June 07, 2017

Chloe and I visited the Blue Lagoon in Pembrokeshire last week for a spot of camping and freediving. We try to go diving out in Mallorca at least once a year but the Blue Lagoon is the closest spot to practice and train for the holidays in the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean. Before we head back out, I wanted to drop a little post about freediving and why we love it. 

Freediving, at its core, is a simple sport; you dive as deep as you can for as long as you can. The activity dates back to ancient Greece where fishermen would dive up to 30 metres for minutes at a time to collect sponges and salvage treasures from sunken ships. The activity has been documented all around the globe from fishermen to warfare divers who would cut anchor chains of enemy ships. Variations on the sport have been introduced such as spearfishing, but the core techniques remain.

spearfishing

While technology and athlete fitness may have improved over the years, the sport hasn't changed much since its humble origins, except divers now descend searching for world records instead of pearls. The current world record holder, Mateusz Malina of Poland, holds the deepest dive title at an astounding 300m. To put that in perspective: If you sank the Shard building, Mateusz could meet you in the lobby for breakfast. 

By comparison, my personal best of 15m doesn't sound that impressive! 

I have been diving on and off since the age of twelve. During school, I tried my hand at SCUBA diving and gained a handful of qualifications but quickly realised the ease of freediving without the cumbersome equipment associated with self-contained underwater breathing. And so began a journey of mental training, lung capacity and bigger fins.
To date, I can hold my breath for just over four minutes in a meditative state. My next challenge is to match that time underwater for increased dive duration and depth/distance. 
There is something very freeing and natural about being underwater, especially without breathing apparatus and I still can't quite explain my fascination with diving, but perhaps this video I put together will help. 

 

No sport is without risk, and freediving is no different. There are a number of dangers to consider, but the obvious danger is lack of air. Try holding your breath now. Most people can manage 30-40 seconds without breaking a sweat. Your body has an instinctive mechanism that forces you to breath and stops you from blacking out or fainting when holding your breath. This mechanism manifests itself as an uncomfortable fidgety itch you feel when holding your breath for a prolonged period. Some freediving athletes will hyperventilate before diving and this "numbs" that instinct meaning you can comfortably hold your breath for longer, which has its perks. However, this is Dangerous! Countless divers have blacked out and died underwater because they were "numb" to the urgency for breath. 

I've found a bizarre correlation between freediving and highlining (my other vice) which has helped me to improve over the years. Both require a high level of fitness and technique. Both also require a zen-like mental state to perform. And both activities see me floating (or dangling in the case of highlining) in the middle of nowhere with nothing but a small rope to guide me. I'm still not completely sure how either sport has benefited the other, if at all. But the resemblance is uncanny.

I'm hoping to return to Mallorca later this year to put my increased fitness to the test in deeper, clearer (and warmer) water. Check back soon for an update! 

Swim safe x

mallorca waterline

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