did I mention? I have now officially entered the panic phase.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Training...again

Here is a video from our tandem no limits world record dive!



After a semi day off I went back to train for the variable weight world record. The plan was to do three 80m dives and get comfortable on the variable sled. This is the sistership to the deltaflyer, and is really nice - only problem is, I have to hold on to it which is creating stress. In any case, I was sure this time it would be easy, but no such thing: I felt amazingly horrible and completely unable to focus.

After I was hit on the head by the tank on the way down and hit by the seld on the way up during the first dive, I jumped on the platform to try and get my concentration back, but instead found myself crying tears of frustration, which would not stop during the rest of the session! So annoying. Here is a problem for a blond diver to solve: how to hide the fact that she is crying from a bunch of men who are monitoring their athlete closely, and a cameraman who is zoomed in on her face! During the breathe-up for the final dive, I was so bad I could not get a proper breath, and then Marco messed up the countdown - straight after "two minutes" he jumped to "thirty seconds"! Cazzo! I turned to him and said, quite nicely: "I don't think so." That had them all jump to attention.



After all that, I was really lost and unsure of how to go on. In the morning, I just wanted to disappear, so I wandered off to the beach at the very far side of the deserted hotel. Ten minutes later, my coach had found me! How? How? He's getting spookily in tune with my head, he is. He even came up with the perfect way to fix me: challenge me with something difficult. Just when I was worried that I was too tired to dive, he said to me: "today we do 100m. Or maybe 110m, if you feel good." How the hell could I feel good after yesterday? Impossible. But then my mind started to work. Eight days to go. 110m today, 120m Monday...hmmm.....

By now I simply trust Andrea on his ability to judge how strong I am, so by the time I arrived to train, I had my bite back. My mind loves a challenge. 110m it was, not too bad except for trying to leave the bottom three times and being stuck each time until I dropped way down again and untangled myself.

Last night boss-instructor forced me to eat an entire pizza. He is getting bossier by the minute! Anyhow, today is a rest day, so I will go and hide from him.

We'll see how that goes...

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

World Record. Who would have thought?

It is really too strange and still a bit hard to believe, but it's done: yersterday, Andrea Zuccari aka boss-instructor and I dived together to -125m. From there, you can see the bottom! Amazing.



I started the day with my customary rush of nerves, which continued throughout the morning. I have a really special way with this: I do it in half hour shifts, meaning for half an hour I will be totally ok, thinking things such as: what the hell, just a training dive, never mind, etc, and then for the next half hour I will be in a blind panic. Cameraman Emmanuele, who has been in charge of filming the entire process, was laughing at me, telling me I looked like a confused child, because aparently I had taken to twisting my hair to calm down. Well, Manu, you try being sent to 125m by a couple of Italians! See if you have any hair left at the end of it!

In any case, we went out to beautiful conditions and my warm ups were average, as usual in such situations. Then it was time for the first sled warm up to 60m. It was horrible. I felt as stressed as on day one. Surfacing, Marco said: how was it? And my charming partner shouted enthusastically: fantastic! Oh sh....thinks the blond girl, it will all be my fault, it will all be my fault...



Truth was, Andrea was just as bad as me, and when I thought I would faint with the butterflies in my stomach during the final countdown, he could barely breathe from the rush of nerves! Good thing is, once Marco pulls the release, there is nothing for it but to focus, and it worked amazingly well. We touched down in 125m, opened both tanks, shot off the bottom and grinned at each other all the way up, surfacing together. I have forgiven him for pretending he was cool as a cucumber, as he did make feel kind of safe during all our sled dives, and it was really amazing fun to share this dive with him. I will still have my revenge for the other day, though, when he blew the sugar coating off his cake into my face! The gloves are off on that one.

Now it's not party time, unfortunately, since there is the small detail of me having announced another world record attempt in - hold on - 11 days time!

Whoever came up with that stupid idea? I want beeeeeeer........

Monday, 27 June 2011

Going for it



Ok, so I did one good dive, and what do the Italians do? They decide it's time to go for a world record! They are mad, they are. I feel cheated. I never really, truly, thought we would get to this point. It just sounded like a nice, albeit far away, idea, and now it's suddenly real! Oh sh...

The photo above shows me and Andrea at 100m, where, as you can see, he is spitting bubbles at me, making me laugh. Yesterday we reached 121m, where my mask was so squeezed I could not see a lot, and while I was trying to work out if the baloon was inflated enough and just going by the feel of the water moving across my face, he was busy shaking a happy fist at the camera. As a result, we spent a rather long time moving up slowly slowly. But , seriously, what in world got into those men? How did it happen that the blond girl is driving the sled? Clearly, this is not my fault, and in any case, it was very good, because I need to practice long dives for my variable world record. So there.

Truth is, both Andrea and I have been very focused and working hard - me on trying to equalise, him on trying to teach me to do it. It appears to be working. Now let's hope that it will still be working tomorrow.

World record attempt No. 1 - coming up!

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Magic-100m-barrier

The photo below is not a result of freedivers suffering from cabin fever, but an attempt to strech the (slightly too tight) necks on my lovely new Polosub wetsuits. The one on the right is the 7mm top that will hopefully make me float up like a cork from 40m on my variable weight world record attempt. I have been trying my best to delay wearing it, but boss instructor forced me to put it on the other day, so I would get used to it.



