Finally I made my first 40 meters free dive (constant weight)! Again we dived mainly off the rocks of the monastery in Thassos. We spent 4 days there and everyone made either a personal best or caught some good fishes, so it was just great. Now I have a hard time getting back to work and meeting the tight deadlines… I spend too much time thinking of the great dives and buddies.
In short, how I organized my 4 days of diving – on the first day: some easy dives with hangs at the bottom; second day – serial dives to 25-28 meters with long surface intervals and a lot of swimming on the surface with the buoy, rope and weights…;on the third day I swam a lot to find greater depths and got a bit tired and gave up the idea of doing deeper dives; yesterday before our departure to Sofia we had the chance to use a boat (Big thanks to Ceco!). The day started with some rain and clouds but at noon everything was fine and we cheered up. We found easily 45 meters off the rocks and set up the line. This was the second time we unrolled the whole length of the rope (I’m using my old climbing rope which is about 42 m long). I was diving with Mitko and each of us followed his own warm-up routine. I did several dives to 25 m, some shallower dives,and a few 30+ m. Mitko did a nice dive (pb) despite the noise of the ship passing nearby. Then it was my turn to dive. I felt relaxed, but my legs were tired from the previous days…still I knew I could dive to 40 meters and come up fresh. Again I managed to calm down and visualize the whole dive in a positive manner.
After the duck dive, I kicked a bit too hard and I heard the alarm at 30m a bit sooner than usual; equalization was fine, at 35 m I looked at my divewatch, closed my eyes and reached the 40 m mark. I felt I could’ve gone deeper and hit the bottom, but these depths are unexplored for me and I’d better proceed gradually and gain more experience in the 35+ to 40 range. I felt okay during the ascent, Mitko again was waiting for me at 10 m and I surfaced still fresh and smiling – my new pb – 40 m. The whole dive took 1:20 which is a bit fast, but I’ll reduce the weights on the belt next time – 3,6 kg are more than enough for 7mm trousers and a 5mm jacket. The dive felt good despite my tired legs, and it seems that I’ve learned to relax and concentrate better than before. Also, setting some specific goals for each training/diving session works great because it reminds me why I’m there and helps me focus on the task. I think it’s crucial to define for myself what I want to achieve/experience in freediving and just make and enjoy the necessary steps…
The Skandalopetra games start tomorrow in Lindos, Rhodes island and will last till 28.06. Last week I found by chance the SKANDALOPETRA group in Facebook and learned more about this event. Organizers are The Free Diving Association of Thessaloniki, the Municipality of Lindos (Rhodes-GR), Apnea Academy Competition and Apnea Evolution Hellas.
Unfortunately I won’t be able to participate…I’m sure it’s going to be great since I’d dived many times at St. Paul bay in Lindos last summer. And I was lucky to meet the guys from Apnea Evolution and Dr. Nikolas Triklis (the organizer of Skandalopetra events) and try this ancient technique. I’ll tell you more about this experience in the next paragraphs.
It was in mid September 2008 – I had just started my (long) vacation. I arrived in Rhodes by chance – Diana, a friend of mine, departed with the intention to stay there for 2 weeks and invited me to come by. I also planned to stay for 2-3 weeks which turned out to be 45 days…(I started a part time job to cover some of the expenses). Rhodes island is a great place not only because of its rich history, but for the diving sites and the clear blue water.
One day I headed with Diana to a city called Lindos, (I’d heard that the nearby St.Paul bay is a nice place for diving). It really was – I did some freediving in the calm and crystal clear water when I noticed 3 divers with a round buoy approaching. At first I thought they were spearfishermen, but soon I realized they all wore C4 fins and Elios suits and didn’t have spearguns…obviously freedivers. That’s how I met Rosarita, Alessandro and Antonio from Apnea Evolution. They set up a line for constant weight and kindly invited me to join and reminded me that solo freediving is dangerous. I couldn’t believe it was real – I had arrived at the right place at the right time and met some great people! Rosarita and Antonio told me that on the next few days they were going to practice ‘skandalopetra’ diving with Nikolas Triklis and suggested me to join them. Honestly, at that time I knew nothing about skandalopetra…
On the next two days I had the opportunity to dive with Alessandro, Rosarita, Nikolas Triklis and a large Italian group of freedivers who had come on ‘Apnea vacation’ in Rhodes. I learned what skandalopetra is (a variable ballast dive using a 12 kg stone tied to a rope. A companion on a boat recovers the diver pulling the rope after the descent; you can learn more about skandalopetra here and why not join the FB group?). I did some dives – it was a bit strange in the beginning to dive without a mask and a wetsuit, but soon the joy of falling down with the stone made me forget about the cold. The second day of skandalopetra diving happened to be my birthday and I think that diving with these people was the greatest present. I still remember vividly the feeling of these dives and the positive people around me.
I won’t be able to come to the Games starting tomorrow, but I’ll definitely participate in skandalopetra events some day (maybe in Kalimnos).
Finally I have the time to write about our last freediving trip to Thassos. As I mentioned in earlier post, last Saturday was supposed to be a ‘max static’ day, but we headed for Greece again…The drive is a bit long but it’s definitely worth it.
