When looking at the accomplishments of divers like Natalia Molchanova or Herbert Nitsch, it’s easy to tell ourselves that they’re just freaks. “They must be built for this,” right?
But even the greatest of the great freedivers hit roadblocks just like the rest of us. Herbert has had issues with decompression sickness. Natalia has blacked out. At some point everyone reaches their limit. Or, I should say, their limit for that given moment. It’s what we all do after hitting a wall that really defines us as elite athletes or just wannabes.
So if I had a pile of clay that I could shape into my idea of The Perfect Freediver, here’s what I would sculpt:
The Perfect Freediver (PF for short) can equalize hands-free 100% of the time. He has never squeezed an ear or been unable to complete a dive due to equalization. This trait gives the PF the ability to get down to impressive depths with ease.
This kind of goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. The PF has an incredible, effortless breath-hold and can easily do a static without flinching (or tensing!). The PF’s gas tank lets him focus on other aspects of a dive than oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production.
No, not like gymnast flexibility, more like compression flexibility. This diver has a diaphragm that will flex far into the chest and a chest wall that can withstand inhuman amounts of pressure. This trait allows the PF to dive without fear of an abdominal squeeze.
I think it’s fair to assume the PF would have no life whatsoever and spends every waking moment in the pool or diving. It is this dedication to training (and lack of a social life) that allows the diver to cultivate perfect, efficient and effective technique.
If you’ve ever participated in a freediving competition you know they can be expensive, not even considering the time and effort spent training, but the PF has no concern for such things. He has generous sponsors that foot the bill, allowing the PF to focus on diving 100% of the time.
The PF comes back to the table for more every single time. He/She pushes deeper every time and is never satisfied with any given performance. It’s this addiction to depth that brings this diver to depths beyond what some of us can comprehend.
But where’s the fun in any of that? If the Perfect Freediver really existed, why would there be freediving competitions? Why would any of us show up? Plus, it sounds like the PF would be pretty lame to hang out with.
The good news is, no one has it all, and that’s probably a good thing for the sport. No matter how amazing competitive freedivers get, they’re still human and run into the same issues as everyone else. And that’s one of the great things about this sport– there’s a camaraderie in crossing hurdles that we all encounter at some point in our training.
The important thing to remember is that to strive for greatness is to face challenges with dogged perseverance, not with frustration or acquiescence. If you want to dive deeper or stay longer, you can, but you may have to work for it.