Sunday, 30 March 2008


The other night we all went down to the beach for a BBQ. It's really beautiful here. We stood in the warm shallow water with toes in the soft golden sand as the sun slowly retired over the hills surrounding the calm bay. Waves crashed over by the rocks in the distance and fish jumped out of the water in the evening light. There is still quite a lot of weed and rubbish littering the beaches after the storm, but it is still stunning. There are a surprising number of left shoes scattered along the top of the beach. Will got the fire going and we all brought some food along to share. It was a beautiful night and there was a multitude of stars visible - so many more than at home. I lay on the sand for a while and contemplated my place in the universe. I felt amazingly relaxed after and now finally feel like I have switched into holiday mode.

the black hole

Hi guys, I wrote this yesterday, didn't have such a deep dive today but it felt nice and relaxed.

I've almost been here a week now and still feel like I'm just getting used to it. It's a shame that I only have another two weeks to go. The Blue Hole is pretty amazing and I'd love to stay longer to really be able to relax and get used to deep diving. The jet lag has finally worn off and my body is feeling a lot less stiff than it was when I arrived. It's only the rooster just outside that crows from about 3am and an over active mind that is keeping me awake at night now. I really need to sleep more. I don't feel too tired, but my pulse rate is still quite high after the trip (usually settles down after a week or so of getting a descent amount of sleep). The wind was quite strong yesterday and it created quite a lot of current in the Blue Hole which I think affected my diving quite a lot. I did a CNF dive to 48m. It was about 20s slower than expected and all of that was on my desent. I also had to work quite hard on the ascent, but perhaps was stroking too fast and losing efficiency. I had to do extra strokes from the surface due to the current and my poor entry. The whole dive was a bit panicky and not great.

Today I wanted to experience greater depth and decided to go Free Immersion in an attempt to relax a bit more at depth due to the fact that it wouldn't be such an effort to get off the surface or back up. We set the base plate to 57m. It was a fantastic dive and I still had plenty left when I reached the bottom plate and much more than expected at my return to the surface. I still had a little anxiety at about 45-50m, but managed to relax again and had no issues with equalisation. So, I'm proud to say that I've been deeper without fins than I have with now!

We still only have about 10m vis and it's really dark by about 50m, just getting blacker and blacker as you go down evidently. Hoping for some grat conditions soon! This always happens when I go places to dive!!!

Monday, 24 March 2008

Dean's Blue Hole

I've had a couple of days training in Dean's Blue Hole now. I'm still feeling a bit stiff and tired from the trip so just had a couple of easy sessions checking my buoyacy is all OK (it's almost right now). The hole is a bit dirty due to the combination of a storm in the Atlantic, the wind blowing abnormally from the sou-east, and the full moon making the tides quite high. As you can see there is quite a lot of rubbish that's been blown up on the beach and more in the water. Otherwise the water is amazing: warm and clear, and the sand is golden and soft. Yesterday the filth in the water was circling us while we were training, however today was much better. Apart from being much more buoyant in the salt water, I also noticed that today at about 25m I'd tensed up a little in preparation for the thermocline which I've been assured will never come - something I didn't realise I did. Still plenty of stuff to work on including getting more sleep which is slightly proving difficult due to the rooster located just outside my apartment! I suppose it's not too different to living in an apartment building where the residents make noise and wake you up at all hours on the weekend! Here are a couple of photos. The hole is smaller than I expected - you can see it just behind the sun umbrella, where the water goes to a dark blue colour.


Here are some pics from Orlando where I stayed with Rachel. Rachel is digging into her ribs with grat gusto.

Mikey, Rachel and Jeremy's son at brunch.

This is the Blue Springs were the Manatees reside, they obviously were hiding from us or are improving their breath hold times to more than 20 mins. I think they get a bit sedentary during the heat of the day.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

I've arrived!

