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Freeze Dive 2017 – Ice diving in Canada

Freedivers gathering at Morrison Quarry for the 9th annual Freeze Dive.

Ice diving is a bit cold, but a great experience. It is an interesting feeling being under the ice. The light coming through the holes and through the ice itself combined with the bubbles under the ice play with your senses.

Crawling along under the ice and having a ceiling above you while diving is a great way to test how calm you are while diving. You know it is only 5-10 seconds to the nearest hole, but will your rational mind be in charge.

Take a course with us and come out and try ice diving next year.

Thanks to our friends at CASM for organizing this great day.

 

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William Winram 145m Freediving World Record (VWT)

This is the full video of William Winram’s world record from September 3rd 2013. Congratulation again to our good friend and inspiring mentor.

It was a privilege to be a part of the safety team and see how well William prepared physically and mentally for this event. The organization and safety preparation were very well planned and executed which I have written more about here.

More information:

http://williamwinram.com
www.facebook.com/WilliamWinramPage
www.twitter.com/williamwinram

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William Winram – Freediving World Record – 145m Variable

On September 3rd 2013 William completed an amazing world record dive to 145m in a category called variable weight. I was honoured to be one of the safety divers at this event and got a first hand experience of all that goes on.

The safety team consisted of Andrea Zuccari at 50-60m on scooter, 3 technical divers along the line all the way to the bottom and fellow Canadian Natalie Doduc and myself at 20 and 25 meters.

Natalie and I have dove together several times before and Andrea is extremely experienced and professional, which made it easy during the dive preparations. Everyone knew their tasks which meant we didn’t have to communicate very much and could keep the performance area as calm as possible for William.

All that said it can’t be helped that the setting is busy. There is a doctor and medical staff, platform organizer, photographers, technical divers, safety divers, judges and spectators.

It is impressive how William can keep his mental focus with everything going on around him before the dive.

William breathing up for variable world record

Being a safety is not that hard if everything goes well, as it did on all William’s warm-up dives and the world record itself. It is still very important to always prepare and breathe up, because you need to prepare for the case where the dive goes wrong and you might need to dive deeper than planned or stay longer under water. My safety depth was 25 meters and I could expect to wait at the bottom for 10 –30 seconds. In all the safety dives we did with William we never exceeded the planned hang time and never needed to go deeper than planned.

William going down with the sled in a warmup dive

Safetying for a world record does add more alertness, because you know how much training, effort and money goes into an event like this. I came up fairly close to William from 25 meters as I needed to make sure he was ok, but I was very conscious of keeping enough distance so I wouldn’t touch him which would get him disqualified. It was evident all the way up that he was strong and wouldn’t need our help. When we broke the surface William completed the surface protocol very quickly and continued to breathe easily. Another dive where the safeties luckily didn’t need to intervene.

From the picture below it is easy to see the happiness for William and his wife Michèle after the successful record attempt.

William and Michele after record

The organizational job of Andrea and Sergio from Freediving World was incredible. Normally as a safety diver you are asked to help with lots of things, but for this event everything was so well organized and Sergio handled everything on the platform, while Andrea took care of the sled and everything in the water.

Andrea has been coaching William for a long time helping him with equalization and the results speaks for them selves. It is clear to see that the friendship between them also helped William reach his goal.

I have started the equalization course at Freediving World, with Andrea and will be going back for the second class today.

Below Andrea can be seen holding the sign with William.

William and Andrea just after world record

As extra safety on this deep dive three tech divers were stationed at various depths along the line with the deepest at the bottom. Below are the three technical divers on a deco stop afterwards. The deepest of the divers Jim Dowling on the left were on a re-breather and was fascinating to talk to about his gear and the decompression needed to come up safely.

Technical divers on deco stop after world record

What a great event to be a part of and a privilege to witness this first-hand and meet so many skilled people.

Links to other posts about the World Record:

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Audrey Mestre Film – “No Limits”

The ESPN documentary film “No Limits” that aired 23rd July 2013 has been made available online via Vimeo.

There was lots of controversy surrounding  Audrey Mestre’s death and two books have been written about the event:

1) The Last Attempt

2) The Dive: A Story of Love and Obsession

I have read both books and find that the “Last Attempt” is the most believable and best written. If you only want to read one of the them choose “The Last Attempt”

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Man v seal: How we compare with our marine cousins

Scientists from the University of Liverpool have published research that explains how marine mammals, including seals and whales, hold their breath for so long.

