In Oct. 2010 I taught an intermediate freediver course in Fort Lauderdale, FL. All the elements came together that week for an ideal course: the students were enthusiastic, the weather calmed down and the ocean was nearly flat (As close to it as Fort Lauderdale gets!). I had a student that was doing really well, a guy by the name of Grant Hogan who worked at the dive shop we used, Sea Experience.
At the end of day four of the course Grant attempted a 40m/132ft dive. Dolphin kicking with his bi-fins he easily descended and returned to the surface with pink lips, making it look like a casual, recreational dive. This guy definitely had potential to do more. How much more I couldn’t have guessed.
Coincidentally I was planning my training program at the same time for my 2011 trip to PFI’s annual competition, Deja Blue. Since I was living in Fort Lauderdale at the time and needed a training partner I approached Grant and asked if he’d want to join me for pool sessions about twice per week. I told him that he should consider joining the competition to see what kind of personal bests he could hit.
We met at the Pompano Beach Aquatic Center for our first training session and Grant had a million questions about the training and the gear. He wanted to do absolutely anything he could to maximize his potential and performance. He’d say to me, “Tell me everything I’m doing wrong. Don’t hold back,” because he wanted to fix every aspect of his technique. I love having students and training buddies like that because it motivates me as both an athlete and a coach. This guy was going to go for broke.
We kept at it for several months until a few weeks before Cayman we also starting incorporating some no-fins training into our regimen. We’d do our normal program, then do a few dynamic dives without fins on. It was immediately evident that this was Grant’s niche. His freakishly long arms pulled him through the water and his huge feet acted like fins on every kick. I raised and eyebrow and wondered how far he could take this in Cayman. 50m? 55m? It’d be a stretch, but it was possible.
When we arrived in Cayman for the week of training it was obvious he wasn’t into using fins. He did some CWT dives in his bi-fins, but
always came back to no-fins. We’d confer every night at the dinner table about what he’d do the next day for a target dive.
“How about 45m today?” I’d say.
“Whatever you say…I’m not really sure what the difference between feet and meters is so I’ll just keep swimming until I get to the plate,” he’d say.
That all worked well and by the time the competition came around Grant had already surpassed everyone’ expectations and was quickly approaching the US Men’s National Record in Constant Weight with No Fins, which sat at 63m/ 215 feet.
One day Grant made a massive jump of 10 meters/33 feet. Competitors past 40m/132 feet rarely make large increment depth increases like that, usually opting to increase day-to-day less than 5m/16 feet. He’d done 48m/157ft the day before and I told him he should try 53m/174ft.
Well, I already mentioned Grant’s not-s0-great math skills so when he made his depth announcement he forgot what we’d discussed so
announced 58m/190ft. His response when he realized his mistake? “Ah, I’ll just do it anyway!”
After that point, Grant focused solely on no-fins diving and gradually passed 63m/215ft, breaking the record two times with dives to 64m/210ft and 67m/220ft. It was the first time in my experience that a diver had progressed from Intermediate student to National Record Holder in less than seven months!
Grant’s record stood for several months before the last record holder, now current record holder, Rob King, came and broke it again but in true Grant form, he wasn’t bothered. “I’ll just have to do it again I guess,” he replied.
So you never really know what’s possible with a bit of training and a lot of passion for the sport. Be sure to check out Grant’s video below and keep an eye on him during PFI’s upcoming 2012 Deja Blue III Competition in Grand Cayman.