Zen and the Art of Freediving

Now that our pole spear is down to a single point (the other two were lost to heavy usage), K is reduced to pondering the philosophy of the freediver instead of spending 4 hours a day in the water and falling asleep before 2000 hrs every night. A ready food supply is the prerequisite for liberal arts within primitive society and now that we are once again living off pesos and the fruit of the goats of Agua Verde, we’ve become curious, thoughtful and verbose.

Freediving has become harder the farther north we travel due to loss of visibility and a drop in water temperature. In K’s bad physiological math, a lung full of air is consumed in equal rations by:

1) Exertion in the initial dive to the bottom
2) Reaction to the cold and discomfort
3) Bottom time
4) Anxiety from inefficient technique, cold, ear clearing, depth, and bad visibility.

Add a dose of anxiety about things that go bump in the deep and anxiety soon becomes the biggest budget in a single freedive. All other variables are dealt with through gear and physics, anxiety is a variable of the mind. Conversely, a drop of adrenaline can contribute up to a 50% exceedance of the expected breathhold when something interesting or delicious is at hand.

Lately, K is using weight to counteract wetsuit buoyancy. The weight allows minimal exertion to stay down, the diver is actually negatively buoyant beyond 15 ft as the wetsuit compresses, but the gear is cumbersome and brings additional anxiety. We’ve had poor visibility near the village of Agua Verde, anxiety is higher when drifting down into the gloom, and the the bay has been choppy leading to disruption of the pre-dive focus.

We’ve been slowly sailing away from a calm warm ocean with 50 ft visibility, the ideal environment for an efficient freedive, and the work level to bring home the grouper has steadily climbed. At 40 plus years old the attraction is in the fractions of minutes spent among the rocks at the bottom of the ocean in complete comfort, as fast and agile as a manfish can be, not breathing and not caring. It could be at 10 ft or it could be at 40 ft, the goal is the same.

Other divers have different goals, as a youngster K was going to 60 ft just to see what it was like, but having sworn off the dangerous technique of hyperventilation, we operate on a one breath policy and that keeps us in the upper 30 ft. Our breathholding is half what it might be but we don’t worry about each other drowning from shallow water blackout.

Instead we clear our snorkels quietly during during ascent, blow off CO2 for extra time, and focus on gaining seconds in swimming efficiently with mental calmness. In Spanish the phrase is “Calmate”: Calm yourself. We like this phrase so much that we have a niece with the nickname “Calmate” and this has become the freediver’s prayer each time we fin quietly into the deep.

25°30.87’N 111°03.75’W 21-Jan-10 23:47 UTC

25°30.87’N 111°03.75’W 20-Jan-10 01:33 UTC

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