Monday, 30 November 2009

World Champs, Bahamas

After three and a half months of travelling I arrived back in the Bahamas for the third time. Everything here is so familiar now: the tiny airplanes, the blue hole (the dark, weedy, full of current version), the narrow winding, pop-hole ridden roads, the left hand steer cars (they drive on the left, doesn't make for great visibility), the friendly people, the fact that I have to ask myself over and over if the locals are actually speaking English (yeah man, dey are, but it aint pwerfic), the need to disregard how much everything costs (or you'll have a nervous breakdown), the menu at Rowdy boys (the waitress remembered my name – can I just ask for the usual?), not having to lock anything, endless white sand beaches, turquoise water, slow internet, extreme boredom (not so bad this time because I've come from Dahab and am used to filling in time with very little). We managed to luck into a house on the hill in Turtle Cove. It's big and has a stunning view out to the sea. It doesn't have windows in the living area, just bug mesh so it's cool and breezy, and occasionally it rains inside, but even that is a bit refreshing after Dahab. The great thing is that I can see the sea from my bed. When I wake up in the morning I don't even have to sit up to be able to glance out and see what we expect of the day ahead. There are three rooms so I'm sharing with Chris (NZ) and Junko (Japan).


Fortunately Dean's blue hole was just going through it's morning high tide phase while we were training and conditions have improved immensely for the competition. I arrived a little over two weeks ahead of the world champs to ensure some time to adjust to the hole and recover from jet lag. My training was going pretty well. Initially I felt some fatigue during dives, which was to be expected, but I was still going fairly deep without squeezing or packing. I had a few issues getting my head around using my monofin, but managed to get back to my personal best after a couple of attempts. I was diving happily and not squeezing.

Kiwi team

Dean's Blue hole set up for the World Champs

Three days before the world champs I did a deep monofin dive and it went well. I did not squeeze, black out or suffer from much lactic. I did feel a bit of pressure on my chest and trachea, but it all seemed fine and nothing out of the ordinary. The next day I did what I thought was a conservative no fins dive that was meant to be a confidence dive. I had a small squeeze and a bit of a shake on the surface. The next day I rested and nominated a little less (51m) for the no fins heats the following day, thinking that was an easy dive and that a day of rest would make everything fine, since I'm always much stronger in my dives after a rest day. Then I got the sore throat. I tried to ignore it and hoped it would go away. I slept particularly well. On the morning of my dive it was very sore. I did a little negative warm up dive that hurt a lot, but must have loosened thing up a bit as a second one was much better so I decided to go for it and just try to keep my chin well tucked in. I managed to suffer a fairly sizable lung squeeze and then a small black out on the surface. The rest of the dive was fine apart from the fact that the safety were really deep and I started trying to glide up to the surface a bit early. It was still only about 2:05 dive time. I was pretty disappointed. The sore throat got worse and now I have no voice, plus I feel the mucous is starting to form. I'm hoping it stays in the throat and does not spread to the sinuses or chest. I managed to not get sick in Egypt so it's pretty annoying to have problems here. It's quite reminiscent of the cold I had in Arhus earlier this year, however in the pool I do not need to equalise so can get away with a bit more. I'll see what tomorrow brings as it will affect my constant weight announcement for the following day. I really hoped that I would not get squeezed here and was planning nice clean conservative dives, but once it starts it just seems to get worse and it doesn't seem to matter how much I pull back, I really need a week off to repair. I don't even feel like I did anything stupid to deserve it this time...

Update from following day:
after three days of sore throat I lost my voice and it's turned into intense amounts of mucous. I'm not sure if I'll even be getting in the water tomorrow.

Lung Squeeze clarified

Lung squeeze is a shy topic among freedivers. There is very little information available either in books or on the internet and little scientific research seems to have been undertaken, as if it is a rare and uncommon problem. However, when asking around it seems most freedivers have suffered from it at some point in their diving careers, coughing up varying amounts of blood. Some continue diving and seem to get over it. For others it never goes away and they eventually retire from deep freediving with great frustration. Not coming from a scientific background, I struggled to find good explanations describing what happens and why and still am failing miserably to solve the problem despite giving myself time to try many different things that have worked for other people. I am also slowly learning from my mistakes. Here is some information that will hopefully help others to avoid what I have been experiencing.

You do not have to be a particularly deep diver to experience lung squeeze. I have heard of divers experiencing squeezes after dives as shallow as 4m (in a swimming pool), especially if they are diving on FRC, negatives or passive inhales. You do not actually have to cough up blood to be suffering from a lung squeeze. You may just be able to feel a little bit of fluid in your lungs after a dive and take a while to recover while breathing heavily. If you continue to dive after this then you will most likely make it worse and end up coughing up blood, requiring a longer time to recover.

There are two things that can happen. The first is that as you reach residual volume (the volume of air remaining in your lungs once you have fully exhaled) the negative pressure in the lungs will cause the lung walls to stick together and cause damage as they peel apart (essentially grazing the inside of your lungs) and the blood vessels can swell up and burst, causing bleeding inside the lungs (pulmonary edema). This creates a cough reaction to remove the fluid (blood) from the lungs. The likelihood of this happening is increased by diving deeper than your residual volume, the occurrence of contractions at depth or the use of the valsalva method of equalisation (pushing air directly from your lungs to equalise your ears), all of which create a huge negative pressure within the lungs and tension on the chest. Once a squeeze has occurred there will be scarring on the lung tissue and the chance of it happening again is greatly increased over the next few days and possibly weeks.

Other factors that could contribute to a squeeze are fatigue, discomfort and fear, tension or lack of flexibility through the chest/ribcage, or lack of elasticity in the lungs, which seems to be the case with a lot of pool divers who have stretched out their lung with a lot of packing. Over hydration can be a factor in blood spitting as there is already more fluid around the lungs which may not be retracted into the body after blood shift, however dehydration can make equalisation more difficult and cause the diver to tense up the chest area. Jet lag can make “easy” dives very uncomfortable and tiring. Careful adaption dives are fine while the body is jet-lagged however deeper dives should be delayed until the body has recovered. A general rule is that jet lag, whether you consciously feel it or not, lasts about one day for every hour difference.

There may be more blood if the squeeze occurs near a capillary where there is more blood available, so the quanity of blood is not a good indication of the severity of the squeeze. There may be a lot of pain or no pain at all depending on where the squeeze occurs, as there are no nerve endings in the lungs.

Trachea squeeze should also be noted. Sometimes divers come up with a sore throat and spit a little blood, usually just a small amount and only once. This is often after looking down at down at depth and creating a negative pressure in the incompressible and delicate trachea, which can also result in burst capillaries. It is possible to increase the flexibility of the trachea to avoid this.

The second issue is the potential for over pressurisation of the lungs (pulmonary barotrauma) on the ascent once bloodshift has occurred, which would suggest that full packing for deep diving is problematic. A freediver who packs on the surface will use a little air in equalisation and metabolism during the dive, however the overall quantity of air in the lungs does not decrease a great deal for the ascent. If there is blood remaining in the lung capillaries from the blood shift then there is again the potential for the already swollen blood vessels in the lungs to rupture near the surface and the diver experiences overpressure. Barotrauma is normally identified by foamy blood.

Lung squeeze can be serious. If your lungs are full of fluid, the alveoli are not able to pick up the oxygen from your lungs to transport it through your body to where it is needed for metabolism. Your oxygen saturation levels are low and can remain that way for a long time. In an extreme case this can cause secondary drowning. If it occurs at sea you may not be physically capable of swimming back to shore or the boat. You may not have the energy to remove your wetsuit or walk to the car. Fatigue and wheezing from serious squeezes have been reported to last up to a month in extreme cases.

Remember to always dive “one up, one down” with your buddy and ensure that they understand the potential dangers of squeeze. I often black out when I suffer a lung squeeze, even if the dive is much shallower than what I am usually capable of. My body is unable to absorb the remaining oxygen in my lungs to complete the dive and it is slow to recover when I begin breathing on the surface.

