Four Minutes in The Ocean

This is an updated version of a post I did in 2014 for Erin Magee’s

I’m sitting here in our condos with Andrew Hogan on Monday, May 19, 2013, two days after the end of Deja Blue V. We’re the stragglers, tying up some loose ends before heading off for SF and Vancouver.

Deja Blue was a great experience as always. Deja Blue III in 2012 featured Ashley’s world records and Erin’s national records, as well as the national records of our late friend Nic. Logan Mock-Bunting published a fantastic photo essay about the competition on CNN. This year’s competition didn’t feature as many deep dives, but was still a great success.

Part of my own personal approach to freediving is represented in this photo.

40.5 crop

On any given day, after we prepare the diving rig for competition, we have some time do our own warmups. Depending on the day, we may have time to do a couple of deep dives.

The dive recorded on this watch expresses, quite succinctly, my approach, philosophy, and skills with respect to this sport. It says 40.5m (133ft) and 4 minutes, 5 seconds, which was my longest warmup free immersion dive in Cayman this year.

The reason I enjoy teaching freediving and doing safety work is because they are forms of functional freediving. I’ve never been able to dive super deep— I have some equalizing issues that make it difficult for me to easily get beyond 40m. While I’m sure I could dive deeper than my PB of 50m, it would take quite a bit of work for limited reward. These sorts of issues are not uncommon. People have different physical idiosyncracies, and equalizing/ear issues are foremost among them.

However, I do have the capacity to dive 30-40m meters in a very useful way. I can go to those depth and carry out tasks such as tying off a line or supervising a student with ease. I’m especially known for being able to dive to 30m at the drop of a hat, and did so at Deja Blue III up to a dozen times a day. I can also equalize without pinching my nose to that depth, which makes it easier to carry objects such as a camera, or to dive fast to catch a dropped object.

As I passed this photo around at Deja Blue, I was surprised by how impressed people were by it. Even national record holders who have gone 80m+, were uncertain that they could do the same. I think they probably could, but the fact that they thought it was more than trivial was gratifying.

We freedivers know that pretty much most of the general population has the capacity to dive hundreds of feet and to hold their breath for several minutes. So while many people could learn to dive 40 meters for 4 minutes, I guess I can safely say that very few actually have. Someday I may try solve a Rubik’s Cube down there.

Along these lines, my favorite freediving video of all time is the one Ren Chapman filmed two years ago, of Kirk Krack blowing bubble rings, very casually, at 20m. It shows that freediving doesn’t have to be an extreme sport. It can just be graceful and intimate way of exploring the ocean.

And that is what appeals to me about this sport. The experience of learning to operate comfortably in a seemingly alien environment is immensely rewarding. It’s the closest thing to a space walk that I’ll ever experience. I am grateful to be able to share this experience with other people, and to use my skills to make students and dive competitors feel safe and attended to.