Inspired by a recent episode of my favorite radio show, “This American Life” hosted by Ira Glass, I have created my own digestible list of commandments related to our favorite sport. Ren downloads episodes of this show for me to listen to while we are sailing. What a swell fella!
Never dive alone
Obvious right? In a sport where the physical pain caused by the urge to breathe subsides slowly into a sense of euphoria followed by a blackout the room for error is non-existent. Most people who die freediving either did not dive with a buddy or did not employ the proper buddy system. Just think, to cheat death, all you have to do is dive with a buddy. Sign me up!
Never wear a speedo on the outside of your wetsuit
Although it is a great way to support your fellow divers, ahem…Matt Charlton, it is distracting. It might be distracting in all of the right ways but may lead to ridicule depending on the nature of the speedo.
Never dive with a snorkel in your mouth
The snorkel maintains an open airway for water to creep in if you experience problems underwater. Spit that thing out before you dive. You are more streamlined anyway without the snorkel in your mouth.
Encourage your fellow divers
You may not know how powerful your words are to someone else. Take one of my fellow dive buddies, Hawkeye Parker, for instance. Hawkeye oozes encouragement. When he speaks, I am ready to do whatever he says because it is obvious that he is genuinely interested in my success, not to mention everyone else’s too. Be a Hawkeye!
You are what you eat
Lucky for me, because I live on a boat and because I love to freedive I do not really get seasick. Oh, I may have just the occasional flash of nausea at the beginning of a passage, but nothing serious. However, I have managed to blow chunks twice while teaching freediving. Once in a quarry and once in a grotto. How embarrassing is that? There was no motion of the ocean. In fact, there was no motion at all. Just me diving up and down, over and over while my overstuffed stomach (including onions I ate at lunch) flip flopped over and over until…watch out…BLUUUUH! Careful what you eat before diving.
Do not overweight yourself
With 99% of blackouts occurring at or very near the surface you want to maintain positive buoyancy from ten meters to the surface to protect yourself in the critical zone. Hint: if you sink at the surface without kicking, you are grossly overweighted, Less weight equals more work initially but a free ride on the ascent, when you are out of breath and are lugging a big fish behind you.
Maintain good boat etiquette
Freedivers are the black sheep of charter boat clientele. Most boats think we are crazy thrill-seekers with a death wish. They may be right, about the first two descriptors but not the latter. Improve our reputation and tip the crew. Practice good buddy-diving and for God’s sake, do not carelessly drop your lead, spear or live fish on the deck to flop around and beat everything up. Dispatch your kill. If not chartering, tip the captain of the boat you were invited on with gas money, lunch, snacks and/or beer…to be consumed after the dive.
Dive for quality
Sure, Grant Hogan, there are times where you have to muscle through a dive. You have hit a wall and just need to punch through a little to get that record or achieve a new personal best dive. Great, but I can not stress to you enough that it’s the experience of freediving that it’s all about. Freediving is life at its most basic. Be careful not to complicate this. Likely it’s the most uncomplicated part of your life.
The bluefin tuna is endangered. Do not hunt giant pandas, red cockaded woodpeckers or bluefin tuna. Do not depend on the government to tell you what to take. You are a sentient being and likely more aware of fish stocks than the lawmakers. Hunt within the legal limits and hunt by your own moral code. Take what you can eat and leave the rest for tomorrow. Read, “The Old Man and the Boy” by Robert Ruark and do not hunt endangered species.
Dive all of the time
Ways to get better:
Take a freediving course!
Go to the Cayman competition, or any safety-conscious competition!
Dive as often as you can!
Some of these commandments are more serious than others, which I hope is obvious. Separate the mortal “sins” from the venial “sins”, dive safe, enjoy Mother Ocean, respect your catch and have fun!