To try to avoid lung squeeze you should consider the following:

  • Avoid stretching out at depth with arms or neck. This includes looking downwards, taking large strokes/pulls at depth and swimming or freefalling with arms stretched above your head.
  • Try warming up if this reduces your contractions at depth
  • Work on your ribcage flexibility and stretch this area before diving deep
  • Turn before you experience contractions at depth
  • Progress slowly each time you start diving to depth
  • Avoid deep dives after travelling, especially if you have changed time zone or feel tired. Allow time to recover from jet lag prior to competing.
  • Only dive as deep as you are comfortable with to avoid panic at depth
  • Learn to relax at depth and release any tension from around the chest area prior to going to great depths. This can include tension from equalisation and learning to just keep the eustation tubes open during mouthfill equalisation may help or finding a very relaxed and streamlined body position that suits you.
  • Learn the frenzel/mouthfill technique of equalisation
  • If you are warming up and can feel the previous squeeze, do not continue with your deep dive
  • If you have a history of squeezes, in competition nominate depths much less than the sucessful (no squeeze) dives you have completed in training and do not try for a personal best in the 3-4 days before
  • If you have a history of squeezes, rest the day after a deep dive (even if you do not squeeze) as the potential for squeezing the second day seems to increase even if the second dive is much shallower.
  • Maintain regular depth training sessions, even in the off season
  • Start exhaling just before the surface (however this should be practised in a controlled environment)

If lung squeeze occurs you should:
  • Stop diving and exit the water
  • Stop any physical activity. Ask your buddy to tow you to shore and carry your equipment
  • Breathe pure medical oxygen, if available
  • Seek medical advice promptly, preferably from a designated dive doctor. They will quite likely give you some antibiotics to ensure you do not get a lung infection or pneumonia
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Take iron and vitamin C to help repair and reduce risk of colds
  • Rest at least for several days before diving or putting any pressure on the lungs

travels cont...

After my final lung squeeze in Dahab (a fairly decent one), I decided to spend my last week not doing any deep diving and instead finally do what I'd planned to the whole time but had been rather distracted from and spend some time relaxing and playing with fish. I managed to persuade buddies to come with me to some of the local dive spots to finally get a feel for the place outside the big hole.

I discovered the timid little eels at eel garden. It was a bit of a cheap thrill. You have to practise very quiet duck dives to get down there before they notice you and become shy, retreating back under the sand. While out of the sand they just look like grass really, so not particularly stimulating. However the dive spot was quite pretty with lots of fish and colourful coral.

Wendy came with me to the Caves which boasted some interesting lighting effects for photography and had a couple of moments of pretty coral. The caves actually went back in under the beach which was quite odd. There was a curious barracuda and some Russian mermaids.

Lighthouse (aka Light Howse) was full of incompetent scuba divers doing intro dives with dive masters swimming above them holding their tanks. It's actually quite scary to watch them as they have absolutely no idea what they are doing.

Wendy and I also dived the canyon. I'm absolutely scared of doing swim throughs. It really doesn't matter what depth they are. Fortunately we had a brilliant day. The sun was shining, although that's really a given for Egypt, there was no wind whatsoever and the sea was so flat it was reflective. We struggled to find the canyon after poorly selecting and following some random scuba divers who strangely enough obviously did not intend to dive the canyon despite diving at the site. The surround area is fairly dead an uninspiring so I don't know what they were thinking. Eventually we found the big split in the rock below us. It was 18m under and we could see it perfectly from the surface. The part of the canyon that we managed to have the nerve to swim through is about 25m deep and roughly 10m long. Being me, I completely screwed it up. I swam very close to the bottom worrying about hitting my head so was 28m under. I'm used to dynamics so started swimming along and hit the end. Now instead of then swimming up I looked up and couldn't see the hole to get out, thought I hadn't gone far enough (but had actually gone a little too far) and that I just couldn't see clearly (my eyes are useless and it was a little dark), so I turned around and went back the way I came. Luckily Wendy recorded the evidence on video so my stupidity can be retained for all eternity. I then had to do it again properly and almost did the same thing again, but I'm pleased to say I did manage to do it sucessfully eventually! There was some nice coral nearer the shore where we were a bit out of the way from where the destructive scuba divers would swim to. Wendy and I agreed that coral and goldfish get a bit boring though.

I'm proud to say I made it out of Egypt without really getting sick. OK, I did have 8 hours of fever and headache, but it made me stay in bed (note bedroom, not bathroom) for my rest day, so it wasn't all that bad. Patti managed to accidentally drink some fresh nile water and not get sick, which was just as well since she was on a feluca, which tend to not have toilets.

My last week in Dahab was a bit up in the air. I didn't know when I was leaving as my flight from Cairo to Madrid was cancelled and I'd been moved to the next day, which was just one of the worst things in my world at the time as it would leave me with only one day in the western world prior to entering back into another backward sandy place. Plus there is too much fantastic art in Madrid to get around it all in a single day. Fortunately my travel agent managed to get me out of Egypt earlier rather than later and I was saved with three days in wonderful Madrid. I'm still unsure if Madrid was so wonderful due to the contrast with Dahab or because it's actually a fabulous place. I arrived at about 4am and got ripped off by a taxi driver who I didn't have the willpower to fight with and I didn't think my 2 Spanish lessons (one done in the airport in Cairo late at night) would help me much for this argument. Once the hostel owner had figured out who I was and actually let me in and I'd climbed the three flights of stairs with my 40kg of gear I went to sleep and managed to sleep right through the changing of the guard at the royal palace, which is special because it only occurs on the first Wednesday of each month, while I happened to be there, sleeping obliviously through the whole thing.

I had great plans for my extra day in Madrid including some me time and pampering (I'm in desperate need of some work on my hair and unfortunately still am). Anyway, I ended up spending three days walking all over Madrid, truly exhausting myself with no time to stop at all. Madrid is a beautiful city with a lot of interesting history. I did a couple of walking tours of the city (the centre isn't all that big, similar size to Wellington). I visited the palace which has a very awesome armoury. I got my Picasso fix for the year at the Museo Reina Sofia. I saw so many of the masterpieces I studied in art history at uni at the Prado. I visited the Caixa Centre, a hovering brick building by reknowned architects Herzog & de Meuron. I went to the compulsory tourist flamenco dance show. Plus I visited a few other galleries that seemed significant. As I was on my own I took up a challenge I found at the tourist information centre to take snapshot photos of a list of random monuments around Madrid. Being me I took it to heart and did both of the tours on offer and saw a few more things than I would have otherwise and ended up walking all over Madrid and exhausting myself a little more. They gave me a couple of free gawdy t-shirts in the wrong sizes for my efforts (more stuff to carry). I wish I'd had a few more days there, but definitely intend to head back to Spain at some stage in the future.

After just about killing myself carrying my gear back down the stairs, up the road to the subway, through the very narrow entry onto a train, up and down some stairs, onto another train, then yet another walk and another train I made it to the airport, which is new and very flash and thankfully, where there are trolleys. It was designed by Foster and Partners (the airport, not the trolley) which unfortunately has nothing to do with the firm I work for (Foster Architects – Ang and me vs Sir Norman with his hundreds of staff in offices around the world). After surviving the first of many interrogations (because I was flying to the USA and EVERYONE now wants to bomb them because Americans are just so annoying) I was hoping there would be some shops where I could buy some nice Spanish couture with my remaining 20 euro, but I was departing from a satelite terminal which was much less exciting and only gave me boring chocolate and alcohol options. Neither of which are particularly condusive to freediving training, yet everyone knows that freedivers consume vast quantities of preferably dark chocolate while no one is watching – full of anti-oxidants – we ignore the fat. Most freedivers could do with a bit of fattening up anyway, then they'd stop complaining about how cold it is when the water is “only” 26 degrees. We're lucky to have air warmer than that in New Zealand.

After my three days in Madrid I was already suffering water withdrawals and despite immense fatigue I managed a swim, spa and bath in my flash airport hotel in Miami before passing out.

Thursday, 29 October 2009


Things I love about Dahab:

the blue hole
the water (Red Sea)
the fish
the men love me (blue eyes)
the heat
the sunset
the stars
NZ$0.75 ice creams (think Trumpet)
camel-jambs (I actually saw a real traffic-jamb involving only cars the other day)

Things I hate about Dahab:

the smell (think open sewers)
the water (brown & bacteria ridden)
the inconsistent & unpredictable bodily functions
the rubbish (everywhere)
the dust
the dirty feet
the incompetent snorkellers (how to destroy an ancient coral reef with several easy steps: walk on it)
the men love me (for all the wrong reasons)
the heat
90% of local men
“buy one”
“taxi?” (if they haven't run you down getting to you first)
compulsory prayers (mosques with loudspeakers), especially the 4am version
“Dahab time” juxtaposed with big city impatience (maybe this should be teamed up with the “90% of local men” and their general arogance)
the smokers (again maybe this should be teamed up with the “90% of local men” and their general arogance)

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Freediving in Egypt

Training in Dahab has been a bit average to date. I've had a lot of issues with equipment but have managed to replace, find or repair everything, so it's not the end of the world. I've been slowly working through my panic at depth issues and finally it all seems to be coming together. I've had further problems with small squeezes, not necessarily coughing blood, but just feeling like there is a little fluid in my lungs. I think I might have always had this but wasn't aware of it as I am now. I'm very flexible through my chest but it's the panic that makes me tense up. I've started setting my dive alarm at a “safe” depth so if I'm having trouble relaxing that's about when I should turn back, but I still get a decent dive in, if I'm relaxed I continue onward. It's improving gradually and I've had some very nice relaxed constant no fins dives between 45 and 50m and down around 60 with my monofin. The large contractions are now subsiding too which is a relief. Once I've done a few more comfortable ones then I'll start to work on increasing the depth slowly. The Blue Hole is wonderful to dive in. It's a short swim out and so sheltered. I can look at the wall on the way down to distract myself. The dives are becoming more natural and I don't have to focus quite as hard to keep everything together.