I finally made it to the destination! The flights were pretty adorous. I managed to sleep a fair amount on the plane from Auckland to LA. LAX is such a crappy airport. The building was pretty bad to begin with but really is not coping with all the new security regulations. I would have imagined that such an important gate to the outside wolrd would have been given a bit more consideration by the Americans. Impression of LA were pretty limited as I only managed to spend a few hours in the airport and we had a bit of cloud cover on departure. The foodcourt was disappointing to say the least, however the sunset was pretty fantastic – one of those sunsets that you can only witness from high in the air, where the horizon is incredibly rounded over the sea and the the sun has just disappeared from view. A strip of bright red set off against the dark blue ocean, gradually fading into orange, yellow and then into the blue sky with blackness over the plane. It felt a bit strange to see the sun going down only a few hours after awaking and having breakfast! We flew over Vegas in the dark. It looks quite small comparatively. I was a bit disappointed that I couldn't make out any flashing lights, but you could definitely pick out the great glow of the strip. I had a couple of hours in Denver. Fronier airlines has just built a new terminal there. Nothing really exciting about it. I think the outside was a bit flasher, but I only caught a glimpse of it as we taxied in in the dark. There was only one “restaurant” in the food court open so I was forced against my will to experience true American fast food: McDonalds. I did have a salad, however I'm sure the nutritional value would not have been too dis-similar from a burger. On my fourth leg I tried again to sleep however was placed akwardly in the row of seating directly in front of the emergency exit where the seats did not recline. If you've ever tried sleeping bolt upright you'll realise that it's virtually impossible, even with a neck pillow. So after three hours of snoozing broken by the ding of the seatbelt light, the explanation of the ding over the loud speaker and the incessant sniffing of the man sitting next to me I arrived in Orlando to see the sun rise at about 5:30am. Rachel was there to collect me. She is 7 months pregnant. We drove back to her in-laws' house in Deltona, about an hours drive. We waited for the day to commence and then went for an American breakfast. The name of the restaurant escapes me, but for a mere $7 I was presented with not one but two rather huge plates of food plus a big dish of condiments, which included: bacon, ham, meat pattie, eggs, hash brown casserole, fried apples, a couple of biscuits (scones), grits, and some weird gravy stuff. Bits and pieces were quite nice. I do think that Rachel and I could have shared. We then went on a bit of a drive around and saw the local lake, and landscape. We stopped in at Blue Springs National Park and went seeking Manatees. Unfortunately they were all hiding from us, but we did see an alligator sunning itself on the opposite bank of the river. It was a very pretty walk. If I'd had my wetsuit I probably would have jumped in, but it's 21 degrees so I thought I'd pass at that moment in time, especially after seeing the alligator... We went back to the in-laws'. I couldn't keep my eyes open for the drive back. All three of us, Mikey included had an afternoon nap for a few hours, which I really needed. We then went out to “Bahama Breeze” restaurant for ribs. They were all a bit surprised when I easily polished off my plate full – they had already considered who would get to eat my left-overs the following day after I'd left. No such luck I'm sorry. Rachel and I partook in some virgin cocktails with a true desire to pop a little something more in them. Oh well, they tasted pretty good. I slept pretty well despite the nap and we got up at 6am for another early start back at the airport.
But all went pretty well with my flights until today. I got charged quite a lot as my fin bag was oversized, then they cut my padlocks off my bag. The next airline charged me for being over weight and made me check in my hand luggage, which they also charged me for. I missed a flight, but lucky managed to get on another, but of course had to pay for it again – hopefully my insurance will cover it. Then they forgot to put my fin bag in the aeroplane as had put it aside very conscientiously due to the fragile stickers all over it. Thankfully that was the last flight of the day so I don't have to really co-ordinate anything as they'll bring it through on the first flight tomorrow and I just have to pick it up. I also have all my gear here to do no-fins dives, so it shouldn't affect anything. Now I've arrived and everything is closed as it's still Good Friday so I have to bludge food and water off the other divers. No biggie though. At least I had a good, big local lunch in Nassau. Anyway, I'm off to parler francais with the French boys next door. I have the whole apartment for four to myself for another week until everyone arrives, so I figure I should get lots of work done. Evidently they've had pretty poor weather here and the blue hole is currently more like a black hole with a bit of swell on it, but it should still be warmer than at home! Hopefully it'll clear up in the next few days as the particles settle.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

time for some new goals...

