A few weeks ago I was in Grand Cayman for Performance Freediving Internationalʼs Deja Blue III competition. I had just broken the U.S. menʼs record in constant weight no fins with a dive to 71m/233 feet and decided it was time to try some new disciplines. First off, I tried constant weight. I felt ridiculous. My dive left people wondering if I actually understood the technology called “mono-fin”. Next was free immersion, where I completely forgot what I was doing on 3 separate occasions and started swimming no fins style. These dives reassured me that I was just a “no fins guy”.
If you’re reading this Iʼm assuming that you know my story either from earlier blog posts or from my mother continually sending you links about stuff Iʼm involved in, so Iʼm not going to get into exactly how I got to be this way. What I am going to do is convince you that freediving without fins is the best and why you should follow in my foot strokes.
“Machines are gonna fail and the system’s gonna fail…then, survival. Who has the ability to survive? That’s the game – survive.” Iʼm sure youʼve guessed that Burt Reynolds said that (because heʼs the man). He wasnʼt talking about the same thing as me, but it illustrates the point that you just canʼt trust technology and definitely shouldnʼt rely on it. I might sound like an irrational backwoods survivalist type but my slight technophobia is based in fact. Cars break down, computers crash and sometimes fins spontaneously snap in half. A few weeks ago on a dive my fin did just that. For some people, who could be referred to as “flipper specialists”, that would have put a end to a day of diving. Not I, for I was able to finish all of my dives because I posses the primeval skill of no fins diving. And yes, I did just compare no fins to skills like making fire, finding food and regulating body temperature using animal hides. The lesson we learn from this is simple: if technology fails and you cannot no fins your chances of survival decrease drastically. Also cyborgs are super bad for you.
“Flippers” arenʼt all bad, Iʼll only say that once. Iʼm referring to bi-fins. There are a few applications where fins definitely help and one of those is for safety. Though not impossible to safety someone without fins, it is way more effective with fins. I always feel good knowing my safety divers are prepared and capable to taking care of me to the best of their abilities. So always dive with a buddy because, “being unconscious for a long time is super bad for you.” -Archer
The other situation in which the use of fins is acceptable is spearfishing. Iʼm not trying to hate on humans but our aquatic skills are no match for fish. Your mask, fins and spearguns level the playing field to some extent and we need all the help we can get. Swimming is literally all fish do so they are pretty good at it.
Then thereʼs the mono-fin. I donʼt have too much to say about it but I know it makes moving through water more efficient. My experience with the mono-fin is like when Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum drive the alien space ship in Independence Day. If you donʼt understand that reference then lets just say it takes some getting used to. Also as a male using a mono-fin you will probably be called a “mermaid” or “merman” (or merperson to avoid gender bias) at some point. If it hasnʼt happened yet then consider this your first: “You look like a merperson with that flipper on.”
Flashback hundreds of years ago. It was a dark night. The moon was behind the clouds and a cold wind chilled a group of rough men to their bones. They were wrapped in furs, half asleep and waiting for a fight. One man sat alone, separated from the rest… butt- ass-naked. That man was Beowolf. He decided to kill the monster, Grendel, without the aid of sword, shield or clothes. According to Beowolf, the purest way to kill a monster was to do it naked, without aid. I agree and apply the same philosophy to freediving.
Now the naked part doesnʼt translate into freediving and honestly I donʼt see how it applies to fighting monsters either, but ol’ Beowolf was onto something when he tossed the sword and shield. So by shedding our metaphorical sword and shield freediving we can find out our true potential. I choose not to be aided and hide behind a fin. The ultimate test is mind and body against the depth. In no other discipline can you enjoy that kind of purity. Try it, you will find the experience liberating.
There is a lot to be said about the physical challenge of no fins freediving. A diver must find a balance of power and finesse, almost like an art. Every dive is a painting, every stroke of hand and foot is color being brushed on canvas. For some finesse is key. Watch William Trubridgeʼs dives and you will see him slide through the water in a very fluid motion. Others, such as myself, rely on the power to propel us through the water. My shoulders are pretty wide so I donʼt slide that fluidly. Ashley Chapman is a great example of both power and finesse. With a powerful stroke and tight, streamlined technique its not hard to believe she can dive the way she does. In a way a no fins dive is also like a dance. Everyone gets down differently and you always think you look cooler than you actually do, but no matter your style, you’re still dancing. No other dive discipline can compare with the artistry and downright beauty of constant weight no fins.
Constant weight no fins is a lot of different things to different people. Iʼm sure if you asked Ashley Chapman why she does it she wouldnʼt bring up cyborgs or fighting monsters naked, but thats the beauty of it. In my opinion it’s the purest form of our sport. It can be incredibly complicated but also very basic. Its multi-dimensional, dealing with technique, equalization, streamlining, muscle strength and even proper weighting involves a good bit of strategy. It also feels very natural and you can start calling fins “flippers” to annoy constant weight divers. You may say, “But Grant, I just canʼt dive with out my fins, thats too crazy!” Well, Kevin Costnerʼs character in Waterworld dove in ski boots… your argument is now invalid. Give it a try, youʼll learn to love it.