I spent 10 days in Sharm el Shiekh diving with the Russians and Bill and living in total luxury in a hotel where I had a whole huge room to myself (first time since I stayed with Elisabeth in Aarhus in early August) and they had buffet meals three times a day so I could just relax and do nothing. I actually got bored when I finished my book.

I messed around with doing warm ups for a week but they really didn't work for me. I didn't get enough time between the dives to reach the total relaxation state I like to achieve before my dives and as I struggle psychologically it is easier to just keep the focus and relaxation of a single dive rather than four. There was a competition at the end and it was a pleasure to witness Natalia doing her very clean new world records in constant weight and free immersion. It was also nice to get to know her a bit better. She is a very shy, creative and intelligent woman who writes her freediving blog in the form of poetry (only in Russian unfortunately), setting some of her poems to music and video to share the beauty of freediving with a wider audience. I think she has struggled with the depths too, though you wouldn't believe it now. I didn't really feel ready for the competition, but managed to do a couple of very relaxed and enjoyable constant weight dives to 52m and 61m (dive time 2:02). It wasn't a personal best, but I had plenty of air left and it was one of the nicest feeling deep dives I've done, which is an achievement in itself as that was one of my main goals for my time in Egypt.

Middle Eastern adventures

Patti and I have just been on a bit of an adventure to Petra in Jordan and through Israel. We left home (Dahab) on Tuesday morning with a great plan in our heads as to how the next 6 days would go. We took a local bus to the Israeli boarder. The security guards ohhed and ahhed as I was 3 days overdue on my visa, then they just stamped it. We walked through to Israel. Everything was going fine until they discovered Patti's Iranian visa and had to do a security check on her. They asked her all sorts of really random questions and then we just had to wait. The woman said it would be between 1 and 8 hours! We only had to wait about 1 hour and 45 mins, so it wasn't too bad. Patti was a bit stressed out by it and had a beer. Everyone else at the boarder seemed to get through ok. We taxied through Israel and made it to the Jordanian boarder just before it was due to close at 6pm. So much for spending the afternoon at Petra. I think we over-estimated the public transport in the Middle East. The sun was already setting. Two hours later our taxi driver dropped us off in Petra and couldn't understand why we didn't want to tip him despite smoking in the car after we asked him not to and charging us extra just because we were late at the boarder and had no other options.

Our hostel (Valentine Inn) also stank of old cigarettes as everyone there smokes inside. They made us a great dinner though and provided us with breakfast and packed lunches for Petra. Noisy Muslim prayers and boxy pillows awoke us before sunrise. We had an early start, taking the hostel's first free bus to Petra at 7am after breakfast to avoid tourist buses. Petra was amazing. I would have been happy if it was only the walk in! The first 1.2km is through a huge seismic gap in the mountain. The rock face is multicoloured and was lit by the morning sun creeping down through the gap high above us. Every now and then a horse and carriage would charge past us giving their elderly passengers a very bumpy thrill ride. The narrow path ended ubruptly opening up to the Treasury in front of us. The treasury is famous thanks to it's appearance in Indiana Jones, which they like to play every night at the hostel. The buildings in Petra have been carved from the rock face. There were originally freestanding buildings as well, but there's only really one left plus a few foundations.

We walked up the many steps to the High Place, a sacrifice area. It took us about an hour to reach the summit for a spectacular view down over the entire site. It must have been a pretty large city 2000 years ago when it was flourishing. We took some time out and had tea with one of the locals who has a stall there under a tree, selling handicrafts. Hannah was our age and had worked there half her life. She had a son to her cousin at the age of 14. She is the only divorced Bedouin that I've met so far. She spoke about 5 languages pretty well just from spending time with tourists. We took the steps back down the other side past some pretty areas where there was almost vegetation. I imagine that 2000 years ago Petra would not have been in the middle of the desert. There were lots of systems in place to deal with stormwater but I don't think it rains there any more. Once we made it back down we went straight back up another mountain of similar height to see the monastery. We climbed even further up to see a view, but it was out the other side, not over Petra itself.

In a state of incredible fatigue we accepted tea with a couple of Bedouin guys on the way back down the mountain. They were very keen to invite us for an authentic Bedouin chicken BBQ dinner in Petra, under the stars that evening. We headed back down and along the colonnaded street and back through the gorge out to catch our bus back tot he hostel arriving back very tired after our 11.5 hour adventure. Luckily they fed us so we didn't have to think for a while.

We managed to go out again in the evening to the Turkish baths, which involved a steam room, some lying around, some exfoliation and a soapy massage. I felt so clean and relaxed after.

Our taxi left for the boarder at 5:30am. It was a 3 hour trip along the length of the Dead sea. We had re-organised our trip so we could have the whole day in Petra and were attempting to make it across the boarder in good time to catch a bus up to Heifa to meet a fellow Kiwi and explore the Galilee region. Unfortunately you have to take a bus between the Jordan and Israel boarder, which they made us wait ages for. Then the Israelis seemed to have forgotten that they had just security checked Patti and we had to wait another couple of hours while they did it again because it was a different boarder (they didn't really like it when we reminded them it was the same country). We finally emerged in Israel about 2pm, and they are an hour behind Jordan We gave up on the Heifa idea and headed over to the Dead Sea in a taxi with the intent of staying over night. The rooms were
expensive and once you've floated for an hour or so it gets boring so we changed plans again and decided to head to Jerusalem in the evening. A guy working in the hotel offered us a lift to the adjacent town and suggested we look at a room he has available with a pool, spa, steam room, ensuite, air-con and massage. It all sounded very dodgy when we discoved it was at his house, but we agreed to look at least. After seeing the small sleep out and the very nice pool we decided we were too tired to make our way to Jerusalem and took a chance. It turned out that we chatted to his family a bit and learned more about Jewish culture, which was pretty interesting. We went across the road to the mall for dinner. They have metal detectors and bag checks at all the entrances. We had a spa and the slightly dodgy massage but turned down the offer of heading to town to drink, and slept very well instead.

The bus to Jerusalem was pretty quick, but going through town to get to the Old City was crazy. It was just a few hours before the Shabbat (Sabbath) started and the Jews were out en force. I never really imagined it – there are two types and in one sect the men wear a kind of uniform of wide brimmed black hat, long black coat and pants and a white shirt, plus the ringlets by their ears if they are un-wed. It was a strange experience. We found our baackpackers in the middle of the old city. The city is small and there are no cars inside. There are four quarters: Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Armenian. The Muslim was probably the most exciting with lots of little shops underground, and lots of hustle and bustle. We tried to explore the Jewish Quarter before everything closed for Shabbat, but failed. We wandered around and saw the city from a vantage point on a roof above the Arab markets. Then we went to see the parade of the Franciscan monks along the Via Dolorosa which is believed to be the path that Jesus took to carry his cross up the hill. They stop at the 9(?) stations of the cross to pray in three languages and sing between them. They now make so much more sense. At the fourth station, where Jesus stopped and met his mother we got bored and visited the church that's been built there and had tea with some local guys who working in a cafe there. Italian tourists popped in carrying their own hired wooden crosses, but they looked much to light and small – not enough of a burden, plus there was no crown of thorns and I don't think they had to be nailed to it at the end so some of the effect was lost.

