With every dive we are trying to find the deeper meaning of freediving. We feel like part of the elite when we describe our esoteric sport. We boast to our friends and families about five-plus-minute breath-holds and the meters upon meters that we swim straight down into the belly of Mother Ocean. They talk about how they can only hold their breath for thirty seconds and could never EVER imagining diving deep like we do.
“How do you do that? Aren’t you afraid of sharks?”
“Naw,” we reply, “you could do it too with some practice,” we assuredly proclaim, confident that they will not ever try it themselves, ensuring our positions at the top of their guess-what-my-friend-can-do conversation list. We smile and walk away impressed by how impressive we become, meter by meter.
There is solace in the fact that freediving is such a small sport. The elite complain that there is no money in it. They sit around plates brimming with pasta, loading up on carbs for their next dives, brainstorming ideas to grow the sport, publicize it, broadcast it, make it accessible to everyone willing to tune in on their televisions or computers.
“What if we did live feeds of our dives, guys?” we ask each other.
But is this what they really want? The conversations remain half-hearted attempts at progress because there is an intrinsic fear that there may be real untapped talent out there knocking at our back doors. The kind that will quickly put us all out of a job.
Imagine there being an NCAA organization for freediving. A collection of superb athletes from which to choose. Breeding freedivers from adolescence and sending them off to compete at the collegiate level. With the field of talent expanding where does that leave the rest of us? Sure some of us are good at freediving, sure some of us are great or good enough to hang with the new freediving revolutionaries. But most of us are not. Most of us will leave the playing field, tails between our legs, as the real athletes hussel out.
Imagine the best athlete you know. That girl from your old soccer team that could run, jump, kick better than the boys. Now imagine that she has a knack for freediving. Not to say there are not already greats in the diving community but if drawing from a much larger pool, maybe the impressive feats of Natalia Molchanova and William Trubridge would not remain so uncontested.
When the sport opens up, the glory days are over. There are already hints of this evolution happening. Take American, Nick Mevoli. Brand new to competitive freediving and already 91 meters and a national record in his first year, right out of the gate. A new dawn is breaking. We’re left asking who of the currently high-ranked freedivers will be able to contest the newborn progeny.
So as we try to find the deeper meaning of freediving we do not neglect the fact that our fragile egos are being challenged as the ultra-adapted join our community. When our egos are no longer being fed will there be anything left to enjoy at depth? Will the breatholds be just as painfully satisfying? Will the lack of praise leave us empty and feeling unrewarded? Who am I to tell you why or how to dive? But, may I suggest that you dive for you and for liberation from your ego because soon the sport will gain popularity and open up to people who are going to blow our minds.
Records will fall as quickly as leaves from a tree and all the rest of us will be left with is the warm fuzzy we used to get when we first started diving. When the love was fresh and new, unadulterated by our self-images.