I feel it's time to redefine my goals since I've blown a few away lately:

  • Statics: 7:15s (would like to get to 6:30s + in competition), current PB 7:01s
  • Dynamics: 175m, current PB 151m
  • Dynamics without fins: 150m, current PB 138m
  • Constant weight: -65m, current PB -56m
  • Constant weight without fins: -50m, current PB -40m
  • Free Immersion: -50m - never done it, don't know what to expect.
  • Variable weight: -70m - never done it, don't know what to expect.

These are goals for mid-year - what I'd like to have achieved by the end of the competition scheduled for June, and ultimately done in competition.

Upcoming competitions:

  • Bahamas Invitational, Dean's Blue Hole, 1-11 April, depth events only
  • Apneist's challenge, Porirua Pool, 10-11 May, 2x pool events
  • June comp in Auckland, dates tbc, 3x pool events
  • Wellington Winter Champs, late July/early August, 3x pool events
  • World Champs, Egypt, early September

Bahamas Itinerary

Here's how the next few weeks might go:

  • Wed 19 March - depart Wellington about 8pm, over night flight Auckland to LA, then on to Devner and arrive at Orlando about 5am
  • Spend a day with Rachel Deck (nee Quinn) in Orlando
  • Fly to Nassau (Bahamas), then on to Long Island to arrive early afternoon on Good Friday - may have time for a dive - will see how I feel.
  • 22-31 March, training in Dean's Blue Hole
  • 1-10 April, Bahamas Invitational freediving competition in Dean's Blue Hole
  • 11 April, depart for the 6 flights home.
  • Sunday 13 April, arrive home early morning.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Cressi-sub Apnea@Altitude 2008