We visited the Western Wall of the Temple Mount (wailing wall). It was just before sunset so we witnessed all the Jews coming in to pray at the start of Shabbat. It was pretty interesting and weird, especially when the Muslims started broadcasting their prayers on the loudspeaker from the Dome of the Rock above. The men and women are seperated by a diving wall. People write their prayers on paper and stuff them into the cracks in the wall as then they are more likely to be answered. The Temple Mount is an interesting place. It used to be a massive and very important Jewish temple. The remaining walls are the original temple perimeter retaining walls. The Turks (Islamic) destroyed it at some stage when they took over the city. They built the Dome of the Rock mosque there. When the Crusaders (Christian) took over the city they used the mosque as a cathedral. Now it is a Mosque again. It is believed that this is the location where both Jesus and Mohammed rose to heaven. The Jews want to remove the mosque and rebuild their temple and will continue to wear their black suits and hats or mourning until this occurs. The Palestinians only really have control over this piece of land in all of Israel. The Jordanians guard it as they provided the gold for the dome. We could not access it at all as it's closed to the public on Fridays and Saturdays, we were out of town on Sunday when evidently there was a violent protest so they decided to close it to the public for the rest of the week, during the Jewish celebration of Sukker.

On the way back to the hostel we stumbled upon the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which was still open. I don't think I've ever visited a historic church at night. It was so eiree. This church houses Jesus' tomb (not sure if there is a body inside or not, I thought the story or the resurrection would require there to be no body). Anyway, the church was amazing. It had obviously been altered a lot over the years and unlike European cathedrals which have big facades, it was pretty well surrounded closely by the neighbouring buildings, so you could not walk around it's external walls. There was a central chapel with lots of little chapels around it. There was a little chapel underground that was essentially a cave. Also some cave like areas that seemed to be tombs. It was pretty spooky. There were tourists singing and a huge queue to kiss the tomb of Jesus. Someone told us that it used to be a Roman prison. Not sure how true that is.

We were invited to a party with some locals and thought we'd go along for a bit. They ended up having to work about 2 hours later than expected by which time we felt old and tired and decided to just chat with them for a bit then head back to the backpackers. They did feed us really well at their restaurant though.

We really planned it poorly arriving on Friday as everything seemed to be closed on Fridays and Saturdays. Our plan was to head back to Eilat in the south on Saturday afternoon, but that didn't work either as the buses don't run on Shabbat and need to be pre-paid for the few in the evening. We instead booked a bus trip to the north for Sunday and extended out stay in the country until Monday and we found it so interesting.

Saturday morning we dropped back into the church and saw it from the roof. It was much better at night though. We visited the Tower of David museum which outlined the history of Jerusalem, conveniently disregarding anything that happened from about 1950 onwards. It made things a lot clearer and really helped us understand why it is such a special place to so many people of different backgrounds. After lunch we walked along top of the city's ramparts (wall) from Jaffa gate to Lion gate (about 2km). It was really hot but it gave us a good view over the city. We then went outside the walls to the tomb of the virgin Mary, the garden of Gethsemane where some of the olive trees dating back to the time of Jesus still stand. Perhaps one of these trees is the one he sat under to contemplate his crucifiction. We visited the Gethsemane Bascilica of Agony then climbed up the Mount of Olives behind the Jewish cemetery to get a good view over Jerusalem as the sun set.

We took a bus tour to Nazareth and Galilee on Sunday. It was pretty average. We stopped where all the other tourist buses stopped. The tour stopped at the Basilica of the Annunciation that had a cave where it is thought the angel Gabriel visited the virgin Mary. The church was quite modern and I actually quite liked it. There were some old excavations underneath from previous churches on the site including 4th century Byzantine mosaics. In Cana we visited the church of the first miracle where it is believed Jesus turned water into wine. Then the church of Tabgha on the shore of the Sea of Galilee was closed so we visited the one next door instead. This is the rough location where it is thought that Jesus fed 5000 people with 2 loaves of bread and 5 fish. It was kind of cute. All churched out we went to another in Capernaum that was modern and built over the site that is believed to have been the home of Peter. It is believed that Jesus taught in a synagogue in Capernaum and remains of a synagogue have been found there from that time. I think they forgot to take us to the other church on the Mount of Beatitudes. We convinced the driver to not take us to the flash hotel for an expensive lunch so we got a shawerma and then went to the free beach at the Sea of Galilee for a swim. It was really dirty but refreshing. Patti tried to walk on water (like it's believed Jesus did there) but failed miserably when she fell off the rock. When Patti got out we discovered a medium sized dead animal floating amongst the rocks. Not really sure what it was. It kind of matches a description of a groundhog. Then we were taken to a baptism site on the River Jordan which is in a location believed to be close to where Jesus was baptised by John. It was pretty but highly touristic. Lots of cattle run type fences to push the tourists through who wanted to be baptised there. Tourists were filling up their water bottles with “holy water” from the river. There were lots of catfish and a big duck that tried to eat one of the Japanese. We made it back to Jerusalem early (probably because the driver forgot one of the destinations) and despite being pretty exhausted had a great falafel and headed into the New City to explore a little. There were lots of Jews out celebrating Sukker.

On Monday we got up early to be at the gate of the Temple Mount when it opened at 7:30am but they turned us away. We tried a few times in different places just to check, but to no avail. So we packed up our stuff and headed to Tel Aviv to try to get me another 30 day Egyptian visa. Unfortunately the embassy was closed until Thursday so we just wasted more time and money and had to change our plans again. We jumped on a bus to Eilat (4.5 hours through the desert) but their embassy was shut aswell and would be closed the next day too. We decided to chance the boarder and managed to buy me a visa for an extra US$50, so I did that. Didn't really have a choice in the matter. We made it back to Dahab under the light of the full moon at about 8pm. It was a good trip when we didn't have to deal with the inefficient bureaucracy.

Photos can be found on Facebook

Monday, 7 September 2009

Triple Depth

Dahab, Egypt

4-7 September 2009

Day one of competition was the static competition. We had to change pools from the scheduled one as it had been used to wash camels which had been relieving themselves in it and was no longer considered sanitary. It suited me as it was closer to my apartment so I didn't have to walk so far in the hot hot sun!

I struggled to get my suit on in the heat and it was great to get into the water. I felt like pulling out the whole way but thought I'd better at least do my announced performance of 5:11. It was a painful dive with first contraction at about 3:10. There was no contrast on the bottom of the pool so I needed to put something down there as I couldn't see if my eyes were fuzzy or not. I guess we live and learn. I aborted at 5:25, which was enough to be the first woman and save some energy for the three days of deep diving. There werre some scientists doing tests on us and the pulse oxymeter was reading 98% again about 1 minute after I completed my dive.

Too many people wimped out of the static even only wanting to participate in depth, and didn't even come and support us in true freediver fashion, so it was a bit of a sad small crowd. A few were sick, so we'll let them off.

I have joined a team with Jana and Alexey. After much brainstorming we came up with a team name that we're very proud of: Sexy flexy mula bandha.

Yesterday was Free Immersion. I announced 58m to set a new national record. The 50m dive I'd done in training a few days before had been really comfortable, and I figured if I was going to announce around the mid 50s anyway I may as well try a little more and set a new record. The dive was relaxed and easy for me. I actually quite enjoyed it! I felt the pressure change a little beyond 50m but could still equalise OK. The hole is beautiful to dive in. The edge is close and you can watch it on the way down. There is light all the way and the temperature is comfortable even without a wetsuit. I haven't seen the arch yet, I think I was facing the wrong way.

I'm feeling a bit sorry for myself today. It started last night. There was a beautiful full moon shining in the cloudless desert sky over Dahab. I had a really sore stomach from allowing myself to get really hungry due to our late competition meeting, then eating too much too fast. On the way home I was offered a 25 Egyptian pound, one hour, in home massage by the dodgey dairy owner. Patti was a little upset because he offered the same to her a few minutes later for 50 pounds. Then while walking between the dairy and home a car came towards me down the road and blinded me with it's headlights for a moment and I kicked a big rock really hard (there are random rocks on the road everywhere). My left big toe nail cracked about a third of the way down the nail and bled a bit. I washed the dirt off it with nice brown bacteria filled tap water and then put iodine on it and tried to ignore it. It actually wasn't too bad while I was diving in my monofin today – it just put pressure on the top of the broken nail which is still attached. I'd also visualised it not annoying me, so blocked it from my mind. I later caught it on the hem of my pants while dressing, which ripped it open again. Later still, during my shower I narrowly escaped further excruciating pain when the shower rose decided to fall from it's wall bracket to the precise point on the floor that my damaged toe had been located just a split second earlier.