The research reveals how the oxygen-storing capacity of mammals muscles has been changed by millions of years of evolution.

Read more…

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Caribbean Cup 2013 – Freediving Competition from a safety’s perspective

I am back in Toronto after 10 great days in Roatan, Honduras where I was safety diver at the Caribbean Cup. On the plane home I tried to think about the best take away from the competition in Roatan. Is it the amazing athletic achievements which most people consider super human? Is it the great diving in crystal blue water? Is it learning from so many knowledgeable freedivers? Is it bonding with the other safeties on a small platform for 7 hours each day or is it meeting so many passionate and truly nice people? I came to the conclusion that it is a marvelous combination of all of the above, and also having a front row seat to all the warm-ups and performances.

The women in the competition were: DeeDee Flores, Elisabeth Mattes, Iru Balic, Kerry Hollowell, Sofia Gomez.

The men in the competition were: Alejandro Lemus, Carlos Correa, Carlos Coste, Daniel Arias, Nicholas Mevoli, Robert King, Ryuzo Shinomiya, Sebastian Alamosa, Steve Benson, Walid Boudhiaf, William Winram, Yuri Krainov

Everyone at the party

I will not be writing much about all the great performances by these amazing athletes, because it has been done by lots of other people, but I will try to describe what a competition is like for a safety diver.

Our days started at 5:30 with the alarm clock waking us up at sunrise. Three of us: Marc, Natalie and I, shared an apartment and it made for a great morning together discussing what and how much to eat for breakfast and talking about the days performances, the weather and how long we expected the day to be and what to bring for snack and what to drink on the platform. We started safetying on the 19th of May, which was a day before the competition officially started and met on the beach at 6:30 each morning to get the platform rigged up, dragged out and attached to the mooring. (Ren and Ashley had already been organizing and safetying the training for a few weeks when we got there – You guys ROCK).

Going to the beach in the morning

I normally started the morning by diving into the warm blue water to get the platform untied from the moorings and swim it back to the beach. Because we are freedivers (and we didn’t have enough rope), we tied up to the anchors screwed into the bottom under the water and needed to dive into the water each day. Below is a picture of Esteban and me screwing his anchor into the sand, which was too hard to do without a little helping air.

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The platform was floated to the beach and the crew and all the gear boarded and we swam the platform out a little so we could connect to a boat. Every night we removed all competition rope from the platform and stored it at the Bananarama Dive shop which was open early each morning so we could get the rope back.

As soon as we were attached to a boat, we started rigging the lines, which quickly became a routine and most days all lines would be ready before we got halfway to the mooring spot.

Safties on platform waiting

Esteban had dropped a 500 kg cement block at 500 feet of water which we anchored to the first day. A big glass bottom boat and another boat also anchored to this mooring during our training days, which worked until the wind picked up and we started (without knowing it) dragging the heavy cement anchor after us. We thought that the strong wind had just pulled the ropes under water and because of the strong wind and current we just needed to free the large boat from the mooring and only leave the platform attached. The ropes were too tight to untie so we had to cut them and saw to our horror that the lines disappeared into the deep. We had lost the large anchor block to the deep.

We made the decision to float the platform in the current so people could still train which worked well except for the wind picked up at the end of the day which cause some drag on the dive lines and we ended up quite far from the beach.

The next few days, we tried to tie up to a mooring closer to the beach and run a long rope out to the platform and the glass bottom boat, which worked well because the current was away from the beach and we stayed nicely in deep water.

When the actual competition dives started the glass bottom boat was changed out with the much bigger catamaran. This caused us a little re-rigging and we were all somewhat nervous about the amount of pull we would get from the Cat. On the second comp day Esteban dropped new cement anchors and we used the mooring close to the beach and this new mooring to anchor the platform. We then tied the stern of the cat to either side of the platform, which created a great comp zone. This setup worked well until the last day of the comp, where the waves and current picked up a lot and the current changed direction. We tried to attached in a similar manner as the other days, but the weighted lines had too great of an angle to use for diving.

