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, 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...