On Diving Responsibly
October 10, 2015
Preparation is Key
As some of you know, I was in Italy for the CMAS Freediving Depth World Championships recently. Leading up to the event I had some of the best training I can remember. I had passed easily 90 meters with bi-fins even with rough seas and heavy current, exiting the water very clean and feeling good.
At one point, during a dive to 95 meters I was blown off the line at around 75 meters and wrapped up in my lanyard which stopped my descent. I tried to rotate in one direction to free myself but that made the lanyard tighter. I then rotated in the opposite direction thus freeing myself so I could continue my descent. I had to fin in order to continue as the current was strong enough to almost stop me. I arrived to my depth and started the long swim back, again with the current.
I surfaced, tired but very clean. This was my second to last training dive and I felt confident for the coming competition.
Winds of Change
The first day of the competition came and went (Tuesday October 6, Constant Weight with Monofin) as I had not entered in that discipline. As bad luck would have it, the following day, I woke up with a fever and apparently had some kind of flu bug.
So I declined to compete that day in Constant Weight with Bi-fins and hoped that I would be well enough rested for CNF (Contstant Weight No Fins) which was to take place on the Friday – this would give me Thursday as an added day to recover.
Unfortunately, the organizers decided to move up the CNF day to Thursday… There goes my extra recovery day !!
I announced what would normally be an easy dive to 81 meters but when I awoke I still did not feel 100%.
I got up and started my morning routine as I would on any competitive day in order to see if the feeling would pass or not. After an hour, it was obvious that my vital signs were not optimal, so I decided not to dive.
I can tell you it was not an easy decision.
To B. Or Not to B.
When I was well enough to get back to the village by the sea on the following day, there was nothing left for me to compete in (bi-fins or no-fins had come and gone). Several competitors saw me and asked why I had not dived. When I told them I had had a fever, most of them said:
“You should just have tried, the worst thing that can happen is a black-out.”
There it is… the ugly B word…
To Black-out or not to black-out, that is precisely the question.
On Diving Responsibly
In my 10+-year career as a competitive freediver, I can count the number of times that I have blacked-out while freediving on the fingers of ONE hand.
Half in the pool (Static) and the other half in depth (CNF). I have never blacked-out in training.
Do ask around, you will be surprised at the number of athletes, some very high-profile, who black out chronically.
It’s not good for their body, and it’s certainly not good for the sport… but that’s another topic.
The reality is that during this competition, I knew I was not 100%. This means that had I dived, I was not only at risk for a black-out, but I could have also gotten a lung squeeze – this is where the lung tissue tears and as you can imagine you will cough up blood. The amount of blood is dependent on the severity of the squeeze.
Too often freedivers take risks during competitions that they would not normally take in training because they feel the safety in place is sufficient to take care of them if they cannot make the dive.
In my opinion this is the *wrong* attitude. The safety divers, medical doctor, counterballast team etc are there in the event that something unforeseen happens during the dive, like heavy current, or if the diver is unaware of a health issue.
First Line of Safety
Today, freedivers dive to much deeper depths than 10 years ago and thus, hold their breath for a much longer time.
The first line of safety is yourself, your knowledge of your body, your knowledge of your limits and your respect for those limits. Diving outside your limits and/or disrespecting your body is foolish and could result in something far more serious which is your death (two years ago a young diver with a history of lung squeezes during his dives pushed a dive, squeezed and died on the platform).
Ultimately when you dive in this manner you are also disrespecting the organizer, the safety team, your own team and you are potentially putting others at risk.
50/50 Chance – 20/20 Foresight
In this competition, a successful 81-meter dive would have granted me the gold medal as well as the world championship title. I knew I was not 100% and even though there was probably a 50/50 chance I could complete the dive and take the gold medal I chose not to dive. Months of training, money, time away from work and family had gone into preparing for this event so to not compete was a tough decision but one I do not regret – no medal or record is worth your life or worth disrespecting others and putting them at risk.
Sometimes you invest a lot of time and energy towards a certain goal or outcome and you are not successful in the manner you had intended. Such is life.
Breath-Hold Diving as a Tool
As most of you know, my true passion is the sea and its creatures, on which we depend for our very own survival.
At the very least, my several weeks of training of preparation for the world championships are going to be put to good use on my upcoming great white sharks tagging expedition.
In a few months I will resume training and preparing for what next year might bring… hoping this time to finish the job.