May 19

Guest Post- Robert Lee: Tales of a competition safety diver

Below is a guest post from good friend and safety diver, Robert Lee. Robert has been there for me, and many other divers, during record attempts, competition dives and more. He is one of the best safeties I’ve ever worked with and rescued me during my last blackout, during an unsuccessful record attempt to 83 meters/ 272 feet. 

His knowledge of competition safety is matched only by a select few and I am happy to have him contributing on FDB today! 



I’m sitting here in our condos in Cayman with Andrew Hogan on Monday May 19, two days after the end of DejaBlue V. We’re the stragglers, tying up some loose ends, before taking off for SF and Vancouver.

DejaBlue was a great experience, as always. DejaBlue III in Cayman 2012 featured Ashley’s world records and Erin’s national records, as well as those of our late friend Nic. Logan Mock-Bunting published a photo essay about the competition on CNN. This year’s competition didn’t feature as many deep dives, but was still a great success.

Part of my own personal experience with freediving here is summarized by this photo.

Robert Lee Freedives

After we prepare the rig for the competitors, we do our own warmups. Depending on the day, we may have time do do a few deep/long dives. I try to ride one of the competition rig weights (25-35 lbs) down to 45m at least a couple of times during DejaBlue.

The dive captured on this watch expresses, quite succinctly, my approach, philosophy, and skills with respect to this sport. It says May 16, 2014, 40.5m (133ft) – 4 min, 5 seconds. That was my longest warmup free immersion dive of the competition.

The reason I enjoy teaching freediving and doing safety work is because they are forms of functional freediving. I’ve never been able to dive super deep– I have some equalizing issues that make it difficult for me to easily get beyond 40m. While I’m sure I could dive deeper than my PB of 50m, it would take an awful lot of work. These sorts of physical idiosyncrasies are not uncommon for freedivers, people are blessed with different endowments, and equalizing/ear issues are among them.

But I do have the capacity to dive to 30m or 40m meters in a very functional way. I can go down and carry out tasks such as tying off a line or supervising a student similar to how a national record holder might at those depths. I’m especially known for being able to dive to 30m at the drop of a hat, and did so at DejaBlue III more than a dozen times a day. I can also equalize without pinching my nose to 30m, which makes it easier to carry object such as cameras, or to dive fast to catch a dropped screw or carabiner.

As I passed this photo of my gauge around at DejaBlue, I was surprised by how impressed people were by this. Even national record holders who have gone 80m+, were uncertain that they could do the same. I think they probably could, but the fact that they thought it was more than trivial was certainly gratifying.

As we freedivers often say, pretty much all of us have the capacity to dive hundreds of feet and to hold our breath for several minutes. So while there are a number of you out there who could learn to dive 40 meters for 4 minutes, I guess I can safely say that very few have. Someday I may try to do a Rubik’s Cube down there.

And that’s what I like about freediving. It’s the ability to learn to operate comfortably in an initially alien environment that I find satisfying, and I love sharing this experience with students, and using my skills to make dive competitors feel safe.

My favorite freedive video all time is the one Ren Chapman filmed two years ago, of Kirk Krack casually blowing bubble rings at 20m. It shows that freediving doesn’t have to be an extreme sport. It can just be graceful and intimate way of exploring the ocean.

I’ve got a quote from that video in my own video I just made here: http://youtu.be/gp5kjDmdtCw

Shameless plug time! I made the video for a little contest to win a free software class in Silicon Valley. If you like and comment the video on Youtube page, you will enter my raffle for an Amazon gift card ($50, $100 if I win the contest). Deadline is May 22. Sharing on social media would also of course be appreciated, and gets you extra entries in the raffle.

1 comment

1 ping

  1. Chris Bustad

    Very eloquently put Robert. And don’t minimize the feat of 4:00, excuse me, 4:05 😉 at 40 meters.

  1. Guest Post- Robert Lee: Tales of a competition ...

    […] Below is a guest post from good friend and safety diver, Robert Lee. Robert has been there for me, and many other divers, during record attempts, competition dives and more. He is one of the best s…  […]

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