In September, I dove in my first freediving competition at Singapore’s Depth Championships held near Amed, Bali, and it was undoubtedly an experience of a lifetime. It was a fantastic experience for many reasons – overcoming fears, the excitement of a competition, the location and ambience. But most of all, it was the community that made it really special. Over the years, I’ve done a lot of sports and a number of competitions from skiing to rock climbing to triathlons and trail running, but none of these sports garners the community of freediving.
I arrived on a Saturday, five days before the comp at the Apnea Bali studio. They were hosting the competition and was the center of all the comp related activities. I walked in and was immediately accepted into the group of instructors, students, athletes and long term residents who have made freediving a way of life. I was planning to train, but before I knew it I was heading off for a group fun-dive on the Liberty wreck.
Over the course of the ten days, I met many great divers, including national record holders from all parts of the globe, and noted they all (we all) celebrated each other’s successes. Whether you dive to -15m or -105m, we were all part of one community – as Adam Stern calls it “the freediving family.” There wasn’t any arrogance or any stupid questions, just a lot of support and help as we all make our way along our personal journey that is freediving.
Since I started diving in January, I’ve been doing a lot of diving between Singapore and the Philippines – pool diving in Singapore and depth near Manila. I’ve been very lucky to have this opportunity as the two types of training really complement each other. In fact, pool training really helped my depth training more than vice-versa. That’s because when pool train, you get used to contractions, CO2 tolerance and hypoxia. And when, you take the anxiety of contractions and hypoxia out of the depth equation (or at least reduce it), then you can really focus on relaxation and equalization, which were a real challenges for me.
The three days of the competition were excellent. The first was a bit nerve wracking just because you are really in public, on the dive line with judges, safeties and athletes watching. And you have the pressure of having to perform at a given time, rather than when you feel like it. But you find your routine of eating, stretching, taking the boat to the platform, warming up and performing which is calming. You also relax as you get to know the other athletes and participate in the celebratory splashing of new records, new PBs and great efforts.
With the end of the competition, we all celebrated. We celebrated our successes and where we didn’t reach our goals, we celebrated our efforts as we looked to understand how to improve. We shared stories and advice and at the afterparty we did a lot more. But what happens at a the afterparty stays at the afterparty.
I highly recommend that all freedivers try a competition. The things you’ll learn, the people you’ll meet, the challenges you’ll overcome, will all have a lasting impact.