Thursday, 28 June 2012

Temperature shock

Having started this months’ training quite well, I was feeling rather pleased with myself. A feeling that did not last, as progress ground to a halt in week three. In one of our sessions I created such a mess that evil coach switched on his bossy self and told me to go stand in the corner for an hour, facing the wall and contemplating my deeds. Not for the first time, I was considering alternative sports, the current favorite being ping pong.

The good thing about my coaches is, they sometimes know me better than I know myself, which is their job, I suppose. They took me off the variable sled and let me play with no limits, and – hurrah! – all was well in an instant, ending in a beautiful dive checking out the reef in 103m. Hope has returned!

Feeling motivated and on a roll, it was time to go home. I spent an entire night in my own bed, before packing my ski underwear, woolly hat, rain coat, down jacket, fur boots and various other items normally associated with snowboarding season and heading to the Apnoe Happening in Hemmoor, a beautiful lake in the north of Germany. This event is organized by Curt and Sharanne every two years, and it sold out in three hours! Crazy northern freedivers, all of you.

In a moment of outdoorsiness, I had decided to take my chances with the German summer and opted for camping. Considering I was in 42°C the day before, and I arrived to less than 10°C to sleep on the ground, in a TENT, I felt quite brave. Then I ripped my 5mm pants putting on my wetsuit in the morning and ended up diving to 32m – which is well below the thermocline, I might add – in my 3mm bottoms! After that, I went from feeling brave to feeling badass. Later I was on to give a talk about motivation and training surrounding a world record attempt, as well as what it means to fail. As always, I was surprised by the turn out, especially since there was yoga, meditation, breathing and deep diving as well as Stig Severinsen with Breatheology on offer. Fact is, a curiously interested audience had the presentation tent bursting at the seams – thanks everyone, it was fun to share my ideas with such an appreciative crowd – you’re all mad! Go do something important like Yoga next time!

Here is a weekend detail some of you athletes might appreciate: when I am in full on I-am-a-serious-freediver-training-properly- mode, I have a diet that looks like this:

After diving in a pair of 3mm pants (which are leaking from an unfixable hole left from the dolphin-pedalo-attack at the worlds in Kalamata) in 6°C, I swiftly switched to an entirely different kind of food group:

I wonder what bossy coach will say…

I’ll be good from now on, I will, I will! Promise!

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Clean water, clean oceans

Last October I had the good fortune to be invited to the watermen event at Six Senses Lamuu, Maldives, where I came across a bunch of windsurfers from Hawaii, who, apart from spending their lives surfing waves as big as houses - they are all nuts, they are - got together to see what they could do to protect the environment they love. The result of this is positiveH2O, an organisation promoting clean water and awareness of the challenges our oceans face.

As it happens, I returned from a stunning dive to 90m the other day, having taken a look around at the dark blue down there, and picked up a plastic bag on the way back to shore, only to find an invitation to join the +H2O team riders. Needless to say, I'm thrilled - this is an organization with almost no overhead, run by people who spend their lives around water. Although our sports are very different (mine is harmless compared to theirs), we found that we just fit well together in our passion for what we do and the oceans around us.

I'm pleased as anything to join them. I believe this may just be the excellent excuse I needed to visit Hawaii! Check out their website at

Can't wait to see those crazy waves. I'll be watching them with my feet planted safely on the beach!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Dolphins, Russians, World Records

There have been sightings of an incredible ocean species here in Sarm El Sheikh: the mother and son team made up of Natalia and Alexey Molchanov. They were here for world records attempts in variable weight and constant weight, and it has been fun as well as impressive to watch them dive. Let's just say it is ridiculously easy for both of them! Must be something in the Russian breakfast.

When it was time for her to take a day off after training deep for five days straight, Natalia came into the center in the morning and explained to the guys that she wanted to get in the water and do repetitions to 60m in constant weight. On the rest day. When this plan met with some gentle resistance from evil coach and angel coach, she shouted: "Rest! Rest! I tired of rest always! I loosing all my muscles!" and in the water she went. Astonishing. Her son in the meantime has a more modern training concept and took a couple of days off here and there, which he spent reading through an entire volume of "a game of thrones" in two days. I can relate to that!

I had fun in the water and was feeling pretty good, with a 60m constant weight dive at the end of week one and the first couple variable weight sessions to 80 and 90m - it was wonderful to be back on my rocket sled. The water is beautiful at them moment and one day we were out there messing about when a pod of around fifteen dolphins passed by! They turned around and came to play with us and the ropes around our plattforms, rubbing their bellies on the lines and - very interesting - biting into the moorings. This had Marco threatening to poke them with a stick next time, since it may well explain the mystery of mooring lines broken and cut when we have flat seas - little devils!

It was time for the world record attempts on Wednesday, a logistical challenge to say the least - we had half an hour to switch plattforms and set up between the dives, since there was a safety tech diver on trimix in 60m who would not have appreciated an extended bottom time. I was officially on counterballast duty but ended up as general plattform slave, mostly pulling the ropes with the guys - we had to set them and pull them up to and from 125m and more four times - tired arms for everyone around! Both dives went well and judge Ute and judge Robert the King were able to hand out white cards all around. I'm not sure how many world records Natalia has broken in her time - she probably doesn't know herself - and now Alexey is joining the family tradition. Congratulations to both of them, it's a pleasure to watch them dive!

Me, I have long way to go. Evil coach will most likely cancel all my days off, which means I have to go drink coffee. Immediately.

Am considering new sports. Ping Pong? Bowling? Curling? Darts? Suggestions are welcome. As long as they allow rest days!