Before my dive I couldn't get my nose clip to close properly and I ended up leaving the surface at the last possible moment and blowing bubbles all the way down, then was starting to have equalisation issues (though essentially everything was still working when I turned). I couldn't relax so pulled out at 56m to avoid damaging myself. It was also only my third time doing any depth work with my monofin – we haven't really adjusted sufficiently as yet. I think my team mates are a bit upset with my yellow card, but they have been pushing me to go deeper than I feel comfortable with at this stage. The new national record yesterday was nice though and pretty easy but I felt some fluid in my lungs after it, however didn't spit any blood. I wonder if I have felt this regularly before and just didn't recognise what was happening. My O2 saturation after was a little lower than normal about half an hour later which would indicate a minor lung squeeze. I definitely need more time to adapt to the depth. I put in my nomination today before the team mates could talk me into going deeper. I'll do a 46m no fins dive tomorrow, which I feel mentally and physically comfortable with despite having only done a couple of no fins duck dives (deepest to 28m) since I arrived. When I completed my dive today I realised that my new D4 dive computer that I just won at the world champs is already stuffed. It thought I was still diving 30 minutes later and that it was 55 degrees celcius. It was hot but not that hot! I was wondering about it the other day when it said that it was 27 degrees on the surface and 19 at 50m. I'm fairly certain I would have noticed an 8 degree temperature change while diving wearing only my togs. Hopefully the other one is not faulty too.

On a better note, I feel very relaxed about this competition. I don't feel any pressure to perform or nervousness about the dives. It feels so trivial after the world champs. It's really just a part of my training as I haven't really done enough depth training to justify competing anyway. I have been sleeping particularly well since the bedroom fan arrived (had a couple of hellishly hot nights with very little sleep thanks to one lazy landlord). Until today I've actually felt very comfortable in all my dives and haven't suffered from the usual level of panic state at depth. The water is warm and I think I've finally fallen into relaxed holiday mode.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Dahab, Egypt - first impressions

29 August 2009

I arrived safe and sound in Dahab. My driver was actually at the airport with my name on a card as promised. I have a room to myself for a couple of nights until Jana arrives, then Patti will take over her spot from the 3rd. I thought that there would be lots of other divers in the same hotel but it wasn't until evening when I was feeling a bit desperate and introduced myself to my new neighbours that someone actually arrived, and they were so jet-lagged from their trip that they went straight to bed.

When I arrived I managed to find the waterfront (just by the hotel). The guy at freedive Dahab suggested somewhere to eat, but I wish I hadn't asked. The food was great but it was near an entry to the water and there were all these little bedouin girls around – like rats or pigeons, grabbing at and stealing bits of my lunch. I ended up just moving it over and giving it to them and it was gone in seconds with quite a frenzy. They really didn't look hungry, it seemed like more of a ritual. They then cleaned up the mess on the table with utmost care.

I then went for a bit of a walk but wasn't in the mood for being accosted by all the guys so had a lie down for bit. I emerged just before dark and had a quick dive in the moonlight at “Lighthouse”. It was nice to get in the water, and it's so warm and clear. I might need a torch though if I'm going to dive at that time of day! I was feeling relaxed again and ready for the next ordeal of finding somewhere to eat. It ended up taking me an hour and 45 mins before I sat down in a restaurant. I had Egyptian tea with a Muhammed (very popular name here) and then had to chat with too many guys and get out of eating at their restaurants. I was looking for a place that Muhammed had recommended and must have missed it but found the Funny Mummy that seemed to ring a bell, then I found other freedivers!!! Yay, friends!

Cairo, day two.

28 August

I walked down to the Egyptian museum today - it's not far. I spent 5 hours there. It's an old style museum, wooden cabinets and tiny typed text. They definitely need an upgrade - they could employ me!!! There wasn't even a cafe (surprising because they all want to take your money and there were thousands of people). There was some pretty amazing stuff and I had a great relisation as to how much damage water causes - of course there is no water here and everything is pretty pristine for being 3-5 thousand years old.

I only got accosted by a about 4 men. One started touching me but he left me alone when I told him not to. I was taken into a shop for Egyptian tea by one (I believe this is fairly normal and was only a little nervous). The tea is quite nice. I really upset his cousin when I wouldn't buy his papyrus pictures (can't actually carry them). Shopping here consists of walking down the street, being chatted to by guys and invited into their shop where they ask you which one you like best and then pretty much force you to buy stuff. I have been ignoring them but it's not in my nature. This place makes me a bit nervous.

The hostel did my laundry - I'm not sure what they used but everything (minus one of my favouite tops which is missing) came back hard and my black undies are grey. They almost took the print off one of my new t-shirts!

My bum is bruised from the camel ride yesterday and my thighs are pretty sore. It didn't feel so bad when I was on it. :(

CRAZY Cairo - first impressions

27 August 2009

I landed in Egypt at about midnight last night. I opened the aeroplane blind about 25 minutes before landing and we were already flying over a city - Cairo is huge. My driver for my free transfer was not at the airport and I got stung for a taxi to the central city. It's OK though because it still cost less than the 3 min taxi ride in Denmark! There were traffic jams and the roads were chaotic. This is evidently normal in a city of 20 million people. The driver had no idea where he was going. He stopped and asked for directions six times and made 4 phone calls, plus a couple of social calls. There seem to be no traffic lights. At the big intersections there are traffic police with whistles telling people when to go, otherwise turning is essentially merging. I made it to the hostel by about 1.45am. My room was clean, and there were only a few foam chips on the bed sheets. I booked a tour for day one so had to be up just before 8. I slept pretty well with my ear plugs in to drown out the honking horns and voices from the street below. At 4am I was awoken with a start as the adjacent mosque was broadcasting the Ramadan prayers to the whole city. It was incredibly loud but kind of musical and eiree in my little room. I might video it tonight.

The air here is thick and kind of sweet. Smog, smoke (not too bad as it's ramadan, but they smoke some kind of fruity stuff), fumes, dust, sand and the like. I felt dirty before I even made it to the hostel.

The pungent odour of flea powder greets me every time I step into my room, but I guess that is better than the alternative. I have only seen one cockroach and the sheets appear to be clean. I have already started to remove black build up from my nostrils.

Breakfast was included and pretty poor. I have to find some fruit to accompany the white bread and jam. My tour guide was very pleasant and saved me from the hoardes. We went to Saqqera pyramid - the first pyramid first. It took and hour by car. The edges of the nile are green and everything else is just covered in golden sand or dust from the Sahara mixed with soot. There are donkeys pulling carts and oxen walking down the streets (I think this is kind of a suburban thing). A lot of the buildings have people inhabiting them and reinforcing bars sticking out of the top as though they might consider adding floors one day. We went to see how papyrus paper is made and they did the hard sell on me for some Egyptian art. I managed to get out alive and without parting with any money or making my pack any heavier. We then did the same with essencial oils. The highlights were perhaps the welcoming drinks, I tried Egyptian tea and cold hibiscus. Both nice and sweet.

The pyramids of Giza and Sphinx were next. I got stung again and took a camel safari in the Sahara for about 2.5 hours. It was just me and the guide and the kid walking in front holding the camel reign. I enjoyed it. It was so peaceful and there was a light breeze blowing that stopped me from sweating profusely. The pyramids themselves are really quite boring. They are the same on all sides (funnily enough) and the sense of scale seems reduced by the sparseness of the surrounding desert even when you're standing right next to them. But they do create a pretty landscape. I only got harrassed by three Egyptian men trying to sell me stuff. I think my chaperones saved me to an extent, however they are just as bad wanting lots of tips despite having already been paid. My thighs and back are now pretty sore from straddling the camel and bouncing around.

I'm just plucking up the courage to venture into town to find some dinner. I might wait until sunset as I think more food places will open then as those fasting for Ramadan will be allow to eat.

Tomorrow I'm going down to the Egyptian Museum, on my own. It's about a 5 minute walk away. I spent a lot more than I had planned today (mainly on the camel safari) so will make up for it tomorrow.

Copenhagen, Denmark

23-26 August (just 2 days really)

The WCs after party kept me up most of the night. Maria unfortunately managed to sneak out without saying goodbye or showing us her black eye, and possibly without actually sleeping at all. I managed to score a free ride down to Copenhagen with Maria Livjberg, Morten and Nanna. We were a tad packed in but I actually found it quite comfortable almost lying in the car with my feet up over the top of my big backpack. I managed to fall asleep and miss most of the exciting scenery on the journey: the big bridges, etc.

Nanna, sister of my first fabulous host Sofus (I love the Kreutzmann family!) offered me a bed which I accepted with great enthusiasm. The three nights in Copenhagen were set to cost me more than my two months stay in Egypt, and I'd found a cheap place! Nanna has a pretty cool apartment in a nice area. The only downside being the lack of a bathroom (the only plumbing is a wc and a kitchen sink), but we used that of a friend living in the same building.

