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Do I Need To Do a Freediving Course

Freediving is a very easy sport to get into. Many freedivers and spearfishers get into the sport by learning from friends and family, but this can carry serious risks if they’re not learning from a qualified instructor. Freediving appears to be relatively simple, but there is a lot of information on safety, physiology and technique to learn and it is easy to get wrong. Read more…

Split shot of two free divers training in sea with buoy

 

Read More on Deeperblue where this article was posted…

 

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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.

2013-05-20 001 2013-05-20 024

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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Freediving at Tobermory, June 25-27, 2010

Saturday started with dark grey sky and heavy rain, which stopped only at around 9 am. First 2 dives were from the shore. Temp varied from “almost balmy” 18C on the surface to not so hot 12-14C at depth. My 5 mil Elios did very well and it was more the enough to stay in water for a long time.  Feet would need some extra protection though. We checked Little Tub in the morning and Lighthouse point mid day where fog was setting pretty heavy at times, so we were not sure if boat trip was indeed happening, but at ~3pm Francois got a call from boat operator and we headed out off shore to check on 2 wrecks at 4 pm. First one was JAMES C. KING at Depth: 7 to 30 m and second – HILO SCOVILLE Depth: 7 to 30 m. Both are listed as “recommended for advanced divers only”. Visibility was pretty good, at least 10-12 m, and when sun showed up it became even better. Skies cleared up completely by the end of our boat excursion with picture perfect sunset to enjoy.
I was not diving on Sunday, but pretty sure everybody had a great time at Grotto. Looking forward to do this again (and again, and again!)

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Start of the Freedive Season

The first 2010 open water freedive trip was scheduled for May 8-9th to Tobermory Ontario. The air temperature reached a high of 3 Deg. C. The water temperature was closer to 2 Deg. C. That would not normally be enough to put us off diving but the wind were gusting to 100 Km/hour and it was snowing. So we decided that it was time to move on and focus on the next scheduled trip.

So as a reminder for June:

June 5th – Big Bay Point, Lake Simco (BBQ on the point after the dive)
June 26-27th – Tobermory (Camping and Freediving)

To wet your appetite for Tobermory with the help of Chris Kanavos we put together a quick video of a previous Tobermory trip. Enjoy!

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bb0MONlaJZg]
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Freedive Toronto Mini Competition – Phase I

 Freedive Toronto Mini Comp Phase I - Dynamic with fins

Phase one of the Freedive Toronto Mini Comp was held this Monday March 8th 2010. It was a great success and attended by 10 divers competing in the discipline of dynamic with fins.

For several of the competitors it was the first competition they attended, and it gave them the chance to try to prepare for a competition, get their weighting tested and practice surface protocol after the stress and fatigue of competing.

Yaroslava took first place for the woman with a solid performance of 78m. Unfortunately there were only one woman competing, but we all know Yaro can do a lot more and I think she will do very well in her next competition.

Dmitry ended up winning the event for the men with a solid performance of 100 meters which was very impressive since he was over weighted and twice had to use his arms to swim away from the bottom.

Second place was taken by Aaron Wood, who came up with lots of air left and a very solid surface protocol. Aaron said he was a bit tired that day and wasn’t sure if he could go further and it is better to get less points than none.

Third place went to Wojciech who also had a very clean surface protocol and I think he also left room for improvement at the upcoming nationals.

Two people made mistakes on the surface protocol and will need some practice, because both were clean and could have pulled it off with more experience. We had a single LMC, which was Graham’s first and provided a little spice and entertainment to the spectators, since he still finished his surface protocol and gave the camera a big smile.

The event safety was Doug Sitter who had no issues keeping the competitors safe.

Thanks to everyone for competing, and I hope to see you all next Monday the 22nd for Phase II.

Soren Frederiksen

Results: http://freedivecentral.com/a-results.php?num_competicao=89

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Enjoy Freediving

This blog has been started to describe the joys of freediving to people who know little or nothing about this great sport. There will be several freedivers contributing to the blog to bring different view points to life.

I often get asked what the atraction to freediving is? For me it is the feeling I have when I dive, which is difficult to describe, but I hope you will get several answers to this question if you keep reading.

The next question I usually get is about the safety during freediving. We spend considerable time training safety procedures, instructing safety to new members of our local club FreediveToronto and discussing pool and open water safety. I hope that the coming entries will show you that freediving done correctly is a very safe sport.

We just spent more than 6 months training and preparing for being safety divers at the upcoming AIDA Freediving World Championship in Bahamas. Most of the writing for the next 3 weeks will be about the preparation for this event and the event itself.