On the first day we dived near Pothos, setting the line at 30-32 meters. I was a bit tired and did some 30m dives without pushing too much and staying at the bottom. I wanted to be fresh for the next day and attempt 35+ meters…
Well, on Sunday I hadn’t done any dives deeper than 25m for two reasons. First, we enetered the water from a nice beach, but we had to swim 30 minutes just to find 25m, the 35-40 m depth was not close at all, especially when we had to drag the buoy with weight and rope…And second, my buddy Di had some equalization problems and was not able to dive comfortably and wait for me at 10 m after a deeper dive. As a responsible person, I decided to dive deeper next time (in two weeks maybe) and do practice dives to 25m. I’m used to this kind of situatons when you have to do practice dives (shallower) instead of a performance dive…safety comes first.
Otherwise I felt great. I used a 5mm Cressi Technica vest and my 7mm (tailor made) trousers from Elios (and fewer weights). Equalization was fine, with some minor problems but I still couldn’t dive with both arms extented past my head…Hands free equalizing is one of the tricks that I have to learn to enjoy better freediving with the monofin… Later on that day I entered the water with my camera (wearing bifins) and took some macro pictures of small fishes and other creatures whose names I don’t know. When I have the time I’ll process and upload some of them in the gallery.
P.S I’ve just read that Stephan Mifsud did a 11:35 static (new world record)! Simply amazing! Well, I’m not even halfway there…
I had not planned another freediving trip this month, but when Ceco and Mitko suggested going to Thassos I didn’t hesitate too much. We arrived on Thursday and spent 3 days on the island. The other guys knew the good places and we had the chance to visit them with the boat.
We arrived on Thursday in the afternoon and immediately went into the water. I dived with Mitko at shallower dephts, exploring the marine life. The visibility was good but I didn’t take any pictures…just made some videos of Mitko passing through an arch and doing funny things while surfacing. Mitko had not slept well the previous night and went to the shore with the camera…Half an hour later, when I headed for the shore I noticed a small octopus on the sandy bottom. As I touched him, he tried to escape and released lots of ink, but I managed to catch him gently and bring it to the shore (my camera was there). We took some pictures and returned the octopus to the sea – he was very scared by that time. I’ll remember this encounter because it was the first time I managed to take pictures of these creatures .
On the other day we visited a few dive sites with the boat. Again I was diving with Mitko but this time we set up a line and did some repetitive dives. After a short warm-up I did several 30 m CW dives and then went to the bottom at 33 m – that was a new personal best for me. The dive felt great – I was relaxed, equalizing easily and freefalling straight down the rope. I felt that if I had not hit the bottom I could have gone deeper, but I was pleased with 33 meters and decided to try 35 m on the next day.
On Saturday we went to a small island, but there were some currents and we moved to another site where we saw a lot of fish. It wasn’t deep enough to set up a line for constant weight dives, so I just tried to relax and equalize with the techniques that I’d been learning recently. I also did several dives to 15-17 m withought a weighbelt – a good exercise for practicing the duck dive (wearing a full 7 mm wetsuit with thick socks and gloves). Later we went to the rocks near the monastery and finally set up the line for constant weight dives. After several dives I tried 35 meters . I went down, equlizing easily, at 25 m I felt the thermocline, then heard the dive alarm at 30 and soon I even passed the end of the rope. I looked at my divewatch and saw 35.8 m – a new personal best! I headed up and felt relaxed – at 10 m my buddy was waiting for me – and I surfaced feeling great, with more air in me. I was happy not because of the PB, but of the whole dive – it was one of the greatest dives I’ve ever made! Big thanks to Mitko – he was safetying me (perfect timing!) in a way that made me feel more relaxed. I’m sure that I’ll reach 40 meters soon – I even thought about doing that on the same day, but it’s better to progress gradually and focus on feeling good.
So, in June I’ll do more dives below 30 meters and if I have the chance to dive more often – I’ll attempt 40 m. After the last few days of diving, I’m convinced I can do that…
It’s been over a month since I last went freediving, so when the Easter holiday came, we decided to head up for Halkidiki, Greece (it’s less than 400 km from Sofia). We spent 3 nice days there.
Since I was training mainly in the pool (and some gym sessions) I had to approach depth carefully, especially during the first two days. Luckily I had a dive buddy and a rope this time. On the first day I did some easy 20 m dives and played around with my underwater camera. Equalization was OK, obviously the exercises that I’ve been doing lately are worth the time. But still, I cannot equalise hands free and this compromises to a great extent my monofinning technique while going down .
On the second and third day I felt confident and did several 30 m dives that felt great. This actually is close to my PB in constant weight – since I was novice and diving alone most of the time during last season, I was extremely cautious and had never pushed myself to the limit. Last October I was going easily to 25+ m and I knew that I can make 30+ meters when a dive buddy is around. So, I just went down the rope and did it – relaxed and confident. Di, my buddy, couldn’t equalize well, so I ended the ‘deep’ dives and again went to shallow depths with my camera. I tried hard to get an octopus out of his den and capture it on picture, but he was very shy (and scared of my rather rude interference) and stayed there. I have to rethink my strategy of getting close to those creatures .
Now I am training in the pool and looking forward to the 6 days of holidays in the beginning of May. Probably we’ll be heading for Gokceada (a Turkish island in the Aegean). I have to work on my equalization technique till then, cause I would like to attempt (gradually of course) 35 m. At this depth (35-40m) free divers often run out of air to equalize with, so more sophisticated techniques than the Valsalva are needed.At 32 m I felt that I have more air to equalise, even with my crappy technique (though I’m not 100% sure what I’m doing is pure Valsalva).
I’ll keep you updated about my progress and experiences. And I promise to upload some nice pics and videos, too.