After tried tying up to the moorings in different ways we decided to postpone the comp for an hour, drag the platform down the beach and then drift with the current which that day was along the beach. This wasn’t ideal, but the best we could do under the conditions and only a few of the deeper dives were affected. With the rig floating and the high waves, we still had 4 national records on the last day.

A lot was learned about how to anchor a platform off the beach of Roatan under different weather conditions, but I think the diving here was very good for the athletes, which can be seen by amazing string of national records and a world record dive with Bi-fins.

We did not have a lot of blackouts during the comp and only one below 10 meters, which must mean that the athletes weren’t too stressed. Many of the divers even had enough left in the tank to smile to the safeties on the way up. Iru and Sofia do take the best smiles during accent award, because of their amazing smiles when we met them at 20 or 30 meters. As a safety there is nothing better than seeing competitors enjoying their dives.

We had two warm-up lines on the back of the platform which did mean that divers had to watch their head on accent, but this was the best way to assure that all the lines stayed separated. Having two warm-up lines seemed to be enough and only a few times did I see athletes sharing a line.

The platform was a little crowded at some points, but then us mean safeties would step in and throw anyone off who wasn’t diving next or wasn’t part of the crew. The catamaran was always close and there were always plenty of rope to hold on to in the water. The platform held up very well and supported more than 15 people at one point and 10 people most of the time that were working, relaxing, breathing up or judging from it. Esteban built this platform in his garage and he did an outstanding job.

The catamaran provided a very stable viewing platform and allowed the athletes to comfortably relax before and after their dives. Most days there were also family members, friends and a few strangers watching the dives from Captain Dave’s beautiful boat. After a few days when we got fast at setting up the lines the safeties would join Captain Dave and crew for 30 min of relaxing before the first athletes showed up. One day the weather cleared up and we had a beautiful view of all the mountains in Honduras.

Chilling on the catamaran before the diving starts

Diving as a safety is something we all took very seriously and on the training days when we were all getting to know each other we ran through scenarios and tried to rescue each other on the surface and from depth. So everyone knew their spots and what to do in case of an emergency we wrote down 5 roles and specified the tasks for each of the roles, before, during and after a dive. Because all of us had not safetied together before, this allowed us to quickly get on the same page and we had no misunderstandings during the comp. We would in the morning and afternoon discuss what could be improved, but the last several days the afternoon discussions was replaced with more of a celebration after a long day and Captain Dave was very kind and provided us with a beer on the platform as we were being dragged to shore – Thanks for this kind gesture Dave.

We would each have 25 – 35 dives per day down to between 10 – 35 meters. Each dive would last 40 sec to 1 min 10 seconds, if everything went to plan. Most of those dives were fairly easy and I found all of those very enjoyable and after a few days the dives could be done with almost no breath up. For all dive we did do lengthy rest and breath up, because it would be needed for the dives were we had deep rescues or when the athlete had underestimated the time needed to complete their dive. We had created a great rotation which allowed us to switch between the roles after each dive and allow some rest after longer dives, so we could continue to be fresh the whole day.

5 safety divers seemed perfect for this size of event. We could handle the rotation with 4 safeties, where 3 were on the comp line and one person on the two warm up lines.  The third safety luckily never needed to dive in an emergency, but was backup in case of one or two couldn’t equalize or they ran out of air waiting for the diver. Number three was also used to keep an eye on all the other divers in the water, making sure the boats didn’t get to close and to keep track of the dive time. We did have a lung squeeze which took a safety out of the water for a day and a reverse block removing another safety for a day and a half. It was these days where a team of 5 was mostly needed, so the comp could continue with no one noticing.

Working each day from 6:30 and ending the day between 13:30 and 14:30 did make us tired, but this is a great way to spend a vacation and can be highly recommended. Our Safety Team lunches we had at Bananarama after getting back to the beach and all the time we spent together on the platform I treasure and several moments will go into the permanent memory bank.

The dives as a safety is not all that deep, but we got a chance in the morning during our warm up to get in some training for ourselves. The incredible clear blue water of Roatan is a pleasure to dive in and I personally loved to drop into the blue with the competition line, when it was lowered for the first competitor of the day. I also remember a few warm-ups hangs on day 3 and 4 where I just didn’t seem to need air any longer.  Hanging on a line looking up on the activity around the platform I remember the feeling of complete peace, which is one of the reasons I freedive.

