Taking on a new challenge

On taking on a new discipline in freediving.

Never dared to explore it before
A big desire for me this year have been to see what I could accomplish in the NO FINS deepdiving discipline in freediving
I have gone 100 meters below the surface in other discipline, but the NO fINS have been calling for me to explore the techniques, mental challenges and my abilities into that discipline. Before my arrival to the 2013 AIDA individual depth World Championships,  my diving without fins have taken me to 55 meters several times, but I have never really dared to go deeper.
The AIDA Depth World Championships in Kalamata was the scene for my work with it. I arrived a Saturday with bus from Athens to the perfect waters of the Messinian Bay and the fine service, food and rooms of the Elite Hotel, Kalamata.

Day one: Sunday – 53 meters
Training day. I set the depth to 56 meters and wanted to go where I had been before plus one meter. I used the same setup as always – only less neoprene to make me heavier in the water. 3 kg weight to pull me down- and three kilos to bring back to the surface.

I turned early at 53 because i did not feel comfortable, it was to deep for me, and I realised that I had to do some serious mental work to get me deeper and also adjust my weighting.

Day two – mini competition day – plus eight meters
I announced 61 meters and I was very nervous, couldn’t sleep. I knew that as far as equlisation goes this would be an easy dive, but I was also plunging into the unknown with eight meters more than my bad dive the day before.I used less weights to go down – the exact weight is unknown – around 1,5 kg i think.
I had massive contractions almost all the way down, it was not pleasant and also left me with some issues to solve regarding the not being afraid factor. But most important – I did it !

Day three – training day – how much air and weights
I had a short day at the lines, training the beginning of the dive and finding my neutral buoyancy point.  Also working on how much air to bring with me ( the number of packs of extra air into the lungs)
After day three,  I felt that I had a little more experience 🙂

Day four: minicompetition day: – plus 6 meters
I felt mentally ready and prepared to attempt a personal best. I went for 67 meters and made the dive with ease, no fear, still lots of contractions, but I had decided to just let them be and not get spooked over them. My equlisation stopped at maybe 60 and i pushed my ears the last bit, but without any pain. my most uplifting experience from that dive was the total absence of fear and lactic acid in arms or legs…I felt that I had found a setup with my suit, weighting and preparation before each dive – that was close to perfect at this depth. A happy diver went to bed that night with a new personal best(PB) of 67 meters. a plus of 12 ( 24 if you count both ways – down AND up) meters from the former PB.

Day five: day before competition
I went to the lines to do some 25 meters Free immersion and Hangs…beautiful dives…I was ready to go for the Danish Record the next day…

Day six: Record Day – plus 4 meters – 71 meters
Focused, prepared and ready to take the Danish record…I start my dive, take seven strokes to get down fast and from there I let myself fall into the deep………enjoying and very far away in a trance like state…I am focused om relaxing, falling and equalising…..after a while I realise something is not quite right. I “wake up” open my eyes, look for the line and realise that I am almost not falling at all….damned, I swim to the line and for a split second I consider taking more armstrokes to gain speed to continue downwards, but I don’t and swim back to the surface and  an unsuccessful dive.

Well, I did have a very good time on my freefall from 22 meters to 40 meter that lasted 50 seconds 🙂 and that part was very nice – but my plan to set the record was broken…I was not experienced and failed the dive. I immediately decided to do the dive the following day, since it was a stupid mistake that let me to this result. I was still confident that I would be able to make a very good NO FINS dive..

Day Seven – mentally down and tired
I started out to do a new 71 meters dive, but I was cold, mentally tired and had no desire to dive…still I prepared for the dive, went to the line and set the marker to 71 meters.But after 35 meters I turned, feeling uncomfortable, some fear and thinking to myself, what AM I doing here. I guess I should have told myself not to go, it is crazy to train so many days in a row, and I am an experienced diver. But my desire to prove that I could make the dive was bigger than my sense of reality…

Day Eight Rest day
…… wohooo…just relaxing first day of relaxing since I arrived

Day Nine – BIG DIVE DAY
World Championships Day: plus 3 meters- 74 meters..this dive would take me to a shared third place,  I have agreed with STIG PRYDS  that we both should go for 74 meters – and thereby cancelling the possibility to over announce our own dives to beat each other. We did however announce deeper than the current Nordic Record.

I was very happy with my announcement – It had this satisfyingly uneasiness in my body when I woke up – not too much not to little – just the right tension to keep me 100 % focused in my preparations and my doings up to the dive.

On the line – happy and focused – alle prepared and ready. I had to gain good speed before my freefall – my Suunto D6i went off at 27 meters – I took two more strokes and felt the speed was sufficient.  I felt a happiness in my mind – I was freefalling with an ok speed…coooool..Just flying down and smiling

Since I am diving below 100 meters  – equalizing to 74  meters is no problem for me – and I have never used any alarm to tell me when to take my last mouthfill..I can easily get a mouthfill at 50 meters in deep diving with fins.
However – at the time I wanted to take my mouthfill – just around the same time as always  by the feeling of it – NOTHING happened..no air in my mouth…I didn’t panic and remembered Williams word – ” just use the contractions to get the mouthfill” – I tried once – I tried twice – but still no air – since I had been falling these seconds when trying to take a mouthfill my ears were now ready for an equalisation – BUT I HAD NO AIR…..AAAAAARGH…
I was mentally ready – I felt great – but I could not do the one thing which I thought would be the least of my problems – EQUALISE!!.
I guess I could have ridden my ears for about ten meters – but I knew that I was nowhere near the 74 meterplate – so there fore I turned around – and just wanted to yell and let out my frustration…
It came out by  – as forceful I could – trying to pull the platform to me by doing Free Immersion all the way up – I have never been so angry with myself – such a beginners mistake.

In retrospect, I guess that is part of the beauty in freediving – as well as in life.
Just because you’re an expert in one thing – don’t think  you are just as clever in another – even if they look quite similar.
But I must say that I have found a taste for the discipline – but most of all…

…….I love the Challenge.

photo by: Daan Verhoeven

CNF jesper Kalamata