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.