Lubomir Stefanoff | freediving and UW photography

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Old school Russian monofin

by on Sep.23, 2009, under Training

Today I tried my new monofin – a genuine Russian monofin for finswimming, made some 10 years ago or even more… It’s a gift from Stefan Todorov (renowned underwater video operator and former champion in underwater orienteering). I turned 25 a few days ago and that was a great surprise :)
Russian monofin - back Russian monofin - frontThe monofin was crafted from first class fiberglass material. The rubber footpockets are a bit damaged but that could be easily fixed.
This morning I tested it in the pool. The footpockes are fairly tight (maximizing efficiency) but still feel great, as if the monofin is an extension of the feet! Only I have to wear some fabric (special socks for finswimming?) to prevent blisters. The blade is a bit stiff – it’s designed for fin swimming, not dynamic apnea (supposed to be ‘long’ distance), but we’ll modify it soon.
I had not planned a training session for today, just wanted to try out the new equipment. I did an easy 50 m and felt great…the glide is longer compared to my Waterway Nemo Wing monofin. I rested for just over a minute and did another 50m…and soon I ended my 20th lap (50m) with 1:20 rest intervals inbetween, feeling really good and confident. I did not count the number of kicks…that’s on my to-do list for next week. I can clearly see the difference between open-heel footpockets (no socks necessary) and closed ones (similar to Omer Millenium). Can’t wait to try a 100+ meters dynamic with it!
Monofins pile Well, did I mention that I’ve got TWO Russian fins, not just one…The other one has a little crack right on the edge and I’ll delegate the repair works and experimentation to Volodya (spearfisherman/retired military pilot with innovative and ‘crazy’ ideas about [mono]fins design).

Enough about monofins… Tomorrow we’re heading to Porto Koufo for the Skandalopetra event…I’d better do some equalization exercises now. Stay tuned for some pics and the story behind them.

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Thassos underwater

by on Aug.26, 2009, under Freediving

For those of you who wondered why I and other friends go often for freediving in Thassos – check out this video from Ivan Totev (fellow [scuba]diver). Well, it’s not just about the easily accessible depths and being only 350 km from Sofia…

Any clues what’s that creature at 6:40-8:16?

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Leaderfins ‘carbon’ blades

by on Aug.20, 2009, under Freediving

I haven’t written for a while in my blog – everything is fine, I’m training and diving.
Some time ago a friend of mine broke his stereo fins – Leaderfins Carbon blades with Omer footpockets. It’s definitely not a pleasant experience to break a 260 EUR fins, but it was completely his fault and he admitted it.
The interesting thing is what he found out after he broke the fin:
Leaderfins 'carbon' bladed contain more fiberglass than carbon! As you can see, white layers of material (definitely fiberglass) significantly outnumber the black layers (carbon). It turned out that the ‘Carbon blades’ are not made from carbon, but from another, less expensive and lower quality material. It’s ironic, cause my friend had used those fins for two years considering them to be made from carbon…
Here is the description of these fins on Leaderfins’ website:
Carbon stereoblades with the angle in front of the blade.
The blades are available in 4 standard levels of stiffness, however we can add more stiffness upon request
The blades measurements are 20cm x 75 cm, but we can customize the dimensions according to your special request.
You can choose different kind of design for the end of the blade.
All our blades come with a one-year full warranty for materials and craftsmanship.’

I don’t see any hint pointing to the fact that they are putting more fiberglass than carbon in their ‘carbon’ blades!
leaderfins_crappy_carbon_blade Can we rely at the product’s description on the manufacturer’s website? Or we’d better break our fins to find out the truth about the materials used?
We have to do a thorough research on consumer opinion before we buy any ‘carbon blades’, especially if they are made by Leaderfins…
I got to go to the pool for my dynamic apnea session. Feel free to spread the word about the Leaderfins crap. Maybe they’ll learn a good lesson.