The Cressi-Sub Apnea @ Altitude 2008 freediving competition was held in Lake Taupo over a long weekend from 7-9 March. It was the first year in the history of AIDA NZ running depth competitions that we have had perfect weather to compete in. The competition was run so competitors had the opportunity to select their depth discipline each day from constant weight, constant weight without fins or free immersion to a maximum depth of 90m. Most competitors chose to attempt constant weight dives each day. For me it was the first time I had competed in constant weight for two years and only the second time I had had the opportunity to compete in this discipline. On day one of competition I decided to have a go at breaking the existing New Zealand women's record of 51m. My previous best in training was only 50m, but it had been an easy dive, however we hadn't managed to train to any reasonable depth for the five weeks prior to the competition due to poor weather in Taupo, and before that it was another three week break from my first session of the summer. I decided to take a risk and nominate 56m. I knew I had the breath hold and lung capacity to sucessfully complete this dive, the only thing that could let me down was the cold and the anxiety of being at depth, both of which tense up muscles reducing the ability to equalise. I prepared for my big dive at the camp ground in Motutere on the edge of Lake Taupo with body stretching, lung and diaphragm stretches and visualisations. I visualise my dive in its entirety and all possible senarios so that once I have submerged everything is preconsdiered and just happens without too much thought. The sun was shining and there was not much wind. We waited on the wharf for the inflatable to come and pick us up and ferry us out to the Ocean Hunter boat, which had enough space to hold all the divers before and after their dives, and prodived us with a place to view the competition from. The dive platform had been set up in the lea of the island to minimise any waves. There were a lot of people in the water. For each dive there are at least two safety divers, a camera operator and three judges, plus we had a film crew from 20/20 there recording for a segment on freediving that they plan to air around mid-year and our medic on the boat. Quarter of an hour before my offical top or start time, I got myself suited up and organised my gear. Orca had just sent me a brand new Apex2 wetsuit which I was wearing for the first time. I knew that it would be cold in this thin suit with only a bathing cap and no hood, but it is so streamlined and flexible, and minimises my bouyancy at the surface, making for a much easier dive and reducing the need to wear as much lead. Being the only woman competing on day one it was a pleasure to show off the rather femine pink sleeves of the new suit. Tim the boat driver dropped me off as close as possible to the line so I could avoid any undue exertion directly prior to my dive. I put on the two official Cressi depth guages and slipped into the water about two and a half minutes before my top time. It was very cold. It took longer than expected for my nose clip to seal my nose appropriately enough to be able to equalise against it, then fill my special googles with lake water. I was only ready to dive with approximately 30 seconds to go until top. Luckily we are given 30s in depth events to commence our dives as it takes me about 40 seconds to completely fill my lungs with air using a technique called packing that forces additional air in once you can no longer suck any more in. Unfortunately, I did not have enough time to take the few deep relaxing breaths that would have helped me overcome the nerves I was feeling. The dive itself was rushed and almost panicky. I would not say it was my best dive ever even though I did achieve a personal best depth. I did a nice duck dive and kicked off the surface quickly to overcome my bouyancy. The freefall from around 15m was rapid and straight and I focussed on equalising and not worrying about where I was. At about 30m there was a huge thermocline, but it did not phase me. I had assured myself during the visualisation that I would be warm. Around 50m it became hard to equalise and I started to ride my ears. I think this must still be from anxiety at depth rather than a lack of air as I did not feel any compression through my sternum or trachia and was still easily able to put air into my cheeks for mouthful equalisation. I managed to drop to the base plate without hurting my ears, pulled the tag off the line, gave a good pull on the rope to assist with commencing the upward momentum and started kicking towards the surface. I have always found the ascent much easier than the descent. There is very little to focus on in comparison: you just need to swim until you reach the next breath of air. I swam for the surface, rose up, grabbed the line and completed my surface protocol easily within the 15 seconds available. It was the first successful dive of the day and earned me a new New Zealand record of 56m. It also gave me the confidence that I will soon be able to further this record with some minor alterations to the way I dive and through spending some more time at depth.

For day two of the competition I decided to challenge the constant weight without fins national record of 31m. In training two months earlier I had achieved a fairly easy 40m dive, and had ironed out a few of the issues I was facing at that time, so I decided to nominate 43m. My body and mind felt pretty good and I was confident I could make it. I followed the same process as the previous day but slipped into the cold water from a very hot sun filled boat with about 4 minutes until top. I had less troubles with my nose clip and had some time to relax on the surface. I was quite cold already before my dive started. I really struggled to get off the surface and had to do about 50% more strokes to what I was expecting. My freefall was slow and difficult. I was determined to get the tag from the base plate and would not allow myself to turn early. Records can not be set with penalties. Finally I saw the base plate right in front of me, I had been so focussed on zoning out that I had missed the rope markings at 1.5m above the base plate. I grabbed the tag, gave a good pull on the line and started swimming breaststoke up the line towards the surface. I remember thinking “I hope the surface is close” and just kept on going, as you do not have much choice when you are deep under water. I then had a really fantastic deep dream that I do not really recall and awoke back in the lake with lots of people fussing around me. I had blacked out under the surface and been pulled up by my safety diver Mike. Luckily I had not inhaled any water and had come back around in a reasonable period of time. I felt incredibly relaxed after, like my body had been re-booted and totally refreshed. I went and breathed medical oxygen on the boat for a while as a precautionary measure. Later we looked at the three depth guages and they all read 44.8m, which with the calibration of an additional 3% to read accuartely in fresh water would have meant the base plate was sitting just under 46m, 3m deeper than I had nominated. I do not expect that I would have completed the dive any more successfully if the depth had been accurate, however I do feel that I might have blacked out on or nearer the surface rather than at about 7m under.

