Sunday, 27 July 2014

Go coach!!!

Just when I was getting bored and restless with the endless routine of wake up, look out the window to check sea conditions, have tea, check sea conditions, strech, check sea conditions, have coffee, check sea conditions, do dry skills, check sea conditions - still rough - curse sea conditions, do some pool stuff, curse sea conditions, oh wait, sea conditions are ok! Go train! - my favorite and (mostly) always patient evil coach has gone and provided us with a much needed bit of action.

He's been training alongside us, meaning he fits in a deep dive after he's been looking after Will and me for a couple of hours, which serves beautifully to highlight our continuing failure to get things right. Nothing like someone hopping on the sled and whizzing down to 160m when you have just hit the brake at 105 to show you what room for improvement truly means.

On Friday it was time for him to be serious and break his own Italian no limits record, with a dive that would make him the second deepest man in the world. I went to meet him for a coffee in the morning, to enjoy the fact that evil coach was churning with nerves - he's just as bad as I am with that - then we all went to look at (and curse) sea conditions for a while. The dive center was buzzing with equipment and crew, all designed to make evil coach even more nervous, especially when it came to handling his babies - there were 12 cameras involved in filming this dive with some stunning footage taken! Watch this space for the video to come.

After sorting out some emergency protocols and making sure we had a back up plan for everything it was time to leave coach to his nerves and get in the water. William and I were the freediving safety team for this event, official "safety diver" lycra and all!  This kind of dive requires a well organized and especially well focused team as you cannot afford any type of mess. I put the second line down to 110m to help technical safety diver Jim with his deco later - he was waiting in 150m and filmed some spectacular images, bar the moment where he tilts the camera to look at his rebreather gauges because his 200m depth rated torch imploded! Something going "BANG" is not what you want to hear when you are down there, I tell you.

With the judges in the water and cameras rolling, coach was ready and we gave Jim the five minute signal to start his descent. Everything switches to "go" and things go quiet except for Sergio counting down. Everyone is focused on the moment when the sled is released and drops under the surface. From then on, we are counting the seconds till touch down - he landed after 75seconds and we knew he had made it. Still, this is not the time to celebrate but to get ready - after all, getting down is only half the dive. William went first to meet coach with the scooter, with me following closely behind - waiting for him near the line it took a moment for the bubbles to clear before I could see him. As usual, he was fresh as a daisy and completely unfazed. Surface protocol in six seconds. He did that dive with a mask which is simply spectacular!

Last person out of the water that day was deep technical safety diver Jim, who finished his deco after a total dive time of 02:58hours. Deco is boring as hell, but I have to say, I still miss that kind of diving! It was great to take a brake from the training routine to be safety crew for the day. Looking after others is an essential part of what we do. Without it, you are missing half of what it means to be a freediver. Keep your skills up to date and take care of your buddies!

In the meantime: way to go, coach! Now it's back to training. Had better go and check the sea conditions...

Friday, 4 July 2014

Freediving friends around!

An essential part of successful freediving are our freediving friends. Especially depth training often involves lengthy stays in places far from home, where you share apartments/hotel rooms/tents with your mates. Freediving does not just happen in the water, but largely outside, too - you need your buddies around to moan about training miseries, wonder how to fix persisting problems, brainstorm target ideas and training plans, or develop a game plan for a competition, amongst many other things such as sharing silicone grease for your beloved monofin.

Our surroundings and the energy before and after diving is crucial to being happy and relaxed in the water, especially when you are challenging yourself and when things are not easy. Nothing quite takes the pressure out of things like having some freediving buddies around who laugh with you, drink the occasional beer, share the porridge in the morning and don't think you're a freak when you are holding your breath lying on the hotel bed. They know your highs and lows, what you are like when you are nervous as hell, what you look like when it all went wrong, what you look like when you dance around drunk at the closing party, and they are in it with all they have, just as much as you are. There is an open spirit between those of us who train and compete together that I love as much as the diving itself.

So here we go - 10 signs that you have great freediving buddies around:

1: They tie a smiley balloon to your locker when you have the training blues.

2: They let you have their favorite red sweatshirt when it suddenly gets freezing in the desert.

3: They practice looking stupid with balloons with you every day and do not think you are a freak. 

4: When world championship nerves drive you out of your bed at dawn to go and stare at the sea, they are already there, just as nervous as you are.

5: They know that the thing to do when you have broken yourself ten days before a world championship is to get you a coffee.

6: They help you get a medal, and then they help you celebrate getting it. Liv (pictured) has one too, actually, but she lent it to safety diver Stewart for a while. 

7: They make happy-kids-on-family-outing type faces at you when you turn around in the car. Because you all decided it was a good idea to get up at 04:30am to drive to Ras Mohammed national park at sunrise and swim with fishes. Sun decided to rise invisible behind clouds, but they are happy anyway.

8: They come with you to dive in a 14°C lake when it is raining outside. They don't even think it's stupid to sleep in a tent in the rain after getting frozen in the water first. In fact, they think it's the best thing ever. They are just as mad as you are.

9: They go: "wheeeeeeeeeeeeeee….!" with you on a sled

10: They know when it's time to quit being serious and just get down and partyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!