We managed to entirely lose the morning of my first day in Copenhagen due to some late sleeping and grocery shopping. But, we made up for it in the afternoon. We first took a guided boat tour of the canals taking in most of the city's major buildings and the celebrated Little Mermaid sculpture from the water. We then wandered through the old town centre and visited the cathedral and town hall. There was an exhibition in the town hall that included a lot of (rather poor) elephant paintings. There seems to be an elephant obsession in Copenhagen. They are everywhere. I started to give up hope of ever seeing the elusive reindeer or moose during my Scacndinavian adventure, elephants became much more rational.

We took in the park and the dodgey part of town that included an up-side-down burnt out car, that just seemed to fit in with the landscape so well. We had a drink near Nanna's office at a funky little cafe that reminded me a bit of Wellington's midnight expresso. Then we strolled through the assistant cemetery and found some wacky graves and a few famous people including Hans Christian Andersen and Neils Bohr. We finally made it home, exhausted.

On the second day Kerian and Darryl were going to pop into town on their way through and meet us for breakfast. They arrived really quite early so they came to the apartment for breakfast instead. We all then went to explore Christiania, the hippy part of town that looks pretty well untouched since the 70s. It's strange to wander off the very Copenhagen-esque streets straight into a park-like area where people live in the nature by the water, there's heaps of graffiti art and odd sculptures plus little alternative shops where people openly sell canabis. In some spots you could see the rather contradictory golden spire of the adjacent cathedral juxaposing against this hippy commune.

We said goodbye to Kerian and Darryl and then visited the architectural centre where there was an exhibition on Foster+Partners and their handling of existing buildings in their architecture, including the Copenhagen Zoo elephant house. Upstairs there was an installation by the landscape architects SLM called elephant that outlined some of their thinking behind the design of the new elephant house.

We managed to sit down for a sammie on the water's edge before heading into the Black Diamond – the national library. The building is quite stunning over all but there are areas where the detailing isn't so fantastic. There was an exhibition called A building is not a building by a photographer with stunning enormous images of details from buildings, some of which were recognisable, others not. We popped into the Danish design centre but they were just setting up the next major exhibition so we went and hooned around the National Art Gallery for an hour before it closed – I don't think either of us were really in the right mood for it so while we saw most of it we only really looked at a few pieces.

We then went on a mission to find me a “Danish” from Denmark on the way home. I got some pretty yummy cakes, eventually – we had to take the metro back out to Christiania, slight detour.

It was a bit of a whirlwind tour but I think I saw the major attractions Copenhagen has to offer. And, I made it to the airport without yet destroying my back.

Monday, 24 August 2009

The end of the World Champs

Well, the individual indoor world champs is all over for another two years. The Kiwis have taken out one third of the available medals.

Guy Brew managed gold in both static and dynamic after Bjarte Nygard pushed too far and blacked out at about 240m.

Suzy became the second woman in the world to reach 200m and took a silver medal for the dynamic.

I was one of three people who competed in all heats and finals and earned a bronze in both dynamic events and silver in static.

For me exhaustion had set in by my third event in the first 24 hours. I was unaware of how tired I really was until I had started my dynamic without fins final dive. I aborted at 138m due to the immense fatigue. I was pretty disappointed as this is the shortest competition dive I have done in a long time.

I didn't sleep well the next night, had to get up at 6:30am to eat prior to my static and had lactic in my legs from walking to the pool in the morning and in my arms after plaiting my hair. I decided to take some sports supplements to give me energy as I didn't really feel I could rely on my own power any more and they worked for the rest of the competition. The static final was a huge struggle for me. I thought that it was going to be all over when I got my first contraction and mis-heard my coach saying 2:40 – a short time later it was 4 minutes so the first contraction was 3:40. I pushed myself through with pure determination waiting for my coach to tell me when I was in the final three. Eventually Chris let me know that it was just Natalia and I left so I came up some 30s after the bronze medalist Jessica Wilson. I had no idea what the time was, I'd just been focussing on whether my head was still clear or not.

My dynamic heat was 10 hours after my static final, so after the dope test and some lunch I headed back to the hostel for a lie down. The heat was pretty aweful. I was again really tired, but my head was clear. I was in the last heat so had the luxury of knowing exactly what I needed to do. I was told I needed 165m to make the A-final so that's what I did (kind of lucky though that Maria Livjberg didn't do more in the next lane – she was feeling like I had the day before). It was about 10pm before we made it back to the hostel for some steak.

Finally I slept tremendously well and awoke 11 hours later. I was so exhausted. The dynamic final was in the late afternoon so there was no hurry. The nerves had subsided as I was well used to the competition by my sixth event. I approached this dive the same as my other dives in the finals: to do as much as I can with a nice clean exit. I felt stronger again, but it was still a challenge. I didn't realise I was so close to the wall or I might have pushed a little harder...

I'm very pleased to have achieved my goal for the world champs of a medal in each discipline, consistent clean dives throughout and not letting the nerves overpower me.

It was such a relief to be all over!

The after party was good fun, but as usual very messy. I gave up on the wine after about 3 glasses and was pretty sober. Ruth spun out a bit. We didn't eat until about 9:30pm after the prizegiving. The medals were heavy and I won three D4s!!!

My ride to Copenhagen has just arrived!

Saturday, 22 August 2009

World Champs day 2

This morning was the Static heats. I had my usual pre-competition poor sleep. At least I was in bed for 9 hours. Just after breakfast I found out that there had been problems at the pool and the start times would all be pushed back one hour. Someone broke in over night and stole all the computers, video cameras and big TV screens. They were asking around for replacements to get the competition moving again. It sounds like all the officials acted in a calm and professional manner and got the situation under control as quickly as possible and the competition only experienced minimal delays in the scheme of things. Everything ran so smoothly for us athletes yesterday. The TVs showed underwater footage during the dives and results within about 10 mins of each heat. It was very disappointing to come in this morning and see it all gone.

There were only three Kiwis competiting in Static apnea this morning: Chris, Guy and me. Chris was first up and did a clean 4:52. I don't know that he really pushed it that hard! I was in the final heat containing women: me and the three medalists from the Maribor World Champs two years ago. My dive was pretty painful but I had plenty of air and did 6:18, which was enough to convincingly make the A final.

Guy's lungs are obviously feeling better which is great because I know he was a bit scared of how they would react to his first proper breath hold since his squeeze. He did something around 7:50 (sorry I should have checked) and made the A final.

We are now waiting around for the dynamic without fins final.

The World Champs has begun

Well, here we are, finally in Aarhus, Denmark, competiting at the AIDA individual indoor freediving world championships. The Kiwi team are mostly staying a little out of town at a backpackers in the woods. It is beautiful, peaceful and quiet and I am sleeping fantastically well. Chris left us yesterday when his father called and asked him where they should meet. Ian decided to pop over and support (and surprise) him. My room is a mix of girls from different nationalities: Ruth from Auckland & Northern Ireland representing Great Britain, Maria from Norway who learned to dive with the Lazy Seals and Jana from Canada who just doesn't have a team. We're doing our best to adopt as many honorary Kiwis as possible.

We had our first competition day of the world champs today with the dynamic without fins heats. There was much excitment with a lot of national records and black outs as people pushed to their limits to try to make finals.

Suzy was one of the early starters and the first girl to do a long enough dive to qualify for the finals. She did a personal best of 132m.

I had nominated pretty high (the highest of all the women) so was in the final heat containing women (the heats are mixed sexes) so knew essentially what I had to do. I had nominated 127m so wanted to do that as a minimum, so just turned at the 125 and came up at 128m. Quite luxurious really. I definitely felt nerves but they weren't dibilitating as they have been in the past. My buoyancy wasn't great in the deep pool, but it wasn't too much of a challenging dive and I qualified 7th out of 8th for the A final. The announcer thought I only did 118m (not sure how he figured that out) and everyone kept asking me afterwards "what happened?"

All our three boys nominated high so were in the last heat and knew exactly what they were required to do to make the final. Will made it through with a very clean and conserrvative looking dive to 162m. Kerian has his first sizeable samba that made him re-submerge his airways at about the same distance as Will and scored him a red card. Chris made it to the surface somewhere around 140m but also blacked out.

The static heats are tomorrow morning. I'm once again in the last heat containing 4 of the world's best women. Hopefully I will have the luxury of not having to push it too hard again. The dynamic without fins finals are in the early evening.

