I woke up this morning to find that I’m a whole year older than I was yesterday morning. Funny how that happens. I turn 28 today and find myself looking back at the past few years and all the time I’ve spent in the water with a variety of awesome divers and realize that it’s all been pretty great. I’ve gotten to dive some pretty wonderful places, reach some personal bests and even break some records.
But in all my reminiscing this morning I came upon this picture. This is from a breathe-up for a record I broke in Cayman in 2011. It’s a small thing, but you can see Garo Hachigan, one of PFI’s long-time safeties for their Deja Blue competition, holding a line that’s attached to my neck pillow to keep me in position for my dive.
I’ve always said that it’s taken a lot of help over the years to reach my goals in breaking records, from my family’s support, my sponsors and my training buddies, but no one has helped me more than the safeties that are in the water with me for the dives.
These guys have trained for years to achieve the levels of freedive ability they have and could easily put that training to use to compete themselves for glory and fortune. Okay…maybe just for glory. But what no one mentions during competitions is that even though some of us are diving 250 feet and beyond, our safety divers dive to 100-132 feet over and over and occasionally pull our blacked-out butts up from those depths.
But that’s not all they do. They set up the rig, organize the flow of divers and even do little things like attach our lanyards or help us fill up our fluid goggles. When the stress of a deep dive looms over your head, it’s an amazing relief to have people like these guys (and gals!) taking care of you.
But by far the biggest relief of having an amazing safety crew in the water with you is the relief of seeing them on the way back up to the surface. When I come up during a record-attempt dive I’m usually pretty gassed. I have massive urge to breathe, my legs burn from lactic acid and I’m only thinking of reaching my next breath. During an intense moment like this, all I want to see is a familiar, encouraging face that I know has the knowledge to rescue me from any mistake I make. I know that if I black out once I reach Robert Lee, who’s been with me for many of my record dives, I’ll still make it to the surface and live to dive another day, even if I don’t get credit for the record!
So thank you to the many safety divers who have made my records and many others possible.
Thank you specifically to the divers below and to many others who safety competitions and make the sport what it is today. Competitive freediving wouldn’t be where it is without you.
Kirk Krack, Robert Lee, Garo Hachigan, Ren Chapman, Andrew Hogan, John Shedd, Dan and Tara, Charles Beddoe and Sean Hartman.