Sunday, 20 April 2008

Back to the "real world"

I've been back home a week now. The jet lag has finally subsided - I actually managed to sleep until the alarm went off this morning (I know it's Sunday, but I train in the mornings on the weekends). It has been a bit of a shock to the system to leave the late New Zealand summer, enjoy the warm Bahamas winter climate and return to a definite autumn chill in the air. I donned thermals, a scarf and woolly hat this afternoon for a quick walk along the beach with the dog. Work as been quite unsettled. The Bahamas has affected me quite deeply in a way I can not describe. The call of the sea and the obsession with diving has intensified. After a week off I headed back to the pool. It was absolutely devine to be back in the water. I felt intensely happy and great relief. The few dynamics I have done since my return have felt like they are on a completely new level both physically and mentally. I have incorporated a few things into them that I learned from the depths: a greater ability to relax and focus right through to the end of the dive. I have lost weight (which I generally try to avoid) and have gained more lead, indicating yet another increase in lung volume. There are three weeks left until our little pool competition where we will be able to attempt two events each. I'm going to keep you guys in suspense until then!

Tuesday, 15 April 2008


Anna Norman kindly wrote up a press release for me. We got it onto a local media website in the cultural section, since no one seems to see freediving as a sport yet... The colours have strangely gone a bit funny with my print below, but you'll get the gist. If you click on the page you should be able to read the article.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Kiwis in the Bahamas

Mike, Nick, me, Fran, Dave, Joy, Kerian, Will


It's sad to be leaving without seeing the end of the competition and having only just started to get my head around deep diving. The last two dives were the best mentally and I feel that with more time I would be able to go much deeper. I'm pleased with my results and progress over the last three weeks but might have to aim for a few months next year! I have no more chances to train until we get to Egypt in August, so I suppose we'll be back to doing 15m negatives in the cold mucky harbour over winter to keep the ears going and the body adapted. It was such a pleasure to dive without a wetsuit. It felt much more like I have always thought the sensation of freediving should. Now it would just be nice to get rid of the nose clip and goggles, neckweight, lanyard, depth gauge and cap. I wonder how much drag the hair on your head actually creates.
I'm currently wasting time in Miami airport. I'm quite impressed as every second food place sells salads – not just your usual hot dogs and burgers. That would have been good on the way over. I had ice cream for lunch yesterday. Only problem was that it had just bbeen unloaded from the boat so it was more like a milkshake! I'm flying American Airlines and the TV news in Deadman's Caye before the first flight said that a lot of their flights are cancelled and grounded at the moment due to technical troubles. Luckily I haven't been affected. I also saw that Frontier airlines, who I flew from LA to Orlando with on the way over has just gone bankrupt, so I'm pleased I idn't book with them to get home! They were so much cheaper than the others though, which was possibly the problem!

I'm holding out for an hour or so before I look up the internet for the final day's competition results. I hope the Kiwi boys pulled through and achieved their announcements. I couldn't get on line yesterday, which is why all my blogs are going to be posted at the same time.

It was really beautiful flying from Long Island to Nassau and then on to Miami. You could see the variations in the sea floor with the clear turquoise water over in a multitude of hues.
Last night all the eight kiwis and the odd straggling Canadian and Chilean came over to our apartment. A few of the boys had been swimming around as shark bait earlier and speared a couple of fish, which we put on the barbeque. George, the owner of the apartments took a bit of a liking to us and gave us a bag of crawfish tails (like crayfish). We had a huge feast and a few of us drank some random cocktails. The 1L bottle of apple flavoured smirnoff vodka was emptied as was the raspbberry flavoured Bicardi. Very nice. Spirits are really cheap in the Bahamas. Later Fran, Joy and I lay out on the deck under the stars. The stars in the Bahamas are really quite special. I really felt happy lying in the sand under the immensely starry sky, spotting shooting stars and just chilling out.

I just worked out that I've been travelling for eight hours already and still have 26 hours to go before I make it home. At least I didn't get a lot of sleep last night so I should be tired enough to sleep on the plane quite happily.

Last day

I wrote a bit before I left but couldn't get on line to post it, but here they are:

I've just said goodbye to Dean's Blue Hole. It's a bit like breaking up with a great love. I feel so at home here. The water is so beautiful: calm and warm, and a gorgeous blue. I regret that I can not stay longer to really discover what I am really capable of. The last three weeks have gone so fast. I have only just started relaxing at depth, trusting myself and learning to think through the stages of each dive to be more controlled.