The critical ingredient that I had overlooked on day two was the fact that I had recently increased my weighting in the pool by about 1kg. This means my total lung capacity had increased since I had last dived in the lake, which in turn increased my already ample buoyancy at the surface and meant I needed more lead to assist me. On day three I borrowed a neck weight that was half a kilogram heavier. I felt confident that I could complete the no fins dive sucessfully. I had had a good night's sleep and my body felt great and I was ready to dive. Unfortunately, the officials decided for safety reasons that I should not go to my day three nomination of 42m and asked me to reduce my nomination to 36m to which I reluctantly agreed. It was a very easy dive. The additional weight meant I had a very easy entry, got up enough speed in my freefall to stay nice and straight, and was not too much to make the ascent a struggle. I grabbed the tag at the base plate and started an easy swim up. I glided the last 10m to the surface and completed the surface protocol, to take my second national record of the competition.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

17 days to clear warm water...

and counting! Got to get through this weekend first!

Sunday, 2 March 2008

training or lack of...

The last two attempts at getting to Lake Taupo to train in more than 20m of water have died a miserable death with pretty horrendous weather. Who ever heard of a lake with 1.5m swells due to 50 knot winds! Next weekend we have a competition in the lake over three days with an opportunity to do constant weight with and without fins as well as free immersion. I haven't dived deep for about 5 weeks and have no idea what to nominate - whether to go safe or just trust myself to pull out some big dives that I haven't done before. I know I've got the breath hold and have been practising my equalisation by doing exhale dives to between 10-20m around Wellington. I'm also getting a bit more confidence at depth: my point of anxiety is now at around 40m rather than 15! The national records are all easily within reach now, which is nice. We're also going to have the 20/20 film crew there so I don't want to do anything stupid and have it recorded and shown on national TV. I've never done free immersion past about 10m so if I have to repeat one of the other events then I can leave the FIM for the Bahamas. I guess I'll decide over the next few days. Hopefully the weather will finally be good for us next weekend - all our depth competitions seems to be held in cyclonic conditions!!!

Can't wait to get to the Bahamas where I won't have to worry about the cold, the thermoclines, the swell size, etc. I'll probably overheat instead, like in Slovenia! Just wish I could spend more time there! Although, I think I was lucky to get any time off work at all after last year's 10 weeks in Europe. My boss is very supportive. Hopefully I'll be able to do some work in the afternoons and on rest days in the Bahamas so I don't need to take so much unpaid leave. It just depends on what projects come up in the next couple of weeks. Luckily Braedon is going to stay home and pay the mortgage while I'm away.

I did a very comfortable 151m DYN with new (broken/repaired) fin yesterday in a 25m pool, complete with horrific turns in the shallow end (something to work on - I wouldn't say my general fin technique is particularly good either). I expect the replacement fin will be here on my return from teh Bahamas. I'd like to have a go in the 50m pool (it was meant to be 50 yesterday but they didn't bother to move the bulkhead for us). It's amazing what getting the right equipment can do for you. I'm still using my old fin for depth as the pool one will be too soft. I've also done a few more DNFs around the mid 130s, so I just need a good day to push it out a bit more. I'm working on technique past 100m at the moment, so need to do a lot of big swims.

Feeling a bit nervous about my repeat attempt for the 7 min static. I hope it becomes a regular feature in my training sessions.

We didn't win lotto last night and I haven't discovered a big financial sponsor, so no big life changes in store for the near future. :(

I should also mention that Kerian and I are doing some demonstration swims at Naenae Pool, 6pm Saturday 15 March if you'd like to come and watch. We've got Frankie Stevens coming along to announce it and will be looking for helpers to run around selling raffle tickets, t-shirts and beginner courses. Our partners are going to "judge" it so it looks realistic. They're both judges but we haven't announced it so I won't be breaking any records. We're also looking for some bits and pieces to raffle off in some quick fire draws if anyone has anything they'd like to donate!