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Plans for the summer

by on Jul.29, 2009, under Freediving

This week I’ll go freediving…in the pool. Again, second weekend in a row. I really need to go to the sea, but that will happen in two weeks maybe. I just have lots of work to do (that’s why I don’t have the time to blog). I plan 2-3 weekend freediving trips in August and hopefully I’ll get 10 days off in the end of September/beginning of October for visiting some great Greek islands.
Freediving in mountain lakesMeanwhile I’ll continue working on my idea to dive in mountain lakes above 2000 m. I need to receive a special permission, plan a weekend with at least two fellow freedivers and go there and dive. I have some experience with mountain lakes – it’s a bit cold, but a 7 mm wetsuit and thick gloves will do. It’s a ‘cool’ experience – one is beneath some great peaks and at the same time it’s a great place for freediving. Well, there aren’t many underwater inhabitants, but still the view from the surface is magnificent and worth carrying the equipment. I plan to do deeper dives and hopefully my ears won’t complain about depth and water temperature. Anyone tried Docs Pro plugs? I might order a pair of them from the UK.
Before going to the deep lakes I want to get comfortable with 35-40 m constant weight dives, maybe a new pb (40+ mtrs) will boost my confidence. I’ve resumed some good stretching exercises that are said to help the body cope better with depth.
Well, I’m late – I have to do some dry static exercises now…I’m experimenting with more intense ‘workouts’ that are short and…not boring at all.

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Training sessions in Thassos

by on Jul.22, 2009, under Freediving

We spent last weekend freediving in Thassos (well, we traveled more than we dived but that’s another story).
This time I focused on the free fall phase and concentration during the dives. I was doing easy 25-30 meters dives and did not attempt to go deeper.
Regarding the freefall – I worked on staying streamlined and relaxed. I still turn a bit sideways, but no so often as before. It’s interesting when I focus on this issue time flies really fast and I reach the targeted depth easily…which points out the importance of being calm and concentrated. I’ve noticed that I am able to do good dives despite not being in great form – and the reason is that I am focused and all other thoughts are either left behind or just disappear after a few deep breaths. So far mental exercises weren’t among my training priorities, but now that I’ve really realized their importance I’ll start doing them on a regular basis (as physical training).
On Sunday I tried diving with my new Paradisia nose clip. Freediving without a mask is a bit uncomfortable in the beginning, but one gets quickly used to it. And I would gladly trade the good vision (with mask) for the opportunity to equalize hands free while using the monofin. It’s ok if you are using a rope…I have to remember that on ascents I’ll have to suck back the expanding air – I can feel it trying to escape through the nose and it’s annoying (I thought that I always do that, but maybe I hadn’t noticed the air escaping from my mask on ascent?). Anyway, I need to use the noseclip more often and try deeper dives (35+meters) when I feel completely comfortable with it. Theoretically, with both arms extended past my head, the better contact with water on my face, and the lack of mask to equalize I could dive deeper…I’ll test that assumption in the next few months.

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Thoughts on static apnea

by on Jul.10, 2009, under Training

Static apneaRecently I’ve been thinking more about how I do static apnea. If I have to choose what kind of freediving I’ll do in a certain day I would definitely say that it wold be constant weight with monofin. That’s what I really like, it’s practiced in the sea, I enjoy the pressure on my body when I go deeper and I can relax and concentrate; and furthermore, there is always something to see from the marine life.  It’s different with static apnea – especially when it’s done on land. There is no physical effort, one just tries to relax and play with the mind. Sometimes I do easily good static apneas – when I’m concentrated and enjoy the holds. But sometimes I get bored quickly, I cannot concentrate at all, let alone decide to stand some good contractions. I know that it’s important to do decent breath holds and I have to work on relaxation and concentration. I’ve tried different techniques. During the first 1-1:30′ of the hold I check and relax my muscles; then I start visualizing in great detail some pleasurable moments from the past – thus occupying my mind and ‘forgetting’ that I am holding my breath. I’ve also tried visualizing a scene from nature and it works great.When the contractions begin I’m still able to visualize another reality, but for a short time. Then it becomes harder and even though I know I can still hold my breath safely, I’m tempted to quit early. I’ve tried doing some series of pressing my fingers with the thumb, and it ‘steals’ time. Some days it works – but last week I couldn’t concentrate and my mind was everywhere…which led to quite short apneas. I tried longer ones – and did some – but it was not fun at all – I struggled and forced myself to do them. I wonder if good static times are achieved with determination or more likely with a relaxed mind…or both.
Usually I set some goals for my training sessions, but sometimes when you have a bad day it’s better to switch to other exercises and focus on heaving fun or have some rest. Thus even when I haven’t reached the goals I would be satisfied. Of course the line between ‘a bad day’ and ‘not motivated to train’ is thin, and I’d rather have more successful sessions. I train and freedive for fun, after all.
Today I went to the pool and everything worked fine, no hard times in getting in the mood for some breath holds. Now I’m trying to figure out my own routine that will always work – that’s why I’ll write down some observations and test them in the future.