Yesterday evening I took a risk and nominated 65m constant weight for today. I did a couple of practise entries yesterday until my togs split and I had to get out of the water with my bum exposed. It was the first time I'd worn a fin while I've been here. It felt so easy. I took a little lead out of my neck weight and decided to just go for it to test out my equalisation and see how it felt to be that deep.

Today I had a few nerves, as you'd expect having not trained for the event and trying to push out my personal best by 9m! I did quite a lot of visualisation prior to diving to ensure that I knew what would happen at each stage and to try to keep my head together. About 12 minutes to top I put Kerian's Leaderfin Hyper on at the beach and swam out to the platform in my togs as I am trying to keep my wetsuit dry for when I pack it this afternoon. It was quite pleasant to be in the water. I sat on the back of the platform as Leo blacked out from his dive just under the surface. I tried to block him out and not let it bother me or affect my dive. I was reminded of my depth by the judges as they let the base plate down to my nominated 65m. I tried to ignore the pain of yesterday's sunburn on my shoulders as I sat in the sun. Suddenly there was just 4 minutes to go. I put my nose clip on and prepared my lanyard. At 2 minutes I started preparing to enter the water so I would be in by 1:30 to top. I slid in and Kerian clipped my lanyard to the line. There was a little current and despite the weight of the fin my feet were trying to float as usual. I held on to the rope with my arms as I wouldn't require their strength for this dive. The time goes fast when you only get in with 1:30s to top. I heard the 30s call and started preparing for my last breath. It takes about 40s for me to inhale fully including about 35-40 packs. My entry went well and I was freefalling within 6 kicks. I did a couple more to get up some good speed then pulled through with my arms to relax in my freefall. I reminded myself to relax and focus through the contractions that started very soon in the freefall phase. Equalisation worked really well. I had one little difficult stage at bout 60m when I had to revverse pack to get my mouthful back and then equalised on it with very little effort. At depth I did not yet feel any pressure on my chest and felt that I had plenty of air left for equalising. There was a very tiny thermocline at about 55m and it was fairly dark at depth, but I could still make out the striped part of the rope with relative ease. I grabbed the line, then the tag from the bottom plate. I pulled hard on the line to commence my ascent and held the tag in my hand as I started kicking upwards. Kerian's fin felt beautiful. I felt like I was getting so much momentum from every easy kick. It also allowed my to keep my technique together, which is something I've always struggled with using my carbon fibre special fins monofin. I told myself all the way up to relax and focus. I saw Fran who was doing my deep safety and knew that the surface was near. My legs were just starting to feel a little tired with a little lactic build up and having done pretty deep dives the two days previously, but I pushed it out of my mind. As I neared the surface I glided and started thinking about surfacing. My head popped up and I grabbed the rope, breathed beautiful fresh air and gave my surface protocol before showing the tag, still firmly grasped in my right hand. The dive was much easier than expected and I feel there's plenty more to come in this discipline. Again I just need more time...

Tomorrow I start the long journey home.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

50m diver!

Last night we went to Chez Pierre's for dinner. We arrived at about 7:30pm, ordered at 8:30, started eating after 9 and got our mains about 9:45pm. It was a really cute restaurant though and the food was really good. It was right on it's own stunning beach front. I got my fill of red meat and veges that always makes for good diving the next day.

I woke up stiff again, the same as yesterday. I stretched and seemed to get rid of it a little pain. I figure it's all mind over matter once you're down there anyway so you can't let these niggly little things get to you... I went over the dive in my head several times to ensure that I wouldn't lose focus or panic on the ascent.

The dive itself was pretty painful. The contractions started early again (probably about 20m) due to my no warm up and no forced ventilation prior to the dive. I had some negative thoughts during freefall, but luckily it felt quite fast so I soon saw the 5m marker, then reached out for the stripes indicating the last 1.5m. I reached out, grabbed the tag and stuck it to my lanyard belt, then gave a huge tug on the line to commence my upward momentum before starting the big breaststroke swim back to the surface. I was telling myself to focus and relax the whole way. IIt was one of the frst dives I've had where I can remember the massive contractions I was experiencing on the ascent. Normally I just block them from my mind and keep swimming, so they must have been huge. Eventually I saw Nat, my deep safety and I did a few more strokes and reminded myself to both glide up towards the surface for the final ten meters and remember to do my hook breath on the surface. I breathed, and completed my surface protocol for the judges to set my 5th national record of the competition and put myself into the top 5 in the world for women's constant weight without fins! It was a really hard dive and I panted for a long time after, however, I do feel that given more time to train at dept I would have a lot more to give. Not too bad though for having done less than 20 deep dives without fins and more than half done here over the last three weeks.