Platform from below

Being on or around the platform all day allow the safeties a great perspective into all divers preparation, mental state and how they cope differently with the sometimes stressful pre-dive moments. It was extremely interesting to see how some divers consistently were able to block out their surroundings and focus on what they needed to do. As safeties we would routinely talk about all the dives at the end of the day and the announcements before the days started, which helped us know which dives to pay extra attention to and also get to know the divers better. Knowing the divers routines, facial expressions and body language greatly helps in knowing when to step in if a diver need rescue or maybe just a helping hand on the platform or at the surface before a dive to keep divers comfortable and less stressed. As a safety diver it is also great to know what people like and expect from us at depth. Do they prefer us to be at 20 or 30 meters, do they prefer grouper calls (Sorry Iru, will never happen again) and do the like us to tell them the depth with our fingers. I suggest that all competitors make this clear to their coach, who can then discuss with the safeties and agree on what happens under water and give the diver better peace of mind knowing precisely what will happen. If nothing was requested, we would meet divers with targets swallower than 60 meters at 20 meters and the rest at 30 meters with grouper calls and no depth signals on the way up.

Nick after doing 100 m

To summarize the experience of being a safety in Roatan can be done by me already wanting to book my ticket again for next year. Esteban had a dream about having a comp in Roatan and he carried this out very well and put so much heart into this which was felt in all aspects of the competition. The personal touch of inviting us all back to his place for a dinner on the beach, the tremendous energy level he always displayed and the huge hugs we all got on the final day set the stage for a great comp. Roatan is a great place for a comp, with great accommodations, lots of water taxis and dive boats, a beautiful beach and very friendly people always willing to help. This was a great competition and think it will be even better next year.

Safety Crew on Platform

Thanks to Esteban for making this happen and to all the volunteers we got to hang out with every day

Soren Frederiksen

One of the safety divers

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2nd day of competition in Roatan

The 2nd day of competition is now complete and this was the best day so far. Esteban work hard on getting new moorings dropped in 500 feet of water, so we could securely anchor the platform and the great big Catamaran. The viewing platform from the catamaran was very close to the comp zone so people on the boat could follow the action and cheer for the athletes.

Roatan 2nd Day Competition
Roatan 2nd Day

William Winram had a great dive to 91.7 meters with bi fins, even though he came up just short of his 96 meter goal.

William Winram warming up
William Winram warming up

This day worked well for everyone, because the wind cooperated with us and the swell wasn’t too big and there was almost no current. The safety team is working well together now, since we have had 5 days of all working together. It is a pleasure to work with the four other safety divers: Ashley Chapman, Ren Chapman, Natalie Doduc and Marc Beaudet. After the 6 hours on and in the waters we all head to Bananarama for lunch.

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Caribbean Cup 2013 – Roatan Freediving is starting tomorrow

My first day in the water today as safety diver was a pleasure since we could see people down to 30 meters and the water was 28 degrees.

Most competitors came out to this pre-competition diving day and all systems worked well. The platform built by Esteban, worked flawlessly and held up fine when we at one point had 12 people on it.

I am looking forward to the official competition warm-ups starting tomorrow and the competition starting on May 23rd.

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Competition Platform

 

We are staying at Infinity Bay with my family, two other safety divers and a competitor. One suite is big enough for all of us and we only have a quick 5 min boat ride to the platform. Beautiful island and a great resort. This is looking like we will have a great competition.

Roatan - Infinity Bay Resort
Infinity Bay Resort – View from the hotel
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Family Snorkeling on Roatán, Honduras

We have just come pack from our great family vacation on Roatán, Honduras. We were joined on the trip by our good friends, whom we have traveled with before and the ages of our combined 4 kids are 6-11 years old.

In the West Bay of Roatan there is easy access to great snorkeling. As can be seen from the video below all our kids came out with us and enjoyed all the fish, coral reef and variety of life we got to see in the ocean.

The staff at the Henry Morgan resort were we stayed in West Bay were very friendly, the food was good and I can only recommend the island to any family who wants to enjoy a vacation in or close to the ocean.

Roatan Wikipedia

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Interview with Tanc Sade – New Australia National Record Holder

Tanc was interviewed on Fox Sports about his new National Record in Dynamic and represents the sport very well.

Congrats to Tanc for his new record.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=K1-g1nsljFw]