Sunday, 5 July 2015

Survival at sea

I've been blog-quiet for a while, which can only mean one thing: excitement! New projects! I went snowboarding (how could I not?), did a fair lot of fitness training (75kg deadlift, yeah!) and went to start the freediving season in Sharm, where I was slowed down by illness as usual. So far, all normal - but then: five weeks of new challenges, crowned by a brilliant adventure: taking part in a "survival at sea" course. This is meant to help you not kick the bucket should you happen to fly in a helicopter across the ocean, and should said vehicle have the audacity to say, crash - something that apparently goes on more often than you'd like! Shit. Note to self: reconsider the helicopter flying thing, if ever offered such transport in the future.

Anyway, having been shown a video of lots of crashes, I got zipped up into an overall with a helmet on my head and chucked into a pool alongside a load of guys, told to float on the surface and not move, then made to remove the overall and turn it into a float, and then put it back on. Someone should have explained to these people that I like to be UNDER the water! This surface stuff is too much like hard work. Still grumbling to myself about all this swimming business, I was sent up to climb the five meter tower by the instructors and told to jump down, doing a "safety jump". Well. As far as I'm concerned, there is a flaw here. Jumping off a five meter tower feels far from safe to me - in fact, it feels like a total nightmare! Problem was, there were 20 guys on the course. As any self respecting female knows, this is the moment where you just can't show hesitation. I managed to suppress a shriek and threw myself into the abyss, feeling pleased that this bit was behind me, not realizing that I'd get to repeat this nastiness another three times!

Next it was time for the fun stuff: we climbed aboard a helicopter contraption which then gets dropped into the water, turned upside down and other such funky things, sometimes in the pitch black dark, while you have to keep calm and make an orderly exit, one after the other. This was so enjoyable to me I managed to convince the crew to let me put on my mask and follow the next group from the instructor position, meaning I was able to observe what happens when someone gets panicky, ignores the "orderly" bit and tries to exit through the door together with two others, nearly getting everyone stuck! Brilliant! I am more and more fascinated by people's fear/panic responses under water and how to help them overcome their most primal instincts. That is the difference between life and death in the water, right there, in the few seconds that decide whether someone will give into their fear or dominate it.

Having done the exciting stuff, we got pulled up, made to chuck out the rescue island thingy, jump (again!!!) after it, launch it and climb aboard. Looks easy in the classroom, gets kind of complicated in the water - I don't even want to think about what that would be like in a freezing sea with waves crashing over your head. Sitting inside with five guys is fun in the pool, but I'm sure I'd not pick being adrift like that for any length of time! They threw me in with so much enthusiasm, they put my head under water inside the island for a good 20sec. Just as well I can hold my breath, but thanks for the rescue, guys!

As if that wasn't enough fun, I next got hooked up to a parachute-pretend-machine, wheeled out from the five meter tower, dangled across the water, and then dropped - again - down, where the job was to release yourself from the straps, then swim underneath a parachute canopy on the surface, pulling yourself along to get out from under it without getting tangled in all the lines. Fun but served as a reminder that there is no reason whatsoever to leap out of a perfectly good aeroplane, as far as I'm concerned - and you can forget it, guys, I'm not doing any tandem jumps either!

I think I have found my new job when I'm done with the bookshop. The METS (Modular Egress Training Simulator) is the best thing I have seen in a long time. It's a freediver's fairground ride!

Now. I know it's time to go be serious and train and all that, and then to compete in the world championships, but: when can I go again? When? When?