Saturday, 5 March 2011

Website, coming soon

Orca wetsuits

I just wanted to let you know that there are plenty of the new Orca Breathe freediving wetsuits in stock here in New Zealand. Please make contact if you'd like me to arrange to send you one. The NZ$ is low post the Christchurch earthquake, so you could get a good deal.

Dive Camp 2011 - Wanaka, New Zealand

Dive Camp all started a few years ago with the Lazy Seal Freediving Club. We thought it would be a great idea to have a dive holiday in summer, where all participants contributed by sharing their knowledge and experience and supported each others’ diving, as opposed to a course where one person must take control. Now I have moved from Wellington and the club, and set up Deep South Freedivers in Wanaka, in the “Deep South” of New Zealand’s South Island. I wanted to keep the tradition alive and invited diving friends from around New Zealand and the world to attend Dive Camp 2011, in the height of our summer, in one of New Zealand’s most scenic locations.

Unfortunately the offer was not taken up by the great numbers that I had originally envisioned and the proposed competition to follow a week of Dive Camp had to be cancelled, but we had a great group of four lively young (at heart) women participating. Barbara Jeschke, German Freediving Champion and Cristina Kuemmel, Danish champion joined local novice Jane Hawkey and me for two weeks of freediving training in both the lake and the pool, a bit of tourism and a lot of laughs.

the girls: Cristina, Kathryn, Barbara, Jane
Wanaka turned on the charm with the strong winds finally abating in mid-February, on the weekend the ladies arrived and leaving us with hot settled weather. The lakes were calm, quiet and warm, with no thermoclines felt at all and 16°C recorded at -30m. It was like we had all the lakes to ourselves, with very few boats or even people around. We dived in various locations around Lakes Wanaka and nearby Hawea, where there are steep drop-offs, giving us much more depth than we needed only a short swim from shore. One spot dropped immediately to 20m or more from the shore, giving us one of our darkest diving days as we dived in the shadow of the adjacent cliff and low morning cloud hung around the surrounding mountains, creating an eerie sensation both on the surface and at depth. Not to worry though, we never lost sight of the rope and generally we had pretty good visibility despite rain from the previous week clouding up the water.

Out diving in Lake Wanaka: Jane, Cristina, Kathryn


The Wanaka Community Pool was, as always, very accommodating. It is a 25m, warm pool, a little shallower than ideal, but perfect for training.

Cristina practising her DNF

Stretches were done on the pool lawn looking out towards the mountains or on the beach before getting in. Barbara had plenty of funny analogies, such as the “naughty dog” neck stretch or the “lazy secretary” ankle rotations. Jane’s back yard set the scene for our dry apnea sessions, looking out over the idyllic wide, green Clutha River in the evening sunshine.

stretching at the beach: Cristina, Barbara, Jane

The Dive Camp concept worked well again, with even the most novice diver amongst us finding she had valuable knowledge to contribute. Each of the 15 scheduled training sessions had a theme that was mostly followed quite closely, giving us a starting point for discussion, debate and skill sharing then time to try what we had learned.

The participants were all inspirational in different ways. Barbara, aged 56 has done 18 iron man races (now given up for freediving) and looks much younger than her years. Cristina’s sense of adventure led her to jump off Queenstown Hill strapped to a strange man hanging from a paraglider, and trying sashimi and then getting addicted to it. Jane managed to juggle all the workshop sessions, a young family and work as well as preparing some great meals for us all.

As well as all the diving we managed to fit in a few little adventures. A trip to Queenstown included seeing old Cromwell, riding the gondola and the spectacular Shotover jet, and dinner at the old Cardrona Hotel on the return over the Crown range, New Zealand’s highest sealed road. We drift-dived the Clutha River, New Zealand’s largest river, from its source at Lake Wanaka for about an hour through to Albert Town, through some minor rapids and Dean’s Bank, scaring a multitude of trout as we passed. We walked up Mount Iron for a stunning 360° view over the area and went biking around the lake. We perused the sculpture exhibition at Rippon vinyard, one of the oldest vinyards in Central Otago. We took an overnight trip to Lake Tekapo with some disappointing salmon fishing in Lake Pukake on the way (we’re blaming the rain that day and low visibility in the lake!), a midnight visit to Mt John Observatory, where the night sky is a World Heritage Site and offers some of the world’s best star gazing (however up-side-down according to Barbara), had a dip in the hot pools over-looking the light blue coloured glacial Lake Tekapo and visited Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain. We joined Scuba Steve for a dive day in Lake Hawea with a picnic on the shore, and we dived at the head of Lake Wanaka followed by some hiking through virgin forest in the Mount Aspiring National Park with a visit to the Blue Pools.

At the summit of Mount Iron with Lake Wanaka in the background: Barbara, Kathryn, Cristina

Cristina at reflective Lake Hayes

Cristina about to jump off a mountain with a strange man

Rippon vinyard sculpture exhibition: Barbara & Cristina

One of the less pleasant New Zealand experiences for the Europeans was the discovery of sandflies and how much they enjoy biting foreigners. Not to worry though, they are not dangerous; they just leave small itchy bites. The ladies also experienced their first large earthquake first hand, but luckily far enough from the Christchurch epicentre to not be destructive or involved (other than emotionally) in the state of emergency that followed.

Dive Camp 2011, Wanaka was a great success with everyone learning from and supporting each other, enjoying the local environment, making new friends in the world-wide freediving family and just having a lot of fun in and out of the water.