I’m not sure what depth I was on the rope when I first began chest spams, but I could no longer see the boat and the surface was just a faint light, teasing me with precious air.
It took all of my focus to keep from opening my mouth and sucking in water to make my stubborn lungs stop screaming for attention.
As you can see by the title of my post, I did not reach my goal of 15 meters today on my very first freedive. It actually turned out not to be an oxygen issue, I was able to hold my breath for well over a minute under the water. It was a different diving culprit that stopped me, my left ear. I have had trouble with that ear in the past, and this time I was not about to equalize it at anything lower than 11 meters. I would push and push until the pain of the pressure on my eardrum was too much to bear, and I knew that something was going to break.
True, God gave me two ears, but I don’t think one was intended as a backup to stupidity, so I would abort every effort with just barely enough oxygen left in my blood to convince my brain that life was still worth living.
Scuba diving is different. You feel the same pain from the pressure, but you have time to blow out through your nose, swallow, wiggle your jaw…whatever it takes to equalize the pressure and continue going down into the depths. Not with freediving! There is simply no time. As I learned the hard way, every second spent farting around with your ears equals certain failure.
Added to the complications was the fact that visibility was a mere seven meters…terrible. We could see nothing during training on the rope. It was only about pushing your body to the limits, and I feel that I did that today. I watched in amazement and horror as our instructor went to 30 meters, sometimes being underwater for over two minutes. When he came back to the surface, I looked for gills. It just did not seem human!
There were also hundreds of tiny, finger-sized jellyfish that kept stinging my exposed arms and face while I was trying to focus on not drowning. Bastards. I did see a lot of picture perfect Morish Idols, a Morray which I freedived down to at about seven meters, and an array of other life once we got to a place where the visibility was better. Even with only achieving 11 meters, when my Spanish friend, Luis, and I climbed back onto the busy diveboat and everyone else was busy screwing around with equipment, we had smiles on our faces. You could almost hear other divers say, “here comes the crazy free-divers.” It felt good to be different! (and more hard core)
The second half of the day was spent snorkeling and free-diving, and I practiced diving down to grab things, etc. The highlight was us finding a fishing line (completely illegal at a dive site anyway) which had caught a huge barracuda. Our French instructor pulled the line until the barracuda was in our faces, then cut the big fish free with his dive knife.
That is one lucky Barracuda! He was definitely bound for a beach BBQ tonight. In thanks, he snapped once at the instructor to show his gratitude, showing rows of nasty teeth, and then swam off. Moments later, a longtail boat was passing by, most definitely the rogue fishermen. Looks like they will be ordering a pizza tonight.
Freediving was a new experience, and I can see how it would be horribly addictive to always push yourself to new easily-measured limits — but not for me. From now on, I will mostly likely have a tank of air on my back. 🙂
Life is still good.