Now. The buoyancy thing might be nice, but try wearing a 7mm suit when it is 42°C outside. I was not happy, and even less so when Andrea said "oh look! A Zodiac!" He meant me. Charming. Problem is, I do feel like a Zodiac in the 7mm. The guys added insult to injury when they taped my legs with brown packing tape on the platform. I got quite upset, wailing "but, but, it is sooooo ugly! Everything is ugly!", which had Andrea promise to bring a marker pen to paint some flowers on the tape next time. I was unimpressed by this suggestion, and anyhow, he was still in the doghouse for the Zodiac comment, which he then tried to get out of by saying: "but there are nice Zodiacs!" Imagine! What a compliment! Just what a girl is looking for. Sweetie, you look like a lovely Zodiac today! Hmpf.



Zodiac suit on and legs taped, we have been doing some funky dives on the tandem no limits sled, getting down to 100m with no problems to speak of. The fun started when we moved the target to 110m. It's the magic-100m-barrier. You have to hit the wormhole just right with the deltaflyer, otherwise, not a chance. First try we made it past the 100m mark, but we were so fast, I couldn't keep up equalizing and hit the brake, thinking we were way off the bottom. Turns out we were - by a whole meter! I stopped the sled in 109m. It will be hard to live that one down.

+

On the whole, it's all very well, but there is something going on with my mouthfill and I am running out of air too early. A review of the stunning - and embarassing - sled camera footage showed that the amount of air gained in my cheeks when I charge it was equal to, say, a couple of peas. I got quite a talking to by my two coaches for that one. Marco then made me inflate my cheeks right there in the office, and he kept saying, no way, more, put more, you have to relax the muscles, it can't be, you MUST be able to fit more in! And anyway, why are they (the cheeks) uneven? All my cries of it's full, it's full, honest! Did not impress him and he commanded me to go check in the mirror why the left side is inflating more than the right. I was baffled. What the hell do I know? It seems boss instructor has worked it out. It's the dimples. They are uneven. Have you ever heard of such a ridiculous problem?

Somehow the two Italians still have confidence in their ability to teach me. Marco has gone and announced the tandem no limts world record attempt for me and Andrea. Dates are: 25-30th June. Which is starting - hold on - TODAY!! We are currently at 113m.

Did I mention? Oh shit...

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Ooops...

I have (accidentally) announced a world record attempt. I woke up one morning and it seemed like a good plan somehow. Now the mornings are more along the "oh shit, what have I done!" kind of line. You might ask how this happened. Well. I blame Andrea of Only One. He fixed the final part of my mouthfill, making way for fancy ideas to get into my head. As this is all his responsibility, I have come back to Sharm, where he will be in charge of everything, and if I don't make it it will be his fault! Must have the excuses ready at a really early stage of proceedings after all.



We have been training for a week, which has mostly consisted of the guys trying to rescue some remnants of what we did in April after the hectic, crazy month I spent back home. There wasn't a lot left. We started off with no limits dives on the head down sled, and I was having contractions on the way DOWN on a 30m dive! No limits! Can you imagine? It's just wrong, that is. Meanwhile, there is the small detail of me having announced a variable weigth world record, so I will have to swim up. Boss-instructor arrived on the first day and gave me the program. It involves a mix of dynamic and swimming in the pool every morning, plus streching, plus breathing exercises, plus mouthfill exercises. When am I to work on my tan I ask you? Looks like it will be a tough month.

Some things are at least working by now, and after I took a mouthfill from ten to sixty meters head down four sessions in a row, the coaches gave in and we went to play with the shiny, new, lovely toy: the monster no limits sled!



I think it is a bit like a space ship. It should have a fancy name, like the delta flyer in star trek.


We have it set up for tandem at the moment, since Andrea and I will be doing some deep diving together. I did a sweet and easy eighty meters with it yesterday, lots of fun except for the cold water inflating my suit from ten meters onwards during the 60m warm up dives. Tape. Will buy tape.

Can't wait to do more! I simply love new toys. Meanwhile, there was something - oh yes - 24 days to go till the world record attempt. That is - hold on - less than four weeks!!!

Ohhhhh shit...

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Fancy Title

I have just managed to get myself the most fancy title of my life so far. Soon I will own a card saying: “SSI Freediving Instructor Trainer”! Who would have thought? Maybe I will need a business card after all. Oh dear.



I went on the SSI ITS (Scuba Schools International Instructor Trainer Seminar, if you must know) with SSI GOD himself, Ronny Kain. He thought it was a good plan to invite me. I was not so sure I should agree with him on that one, but how can you say no to god? When I came back from Sharm, I found a large box with an equally large Instructor Trainer manual inside, that I was supposed to have read back to front and memorized by heart. When people asked me what I was reading (over my sixth coffee) I tried to explain to them what course I was going on: a course where I will be taught to teach people how to teach people how to dive. You can picture the blank looks I got on that one.



Anyways, I think poor Ronny was faced with a bunch of equally blank looking people in Siegburg. We all studied hard, in fact all night every night and then again every morning before breakfast as well as in all of our breaks, and everyone passed! They made me join the scuba instructor trainer trainees in the water, so I had to wear a tank with my freediving wetsuit, which is the silliest thing, I tell you, and just feels wrong. It’s the first time in years I tried to demonstrate a scuba skill, and it was a rather messy performance, but Ronny just closed his eyes and said a prayer or two and it went well enough in the end.



At the end of the course we were all very happy and very tired, so it did not take many drinks to get us to the singing and dancing part of the evening, and I have a little video of a VERY impressive performance by a person who shall remain nameless.
Mmmm. Post it? Don’t post it? Tough one…