AIDA International individual indoor world championships 2009, Aarhus, Denmark

18-22 August 2009

AIDA NZ has a blog up and running that Kiwi divers attending the world champs in Denmark can post to. My posts regarding the world champs will be both here and there. To see the posts by other divers go to:

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Nordic Deep, Lysekil, Sweden

freediving competition, 10 – 16 August 2009
25m pool

My results:
Tuesday 6'33” static
Wednesday 154m dynamic without fins, national record (exceeding world record)
Thursday 159m dynamic without fins, national record (exceeding world record)
Friday 6'03” static

We're staying in a scout camp called Lysestrand near Lysekil. It's a beautiful setting in the country side. There are lots of trees and the “beach” (it's sandless) is just a short walk away. You can see the water from the deck. The sun has been shining and I have been catching up on some vitamin D and actually tanned up a bit. There are lots of people speaking foreign Nordic languages, but we have a good contingent of Kiwis and honorary Kiwis here competing while recovering from jet lag. The competition is well organised. There are a lot of people, but plenty of room to find your own space.

I felt a few nerves for my first day of competition. I guess a lot of things were different and I haven't really done a lot of statics in competition recently. I felt a bit like throwing up an unfamiliar breakfast but managed to settle down just in time for the dive. I was very relaxed and my first contraction was at about 4 minutes without even needing to revert to forced relaxation techniques. I struggled to deal with the contractions so will need to mentally prepare myself a bit better for the world champs. It was essentially a fairly easy and clean dive however, with plenty left for next time I hope!

Day two I was still feeling a bit nervous. I guess because it was a new pool (I didn't really test it for dynamics the day before) and different people. The Swedes also seem to like to push people through on their top times as fast as possible with 7 minute intervals, so it feels a bit rushed moving from the warm up zone to the performance zone in time for the countdown, but it wasn't too bad. I was doing dynamic without fins and got a bit late getting into the pool, but the competition was pushed out 4 minutes after Jens' black out, which saved me a bit. There were stairs on the side of the pool that were about 4m wide right where I would normally be thinking about coming up just at the 150m, so I visualised pushing off and coming up just after them. Unfortunately I didn't really think about continuing if I felt good so pretty much just pushed off at 150 and came up right on the corner of the stairs for a new NZ record of 154m. My first couple of lengths were pretty atrocious so I've add a bit of thought about them in my visualisation to make sure they get better.

On day three I repaired the few issues I had the day before and did a nice 159m dynamic without fins without too much trouble.

By day four I was getting pretty tired and had contracted a sore throat from one or both of my room mates. I didn't sleep particularly well while I was there and my static really started to reinforce this. It was a struggle most of the way with my first contraction at 2:45. I pushed through though and reached my minimum of 6 minutes. I was still pretty clear headed but it was hard work.

I managed to win the women's competition on my static and dynamic performances without getting in the sea. Ruth was a close second and Suzy was third.

The cold kicked in a couple of days later and I'm hoping it disappears in time for the World Champs. It is really just in my throat and sinuses so hopefully won't affect my performance beyond perhaps having to equalise once in the pool.

I'd like to thank the organisers of the Nordic Deep for a fun competition and the other competitors for their hospitality. It was sooooo nice to just show up at the pool and not have to do anything other than compete for a change!

Friday, 14 August 2009

Aarhus, Denmark

3 – 10 August 2009

I decided to spend a week in Aarhus prior to the world champs to get the tourist fanaticism out of my system by visiting the main tourist attractions and it was also good to orientate myself a bit. It worked out that we were training in the evenings anyway so I had to take things a little easier than usual during the day so as to not be incredibly tired for the sessions. I stayed with fellow freediver Elisabeth Kristofferson, my third wonderful host in a row. I was given my own room so I managed to catch up on some sleep.

Elisabeth was working during the week so I mucked around in town a bit, caught up on a few things that needed doing and generally chilled out. I visited Aarhus cathedral and the Viking museum on the first day, the old cathedral and the “prettiest street in Aarhus” on the second day and wandered the town a bit. I'm not allowed to shop due to budget and luggage weight issues so I'm avoiding them. At our first evening training at the Spanish baths I completely lost count of the number of lengths I had done after I'm informed only 50m. I must have been so relaxed after my sleep in.

On Friday I met Elisabeth after she finished work and we went to the beach. We managed to find a little sand to sit on, but it was definitely a city beach with grass and rocks and lots of people. We went to the local amusement park were we had a picnic and a wine and listened to the live music in the sunshine. I didn't do any rides. I'm trying to be conservative with my body, plus they were expensive. Elisabeth did the scariest rollercoaster where you sit underneath the tracks with your legs hanging free, but it only lasted one minute including the 30s slow climb up.

On Saturday we decided to skip pool training and have a day at the museums with a quick dry training session as a break. We visited the Aros art museum. It's a pretty fantastic building. A brick box on the exterior and very sculptural (reminiscent on Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenhiem) on the inside. There was a wide and interesting variety of art from all eras and in many forms. We spent a few hours there covering the whole museum then went to the old town museum Den Gamble By. It's a little village where they have saved and rebuilt old building from around Denmark. Each one is set up with displays of different trades or styles of living, for example there's a post office, a stable, a tobacanist, a distillery and brewery, a bakery (where they actually sold yummy food), a hat maker, different classes of living & bedrooms, etc. We filled up the afternoon easily – it was a pretty tiring day.

On Sunday morning we finally trained in the pool we'll be using for the World Champs. My dive wasn't great but the distance was, so I was pretty happy to be back where I need to be. We caught a bus up to the Japanese Zen Gardens where we spent the afternoon. It was very beautiful and would be an easy place to just sit for a long time in the sun. We pulled out all the yoga poses we could remember and took photos of ourselves in the beautiful setting. It took us a while to get home as it shut half an hour earlier than we expected and we had to walk quite a way to catch a bus or wait almost an hour. So we walked, complete with dive gear (of course). Why is my dive gear so heavy??? It was a bit of a late night as I had to book my travel and pack before leaving early in the morning to head up to Lysekil for the Nordic Deep freediving competition.

The journey was not as bad as I anticipated, however it did last 12 hours. I had to leave at 7am and catch the local bus to the train station, the train for 3 hours to Fredrikshavn, a taxi to the ferry (as I'd just about killed my back walking the previous time, and it was raining), the ferry for 3.5 hours to Gothenburg, a tram to central station, a quick run through the station to catch the bus to Lysekil. I met Sofia and Jens on the bus so the journey wasn't too boring. There were huge traffic delays and the trip took much longer than expected, but our brilliant bus driver took a scenic route (back road) to skip the queues, then drove on the wrong side of the road for about 5 mins to get us to the ferry at least. We overtook the bus that had left an hour before and there was another bus on the other side to pick people up, but that was our pick up point for the Nordic Deep anyway.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Gothenburg, Sweden

28 July - 3 August 2009

I felt I needed a break once I made it to Gothenburg. The luggage had been incredibly heavy to carry and I have since reconsidered how to pack it. I was staying at Christian's apartment, but he was away kayaking until Friday.

We had a static training session on the first morning. I struggled a bit, but did OK. My two buddies then showed me up with a PB each. I went for a bit of a walk in the afternoon to get my bearings but generally rested and figured out what the city had to offer.

Training on Thursday was in a 50m pool again. I tried a dynamic which was going pretty well until a member of the public jumped on my head at 100m. In the afternoon I wandered around the town and discovered the Haga (old working class area). I even managed to fit in a well overdue hair cut. Jens took me salsa dancing in the evening so the red party dress had it's first outing of the trip. Unfortunately I seem to have very little rhythm or co-ordination and I didn't really bring dancing shoes. It was fun though.

I had a great plan for Friday and decided to go ahead with it despite the weather. I did the Open top bus tour, which was incredibly cold, but luckily it didn't rain. I even did the unthinkable and purchased a tourist plastic poncho. It didn't quite rain though so I was not obliged to wear it!

Then I took a boat out to the New Alvsborg fortress. This is an island at the habour mouth. It we essentially where the city of Gothenburg defended itself from invaders coming in on the sea. It was pretty miserable. The fortress was dull and the weather horrendous – I was almost blown right of the island. I waited in the cafe until the boat came back for us, and ate my packed lunch.
Back in the city I rode the elevator up an 86m high building nicknamed the Lipstick to see the view.