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40 meters CWT dive

by on Jun.29, 2009, under Freediving

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.
40 m CWT dive profile 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…

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Skandalopetra in Rhodes island, Greece

by on Jun.23, 2009, under Freediving

SkandalopetraThe 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.
Skandalopetra stoneIt 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…
Nikolas_Rita_Alessandro_LuboOn 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 Skandalopetra 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).

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Pool sessions 13-14 June

by on Jun.14, 2009, under Training

lingering_at_the_bottom1Two weeks till the next freediving trip to Greece… This weekend we had to settle with an outdoor swimming pool (in Sofia) which was a good place for training.  Despite the parties held on Friday night, 6 freedivers/spearfishermen appeared at the pool on Saturday – it’s a good number, considered tha fact that freediving and pool training for spearfishermen are not very popular in Bulgaria…yet. One of the pools is 5.6 m deep and in the morning wasn’t crowded. We did many dives and static apneas there – you can see the clear water on the pics. I wasn’t able to do longer apneas because of the cold – I was shivering in my surfing wetsuit after an hour in the water.

Wet static - MitkoMitko was doing great and logged several good dives on my divewatch. He even broke my humble 2:20 record (done at 10m last summer), so I decided to wear a full wetsuit ot Sunday and log a better time – it’s my watch…and I had done much longer static apneas without it! I thought for a while about my approach to freediving – I do it for fun and for my own pleasure, but I have to admit that I felt the competition demon in me.  I had won many competitions (not in freediving) and I like winning in general…but  I haven’t thought that this could be a driving force for my freediving… Well, we will see, I’m a beginner and I have to learn more about myself…Competing (with friends) is not a bad thing, we had a lot of fun during that two days. (I guess I bother with ‘competing’ cause I’m far from the sea and had tons of work to do.)

Freedivers in a poolWe didn’t miss the chance to make some figures in the pool – it was kind of hard in the beginning, laughing a lot underwater because of the lack of coordination between us. After a few tries we managed to form a decent circle on the bottom (Ivozag played with my camera and captured it; Thanks for the other good pics, Ivo!). We also attracted some kids  who were astonished at the fact that a human being could stay underwater for several minutes and come up alive! It sounds funny, but we had to be responsible when we train during public hours at the pool. Kids tend to imitate what they see…and doing that with freediving could be disastrous.

Static apnea at the bottom of the poolSunday was a different day – much warmer, no wind…and full 5 mm wetsuit. I wanted to do dynamic apnea in the 50 m pool, but for a warm-up I did some static apneas in the deep pool. I regained the ‘record’ on my divewatch, but Mitko broke it again…Well I gave up the idea of max dynamics and after a short break started again with statics at the bottom.  Soon I set a new ‘longest apnea’ (according to the divewatch) that Mitko couldn’t break.  Next Sunday I’ll try to set a longer one, close to my PB (5:03 at the moment).

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2 days freediving in Thassos

by on Jun.09, 2009, under Freediving

Breathing on the surface before a CW dive 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…

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