Tomorrow is my last day :( I'm going to have a go at going quite deep with Kerian's monofin, since I haven't had any issues with my equalisation yet and Keian's mono is so much nicer than mine I've nominated 65m so will see what happens. I've only done three dives past 50m ever. Could be interesting...

Impressions of the Bahamas

I realised that I've only really talked about freediving in the Bahamas and not the place itself. Don't you wonder where my focus has been? I suppose I can only comment on Long Island, and only a small part of that too!

  • the people are really friendly but speak with a very stange accent - I have to keep reminding myself that yes they are speaking english and no I don't have to talk slowly as they can understand me! They are also very honest - you store the car keys in the iginition and don't need to lock the door when you go out.
  • the lifestyle is very relaxed.
  • the weather is beautiful, however thi is the end of winter, so I imagine it gets pretty hot and muggy in summer
  • the beaches are beautiful - soft golden sand, clear, warm water of all shades of blue
  • driving is hilarious - people just stop in the middle of the road for a chat, back up if they miss something, driv in the middle or on the wrong side of the road, swerving to avoid pot holes, crabs, birds, etc.
  • the stars at night are amazing. Have you ever considered how we can see so much further in the dark???
  • there are too many roosters (well outside my bedroom window anyway)!

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Smiling Kathryn

Just figured out that 48m places me 5th= ever in women's constant no fins history! :) Makes me smile... 50m will be 4th=. Maybe I should have gone for 51...

And the competition continues...

Last night I resisted the overwhelming temptation to have a glass of red wine (it's not as good as what we have at home anyway) and cooked myself a huge feast of lamb chop, fresh veges and pasta. Very tasty. I managed to get a good sleep of almost ten hours, despite the rooster's regular interventions and Fran my room mate cursing it on several occasions. I awoke very stiff. I had all the usual pains through my neck, shoulders and lower back, but just a little more intense than usual, and then some new ones in both arms at the base of the tricep and both legs at the base of the quads. I rubbed Anti-Flamme all over and did some stretching. It helped a little but not a lot. Problems with doing nothing I suspect.

I nominated 48m constant weight without fins for today, to set a new national record and give myself a bit more confidence after a couple of tiny surface black outs after diving to 50m. I again dived without a wetsuit, as this means I can go without the weightbelt so it is much more comfortable. I don't need a warm up so have just been getting in about 1:30s before my top with my nose clip already on. I had a bit of a rough start as I had been focusing on my ascent during visualisation more than the descent in order to try to relax a bit more down there. Kerian said that I didn't look nearly as comfortable as usual through this point of the dive. The contractions came early, about on my last stroke downwards, so probably around 20m under. I tried to ignore them as it's usually quite a good dive when they come on early. The descent was mentally difficult with thoughts of turning early and general discomfort. But before I knew it I saw the 5m mark whizz past and I held out for the base plate. I grabbed at the striped rope indicating 1.5m to the base plate, spun around, grabbed the tag, stuck it to my lanyard belt and started the ascent. I reminded myself throughout the entire ascent “Kathryn, relax, focus...” Finally it worked and I had a good ascent. I swam up setting up a good rhythm. Peter the safety diver appeared in front of me and I took a few more strokes before allowing myself to drift up to the surface to grab the rope, breathe and give my surface protocol to the judges, scoring my 4th national record for the competition. I will try for 50m again tomorrow.

Two world records fell today. Kiwi William Trubridge did a free immersion dive to 107m and Russian Natalia Avseenko finally achieved 57m in constant without fins (pushing out my future goals a little!).

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Day 7 of competition

This is my second day of rest in a row. I seem to have been expending more energy on my rest days than on my dive days, so decided it would be good to have another day off. I tried very hard to not get in the water today but it was so inviting, so I just had a lazy float around and enjoyed just getting wet. I finally climbed up the cliff today to take some photos of the magnificent view extending from the Blue Hole (now very blue) across the bay and out to sea. The waves on the other side of the wall that protects the hole from the wrath of the ocean were crashing in with enormous power and spraying high above the cliff, meanwhile the the blue hole was calm and unaffected. Sand sculptures seemed to be the theme of the day. While I didn't partake there was a dolphin swimming with a mermaid and a freediver (or course).
The diving today was fairly uneventful apart formt he Japanese, perhaps since they skipped the barbeque last night. Ryuzo and Tomoko both achieved their announced performances of 101m and 54m respectively in constant weight. A few of us scratched and the kiwi boys Will and Dave had trouble equalising both turning early, but still reaching pretty amazing depths. Karol gave up on her last dive before flying out, forcing Frank who was her deep safety to drag her up from 17m.
Yesterday I was the safety diver on the warm up line – it's pretty cold just hanging around the line for a couple of hours. I spent quite a lot of time mucking around taking photos, but unfortunately only got a few good shots. I played around at the edge of the hole after the diving was done and got to know the locals a little. Only managed to get a couple of nice fish photos though.

Fish around the side of the Blue Hole

Kerian in his descent.

Me doing warm up safety.

After diving we all went up to Chris's house for a barbeque. Chis owns a dive shop on the island. His property is right on the waterfront and has it's own gorgeous little private beach complete with soft golden sand, boat ramp, coconut palms and a big cave.

We sat around drinking, eating and laughing. My mocktails were lacking a little something (rum perhaps), but I got a nice wee sugar high. Charlie brought lots of fish to eat and there were lots of salads so we ate pretty well. After dinner the boys played beach volleyball. I had a quick dip in the water, as one must when they're presented with such a beautiful location and warm, clear, calm seas. Will's friends Mike and Nick took to running around zapping people with a little device that gave people electric shocks. A few people played horseshoes. It was a good evening. On the way up to the car Fran decided it would be a good idea to pee under a tree in the garden. Joy was a bit on the jolly side and decided to steady herself whilst waiting for Fran by grabbing hold of a random pole, which just happened to be a tall thin cactus. She got quite a few thorns stuck in her hand, which are still embedded. The advice from the pharmacy today is to urinate on her hand, then drop hot wax on it and pull the spikes out with the wax once it has cooled! I think she has yet to carry this out...

Sunday, 6 April 2008

The allusive 50m

I took a risk today and had a go at the 50m no fins dive. It was a pretty nice dive and I was in a good head space through most of the dive. I'm starting to relax bit more underwater, however still have moments of tension. The descent has now become easier than the ascent, which is slightly concerning as I'll have to dive with a base plate to stop me from now on! The dive went great but I came up, grabbed the rope, started my surface protocol then had a wee black out for a few seconds. It's funny how the memory loss and loss of motor control are slightly mis-aligned. I don't really remember the surfacing but I have a clear recollection of the moment my head fell backwards and someone removed my neckweight. I think I was out for about 3s, so not a major. I'll have a day off then try for something slightly less before attempting it again!

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Kiwis breaking records

Today was a great day. The sun came out and while the wind is still blowing is was not as gusty as it has been. The black hole is starting to turn blue and the rubbish drifting around on the surface is disapating. I witnessed William Trubridge break the constant weight without fins world record, where he dove to 84m on a single breath. I felt shivers as the judges raised their white cards and awarded him the record! I nominated 44m in the same event. Today I decided to dive without a wetsuit. It was a very pleasurable dive, comfortable and easy the whole way. I swam to the platform in my wetsuit and then stripped off. I lowered myself into the water at about 1:30s to top to avoid feeling the cold. The sun hid behind a cloud while I was on the platform, but I did not feel cold. It's still so much warmer than at home. It was a pretty easy national record. I'm working on relaxing at depth as this is the main way in which I can see that I can easily gain some good depth at the moment. Tomorrow I'm going to try for 50m with the same set up.

Friday, 4 April 2008

Competition day 3

The weather is finally clearing up. I'm sure this place is windier than home though! Today the black hole was starting to turn blue and the visibility was better, however still just a mere 15m or so. At least there was minimal surface current, which has been one of the things concerning me when I do no fins as it seems to mess up the entry and then the dive just goes poorly. Today I nominated 41m without fins. I thought I'd start off with something fairly easy in the attempt to boost my confidence a little. It was a pretty easy dive, but I still need to work on relaxing under water. It's getting better but can be the difference between a sucessful outcome and not! Anyway I furthered my national record by another 5m, with plenty more left to go further.

Yesterday I tried to have a rest day. I coached Kerian through his 60m constant weight dive, then we went exploring. We went to Galloway's landing, which is a beach near Clarence Town. It was on the lea side of the island, so we were hoping for calmer seas. The beach was stunning and the waves weren't too bad. We hopped in and swam towards a dark patch that we expected to be a reef. The water was beautiful but there was minimal life. We found one tiny little reef and then went looking for a bigger one. We just kept on swimming over the top of beautiful golden sand, but no reefs came. We turned back when the electrical storm hit. The colour out there were amazing. The water was a stunning light blue which was really set off against the backdrop of purple-grey sky as the storm came through. We expected an easier swim home due to the fact that we felt we had swum against the current all the way out, but there was no such luck! It was quite an exhausting “dive” for my rest day!

After the big swim we went in search of some good food and found a bar and grille on the opposite side of the island in Clarence Town (remembering that the island is incredibly narrow). I branched out and ordered the snapper. The plate arrived with two whole snapper on it and lots of veges. It was pretty good. Later most of the divers here were going out for dinner at Chez Pierre's, however the boat hadn't arrived with the fresh produce, so he couldn't feed us and we were forced to look for a different retaurant. We ended up going back to the same place. I managed to eat a couple of quite large pork chops, so definitely had a good level of protein for today's dive. To be honest I felt more shattered after my rest day than I normally would after a big dive. Oh well, might just have to continue to take it easy over the next few days...

Bahamas updates

Just a reminder that all the results and updates are being posted at:

For updates re Kerian and I you can go to:

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

First day!

Today was the first day of competition. The weather has been rather poor. There was another storm last night and the hole was affected again by current, poor visibility and a fair amount of weed and rubbish floating around. I decided to have a go at my final NZ depth record as I haven't had a lot of luck with the no fins going particularly well in the current. It seems to slow me down considerably on both descent and ascent, and increases my stroke count a great deal. I nominated a 56m free immersion dive to equal the depth that I made in Taupo three weeks ago in constant weight. I felt this would be an easy dive as a few days ago I achieved and easy 57m on my first attempt at a deep free immersion dive. Free Immersion involves the diver pulling themselves down the line and back up, without the use of fins.

We have one car to share for the whole apartment which looks like it may prove challenging as we have one judge, the medic, and two divers staying here. After a lot of mucking around in the morning trying to make the transport work for everyone who had to be there at different times I managed to scoff down some breakfast a mere hour and three quarters prior to my top time. I had just enough time to complete my body and lung stretches and then head off to the blue hole to check in 45 mins prior to my official top time. There was a lot of wind down at the beach and no shade whatsoever. I mucked around for a few minutes taking photos and trying to watch the competition, but then had to go and find a quiet shady spot. I put the boot of the car up and managed to sit in a tiny bit of shade behind the car in the time I had prior to getting suited up. The time passed rapidly and I soon had to start preparing my gear. It rained for the few minutes while I was putting on my wetsuit and then cleared up immediately after. Once I was sure I had everything on I wandered down to the water and swam the 15m or so over to the platform, and sat at the back. Three women before me had nominated 57m free immersion dives but only Natalie had completed hers sucessfully. I closed my eyes and visualised each part of my dive carefully. I moved up to the front of the platform where I sat a little longer. I fixed my nose clip in position and attached my ankle lanyard to the line. The last two training sessions I had spent too much time in the water prior to diving and was concerned about over breathing while lying on my back waiting for my top time, especially since yesterday I had a wee surface black out after diving to 50m without fins. I slipped into the water with 2:30s left to top. I was much more relaxed than usual for a competition dive, and more relaxed than I expected since it was only my second attempt ever at a deep free immersion dive. The warmth of the water really helps. I managed to keep my breathing about as close to normal as can be expected. At 30s to top I commenced my final breath only to take in quite a lot of water as a small wave washed over my face. I spat it out and started again. Sometimes this happens when I start to take my last breath as I'm sitting quite low in the water after a fairly good exhale. I had a fairly good entry and pulled down the rope until I felt freefall kicking in, then gave one more big pull. The freefall felt great. I started my mouthful quite soon after I stopped pulling on the line. I have been doing this a bit lately as it seems to be a lot more comfortable and if my nose clip is leaking air it is less likely to continue once I switch to the mouthful.I had no issues at all with equalisation and found myself at the bottom plat in no time. It was very dark and I could only just make out the stripes on the rope marking the last 1.5m to the bottom plate. I grabbed the line and reached out to grab a tag. I felt around on the base plate for some time unable to find a tag. After a few seconds I aborted the search, turned and started pulling myself back up the line to the surface. I pulled hard on the line trying to keep a consistent rhythm. I felt the lack of air with about 10m to go and reminded myself to stay focussed and stick with it. I have a bit of a blank in the memory of the end of my dive, but from the accounts around me I surfaced, grabbed the line, had a wee samba, pulled myself together and completed the surface protocol in the 15s allowed. On checking the watches I had dived to 57.8m since the judges forgot to pull the line up 1m after the other three girls had finished. My dive time was about right at 2:15s. I was awarded a yellow card for not retrieving a tag, however this was reversed when the judges pulled up the line to check that there were in fact no tags. So, my new New Zealand record of 57m exceeds the depth I have achieved with fins!