Then visited the Gothenburg city museum and the Botanic gardens before heading back to the apartment. Christian had arrived home, so I finally met him in the flesh, and we went to his friend Patrick's home for some drinks with some of the friends he had been kayaking with. Another late night!
We trained dynamics on Saturday morning. Finally I had a fairly successful session with my fin on in the 50m pool. From the pool I went to the Rohsska (design) museum which had a few interesting exhibitions: a couple of fashion designers, Swedish design generally and one quite fun one with hundreds of citrus squeezers of all shapes, sizes and colours.

Gothenburg Art museum however, was a bit disappointing.

Afterwards I needed to sit down and took a Paddan boat canal tour so I could have a rest. Fortunately the sun had come out again and it was quite pleasant. I then visited the Universeum, which had aquariums of all sorts of fish including specific tanks of fish from places around Sweden. I also visited the dangerous creatures area and the rainforest where there were birds, monkeys, iguanas, frogs etc roaming free in a simulated rainforest environment. It was pretty good.

The final visit for the day was to the adjacent amusement park: Liseberg. I didn't really feel like going on rides so I wandered around and watched a show. I was getting pretty tired and headed home. I think I spent 13 hours out being busy and over-did it a little.

Sunday, therefore, became another tourist rest day. We managed a sleep in as Christian had been out late too at the U2 concert. We trained late morning and I had some success with attempting a no fins max in the 50m pool. I spent the afternoon preparing for my trip to Denmark the following day. We bought a chunk of moose meat and some smoked reindeer for dinner, which Patrick cooked exquisitly for us with an entree of mushrooms on white toast and ice-cream & chocolate for dessert. Unfortunately this was the fourth late night in a row, and I had an early morning start to pack my bags again and get on ferry to Frederikshavn, Demark. It all went pretty well but the 1.1km walk between the ferry and the train with my 40kg bags was a killer. I think I'll get a taxi on the return trip next week!

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Stockholm, Sweden

25-28 July 2009

After two 12 hour plane trips and a couple of other smaller ones I finally arrived in Stockholm. It was about 38 hours of travelling and I really didn't sleep well. And, the first long flight didn't allow you to start the films at your discretion, so it was pretty boring.

My fabulous host Sofus picked me up from the airport. I like it that all freedivers seem to wear freediving shirts so you can find them in airports, train stations and the like. It was about mid-day, so rather than give in to the fatigue we instead walked around the Stockholm city centre for about 4 hours. It was great to have a guided tour. We visited the town hall, parliament and Gamla Stan (the old town). I discovered that the sun does not set until after 10pm and I think I have awoken every day at about 4am so far thanks to the early dawn. This is Sofus in front of a cathedral:

The second day we visited the Nordic museum & Vasa museum where we learned all about Nordic history and culture. The Vasa was a poorly designed ship that sank about 300m into it's maiden voyage, it didn't even make it out of the harbour! It has recently been discovered at the bottom of the harbour and restored, and now has it's own museum built around it. On Monday all the museums were closed and it was my 30th birthday. We went training at the pool. It was my first attempt in a 50m pool for quite some time, and went OK considering the jet lag. After we had lunch in a cafe by the river in the sun and walked along the riverbank by the old allotment gardens, which were very cute. They were areas of land that were allocated to apartment or city dwelling families in post war times (I think, from memory) so they could grow veges. Now they seem to mainly grow flowers and it's very pretty.

We then visited the Woodlands cemetary world heritage site designed by Asplund in the early 1900s. Unfortunately we got a bit late and couldn't get inside any of the chapels or the visitor's centre, but did have a look at all the buildings from the outside. The cemetary was very cute. There were lots of pine trees in amongst the graves that gave it quite and eiree feeling. This is peaking through the peep hole to one of the chapels, the crematorium and the woodlands chapel (made famous by Russell Walden I think!):We followed this up with a trip the the Globen (Globe stadium). It's the largest spherical building in Scandinavia. Again we couldn't get inside but there was a lot of information about the building given in a display outside.
We had a very nice birthday dinner and over-loaded a bit on a variety of chocolate cakes and red wine. Freedivers are such light-weights when it comes to these things!

Sofus had to head back to work on Tuesday. I managed to walk down to the train station and get myself to town without breaking my back with my massive pack. I think I have about 40kg of gear – mostly dive gear as I've been pretty conservative with my general packing. I found time to visit the Architecture museum which had an interesting temporary exhibition on decoration in architecture and juxtaposed old styles with new. They also had their permanent exhibition which covers the development of architecture in Stockholm, and quite an interesting temporary exhibition regarding setting up a town as a new World Heritage Site, and what that involves. I then caught the train over to Gothenburg.

My Trip of a Lifetime

I have just started out on my “trip of a lifetime”. Thanks to the recession there's not a great deal of architectural work on in NZ and it seemed like a good time to get away and see what I'm capable of.

Here's the outline of my itinerary:

24 July NZ to Stockholm, Sweden
28 July Gothenburg, Sweden
3 August Aarhus, Denmark
10 August Lyskil, Sweden, for Nordic Deep freediving competition
16 August Aarhus, Denmark, for AIDA individual indoor World Champs
23 August Copenhagen, Denmark
26 August Cairo, Egypt
29 August Dahab, Egypt, for Triple Depth freediving competition and general depth training
4 November Madrid, Spain
7 November Miami, USA
8 November Long Island, Bahamas, for AIDA individual depth World Champs
8 December Miami, USA
21 December Quito, Ecuador, for tours around the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, Peru & Bolivia
7 February Buenos Aires, Argentina
11 February Santiago, Chile
23 February Arrive home

I intend to keep a bit of a trip diary going on my blog during this time, so watch this space!


The following articles have recently been published in the new NZSpearo magazine, the first is a profile on me and the second is an article I wrote describing my training principles. Click on them to enlarge. If you want copies of the magazine you can contact Mike from Ocean Hunter: The third issue has just been released and I hope to post my article from that soon.

Wellington Winter Champs 2009

Indoor freediving competition organised by the Lazy Seal Freediving Club
11-12 July, Porirua, Wellington, New Zealand
25m pool

My results:
152m dynamic without fins, national record (exceeding world record)
191m dynamic, national record

This was the fourth annual Wellington Winter Champs that I've organised with the Lazy Seal Freediving Club. We were able to choose one event per day as it suited us. The competition was fierce with Guy Brew completing a 9:03 static, the biggest breath hold ever in competition, followed closely behind by Dave Mullins' 232m dynamic without fins, exceeding his world record by 19m. Suzy Osler, who some may remember as Suzy Kensington made an exciting come back with a 188m dynamic and briefly held the national record and her world no 2 position again. Ruth Griffin smashed the dynamic British national record with 165m (in her flash new suit and hyperfin – she finally got rid of the tiny little training fins!). I managed a pretty comfortable 152m dynamic without fins exceeding my world record by 1m, and was fairly pleased. I congratulated myself with a dinner of venison, a glass of red wine and some mellowpuffs for dessert, and managed an early-ish night.

Day two I strangely felt less pressure than day one even though Suzy had now set the standard pretty high for dynamics. It was actually a very comfortable dive, and I feel my technique is finally improving. It was definitely time to come up when I did though!

Apniests' Challenge 2009

indoor freediving competition organised by the Lazy Seal Freediving Club (aka me)
16-17 May, Porirua, Wellington, New Zealand
25m pool

My results:
6'18” static
155m dynamic
151m dynamic without fins, equal to world/national record

This competition occurred just after I had finished my “break” (aka training with less intensity & motivation) before starting training for the world champs. I didn't have high expectations and just wanted to complete clean consistent performances and see how it felt to complete multiple long dives in a single day and more the next. I guess I was a little disappointed that I didn't push myself harder in the earlier dives (STA & DYN) to really see the effects of this on the third dive in just over 24 hours. The first two dives were pretty easy. I had been playing with my no fins arm technique and had not really conquered it yet – I'm a bit slow to adapt to these things so have a bit of work to do in that area to make my DNF more effective again.


It's been a while since I've found the time to update my blog I'm sorry. Life has been pretty chaotic since I arrived home from the Bahamas. I had a lot of things that needed tidying up before I left, as well as organising a couple of local pool competitions, plus I've been planning the big seven month world trip that I have now started. The blog has therefore taken a backseat for sometime unfortunately.

I'll post some things that should have been written some time ago and then update you on the current affairs.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Fred & Jana

me, Alex, Herbie, Linden

Megumi, Leo, Tomoko, Ryuzo

Walter & the Kiwis: Kerian, Joy, me, William

me & Liv

Happy & Rob

Herbert, Mads, Walid

Simon, me, Linden, David

Judge Mermaid Linden: