Monday, 13 April 2015

Freediving has changed my life

What is that thing which is like a fuel, which gives us the power to keep moving forwards, to continue? I consider myself to be very lucky because I feel I have found one from many answers to that question.For me it is pure curiosity. My curiosity comes with an overwhelming desire to know more, to understand more and to see more. This desire is stronger than the fear of the unknown or the difficulties and the obstacles that we have to face on our journey to our dreams. Remember if there is an opportunity, grab it while you can. Sometimes it will work out for you and sometimes it won’t. Whatever happens always remember that the journey itself is a goal.

When I was seventeen years old I nearly ended up wheel chair bound with a rare autoimmune condition. I loved the ocean and wanted to see the world and that unfortunate set of circumstances left me heavily depending on others and strong medications with addictive side effects. I was not even sure if i want my life anymore. I would spend countless hours looking through stunning photographs of the worlds beautiful oceans against the back drop of the typical cold dark hospital bed window view of the world. Life was mundane and ritualistic afternoon tea and different coloured pills were all you could look forward to.

It took me two years to find an alternative medicine which helped me enormously both physically and mentally. In that same time I also found freediving by training for a first time with my trainer Martin Zajac and APNEAMAN team. Freediving gave to me a sense of freedom that I had been longing for. You never really know what it’s like to be free until you lose your freedom. It’s something that we can easily take for granted until one day it’s gone. In the water I could move without pain and found a way to relax and how to be peaceful just with myself, deep in the depths of the ocean I am alone.
One day I suddenly decided that I no longer wanted to live the way I was living. I decided I wanted to be happy and take control of my life. I began training with this overwhelming desire and energy that just kept flowing through me. I learned that the attitude that I have towards my deep dive training is the attitude I want to apply to the entirety of my whole life. I train in the simplest way possible with a focus on how much I love what I am doing and with it all of those beautiful little moments that are given to me.

I love deep dives because in that moment of time and space nothing seems to exist. Depth is a vacuum of emptiness where there is no sense of right or wrong or good or bad. It just is pure joy in that very moment where I am completely vulnerable. If an untrained observer where to glimpse that moment of freefall where we are semi conscious falling into the depths of the ocean, head down and eyes closed, one would probably just laugh thinking that freedivers look like some super hero from a marvel comic book. However if you know the secret then that smile on your face would be more like a nod of sincerity.

I am now living the life of a traveller and athlete and I get to teach the sport I love whilst proudly holding national records for my country and being Apnea Academy Instructor. I am happy and grateful that I found the inner strength to follow my heart to pursue my passion and to question my medical prognosis that would have taken all my hopes and dreams away.

Life makes you fall. Sometimes these experiences can be particularly painful, but the only real failure is to give up. Never give up on your dreams!

Awareness of Spearfishing Safety

I have decided to share with you my thoughts from my Safety for Spearfishers & Freedivers speech for the Townsville Skindiving Club at the Yacht club, which I made just last week.

The   spearfishing and freediving community in Australia is facing another death of a young spearo, and many of us are asking a lot of questions. Words seem inadequate to express the sadness we all feel about the loss of another innocent life due to black out. My heart and hearts of many freedivers, spearos, instructors and ocean lovers are with the family and friends of the deceased in this time of sorrow.

I was not personaly involved in the investigation of the recent accident. However, as a freediving athlete and international instructor, I am being exposed to many accidents and black outs in my career, both directly and indirectly. From my own experiences, I believe that the main reason why black outs actually happen is that people simply don't know what they are doing due to lack of proper freediving education or because they push their limits or because of stress. In most cases, we freediving instructors can save the lives of many people,not just by teaching them how to freedive but more importantly showing them the right attitude towards the sport. Just the other day, a good friend of mine and my student saved someone's life.

Freediving and spearfishing are very “free sports“. Gear itself is available and it's very easy to jump into it. A lot of people are forgetting the fact that with a pair of fins and spear gun should strongly consider some formal freediving education. Google is not enough. Especially beginners think a lot about depth when it comes to improving the way they freedive or spearfish, but it's just a part ofit. Learning how to freedive means also how to listen to your body and being able to understand it.

One of the main safety rules is telling us: improve slowly. Why ? Am I not capable of reaching 30m depth on my first diving course? Answer is, that you maybe are, but what is more important than reaching 30mis to know how we reach it. This experience comes with a good amount of time spent in the water so you are able to distinguish between easy and hard dives.

The main difference between a freediving and spearfishing session is that during freediving we focus on ourselves or our buddy. When we spear,we focus on the fish. We, freediving instructors have to understand this differences and adjust our teaching to meet spearos needs. If we just have a look on one scenario : spearfishing on the wrecks. If one person is down at 30m for more than 2min hunting fish, other diver is on the surface pulling that fish with a rig line, who is a safety for diver who is exhausted, coming from depth ? No one. It's extremely important to discuss all possible scenarios and safety before we are on the boat heading for a spear.

I believe that there are three things, that spearos can do in order to improve their safety.

Firstly: Strongly consider attending a freediving course. Course will teach you not just what to do in case of black out and how to prevent it,but also what are symptoms and signs of black out, so in case there are some, it can be possibly recognized before it happens. Safety and rescue is a big part of any course.

Secondly: Discuss very carefully logistics of a spearing session before hand to prevent unnecessary accidents and be ready to act if needed.

Thirdly, but probably most importantly: Don't let your ego overcome your mind.There is no fish big enough or depth “cool“ enough which is worth of your life or life of your friends. There is no need to push your limits. Respect who you are and train to become better.

Me myself, I am a deep diver and competitor and I completely understand the joy of depth, that amazing and fulfilling feeling of reaching bigger depths. However, too many beginners are too motivated to reach depths instead of focusing on safety, fun and slow progression. Freediving and spearfishing are our passions. Passion is energy,which comes from doing what we love. So let's focus on how much we love what we are doing but let's do it properly and safely.