How I lost my way …

There are some days before a competition when nothing is going the way you want it to, but you try to persuade yourself that everything will be fine…the ego maybe…

Last week, I experienced my first LMC during competition attempting 100m FIM. I started questioning myself and the conclusion is that I had lost my way… I lost my own approach of Freediving which made depth so enjoyable and easy at the same time. I wanted to share this experience with you…

Even though I go deep, I am quite new to Freediving as I started a bit less than 3 years ago.

My first year of freediving was a blessing, it was a lot of fun, and luckily for me everything came very easily – Equalization, flexibility.

I stayed in Koh Tao for a few months where the bottom depth is limited to 40m. Consequently, and fortunately, I was forced to allow time for my body to adapt. Through many dives to 40m and, regular stretching, it meant it was easier and safer when I eventually got access to more depth.

After Koh Tao, I started travelling and training in different places.

Bali, with Julia Mouce (alias Patita – Apnea Bali is a great place to train!!!). She is an awesome coach.  In addition to giving me confidence for depth she also taught me the practice of patience in the pursuit for depth. I thank her for that

Then I continued training for 6 months in the Philippines with my friend Sura. We didn’t really have deep divers around to provide advice so we had to develop our own approach, based on feelings and pleasure. The simple enjoyment was always the point of the session, and with continuous and consistent practice, I was able to go deeper and started reaching 85m.

A competition was organized on the island and we decide to participate. It was more the opportunity to meet other freedivers than to make a personal performance. So I announced 80m – As I had managed to do it around 30-40 times in a comfortable manner and even managed to go deeper – I thought it was a reasonable choice (even though you might find it a bit conservative)

This experience was just magical and I decided to keep the same approach for all my competitions including the World Championship and Triple Depth. This approach was great! It felt like everything was easy, smooth and going perfectly… and it definitely was.

I had nothing to prove to anyone. I just enjoyed going deep in training for myself.

At that time, competition was a way to learn from more experienced freedivers and meet new friends.

10 months ago, I took over a Freediving school in the Philippines – Freedive HQ in Cebu. As you can imagine, in comparison to the previous two years of travelling and training, I now had less time for my own diving, lots of work, lots of stress – The usual pitfalls of running a center successfully!

I started thinking that performing in competition would help to develop Freedive HQ (not totally untrue). But then my motivation to compete was to achieve a performance instead of doing it for my own pleasure and not being attached to the results.

With the school, I had to change training buddy and lacking my friend Sura’s wisdom (who doesn’t care about how deep I have been. I can always rely on her to set me straight when I need it), I began chasing numbers in my training and put aside the  sensation and enjoyment. Don’t misunderstand me, I was still enjoying my dives, but the purpose was not the same anymore. But I started to lose sight of how satisfying it can be to develop my own freediving center. I was just stuck in my ego and wanted to be recognized by the freediving community

I had forgotten where I had come from. 2 years ago, I wouldn’t even have dreamed of reaching 100m one day or getting my own freedive school! Instead of enjoying the here and now, I was stressing about what I should do in the future.

Despite this pressure, I still managed during my training to do some good progress and went deeper to 100m. Still, I went there in a less consistent way, than I used to previously go to 90m the year before.

Before reaching  90m, I probably did at least 35 dives to 80m or deeper.

Before reaching 100m, I did maybe 5 dives deeper than 90m. I started to believe that since they were so easily done, it would be the same for 100m. Indeed, in training, it went pretty well. But I overestimated myself, thinking I could do it in competition despite the stress and this “sacred” 100m which had become an objective in itself.

The competition

I am feeling pretty good on both warms up.  A nice first hang at 10m for 3.30-4min – waiting for my first contraction and coming back up slowly (around 30s on the way up). I was feeling good, relaxed. Then, I went for a very slow dive to 40m (dive time around 3:45s).

Here we are!! I am at the buoy and doing my breathe up. I Hear the 2 min countdown, I feel good and I am perfectly synchronized with the timing. I start smiling to help relax and get prepared for my last breath. No packing.

Official top!  I start going down and flood my hood to avoid a squeeze. I have always been too lazy to make holes in my hood. At 25m, I am still feeling great. I take my mouthfill and my pulls become easier and easier until I reach 45m where I start my freefall. I feel good all the way down and don’t notice any current as I am more focused on this “100” than on my own sensations.

I make it to 100m, get the tag! Yes this part is done! Time to come up, a few pulls with the tag still in my hand. I was probably a bit narcosed as it took me a little while to realize it would be wiser to stick it to my Velcro and have both my hands perfectly free in FIM (as I usually do…)

I keep pulling up and after a while I hear the safety scooter. I should be around 50m… I am on the way to making it!!!  I see my friend Lily Crespy doing the second safety around 25m. I feel safe. Last 10m, it starts feeling a bit long when the rest of the dive had felt quite fast…I am probably hypoxic. I make it to the surface and grab the rope. Then… I don’t really remember. Apparently, it took me 16-17 sec to do my surface protocol, but I needed support from the safety as you can see on the video. All I remember is asking the judges “Did I make it in less than 15s ?” — The expressions on their faces were priceless. They appeared uneasy having to disappoint me with a red card. On the contrary, I was still confused so I was actually very accepting of it. It will actually be an amusing memory.

It was definitely a great learning experience. I am leaving this competition stronger, but more importantly It made me find my way back to my original freediving path.

I cannot say how much I feel grateful to have received so much support from so many people. A special thank you to Julia who spent her time reassuring me til the last moment, to my friend Lily who is always here to support me and cheer me up and to Stefan for organizing all these amazing competitions.

Double K and its awesome equipment are also a huge support. They never put any pressure on me and just let me do my dives. Thank you Jun my friend.

It can seem trivial to make such statements, but no one is safe from losing their way. Always remember why you freedive and go for the pleasure. If you do, it will always be fine