Three… I lay flat on the surface of the ocean, one arm holding on to diving buoy and the other flowing with the waves and mild current. Air rushes down my snorkel drawn by the the first of my warmup breaths… strong in, slow out. I drop one of my three fingers, physically reminding myself where I am in my habitual process.
Two… I check that every muscle is relaxed to achieve a near resting heart rate. Although I am pumped up to make this dive, every extra beat is wasted movement and will rob me of precious bottom time oxygen. Exhale….This time I empty every last bit of air, even doing an abdominal crunch to remove the last bits of stale carbon dioxide.
One…My ribs expand with air beyond normal capacity. Just when I feel like my lungs will no longer fit into my chest, I elongate my stomach, squeezing my vital organs down, allowing a last bit more of air. This is all the oxygen I get, no tank, no gills, no worries… This is what I have been training for.
One… Left hand on mask, squeezing my nose shut. This allows me to push air from the back of my mouth into my sinus and internal pathway that runs back to my ears. Without positive equalization I wouldn’t make it much more than my own body length below the surface for fear of sharp pain leading to a ruptured eardrum. If I am going to have sinus/ear problems I would rather reset the process while on the surface.
Two… Right hand, remove my snorkel. This allows me to use my lips to seal out the pressure of ocean depths. In case of an emergency blackout a snorkel could allow water in my mouth and down my lungs. Snorkels are best only used on the surface.
Three…Chin down, elbow tucked into my chest, two kicks, bend at the waist, one fin flies up in the air and the weight of my legs forces my head and body straight down. I focus on the inch of line that is closest to my mask, not above it, to the floating buoy, or below it, to the weighted anchor. Slow, powerfully large fins attached to my straight calves and thighs power me through the water with maximum efficiency.
5 meters (16 feet)…. I am passing the maximum depth of an Olympic diving pool and any momentum from the surface is gone. Every few kicks I add a little more air up my nose, counter-balancing the pressure of the ocean on my ears and mask. The line zips buy my eyes but I am visualizing each part of my body to ensure a perfect streamlined posture.
10 meters (32 feet)….Where is my rhythm? Can correctly I balance the total time it will take me to reach my target depth and the speed required to return to the surface before blackout? Ahh… there it is.
20 meters (64 feet)… The air in my lungs will compress to half the size it was at the surface. My body no longer wants to float like the buoy but starts to become negatively buoyant. if I stopped kicking my fins I could coast down on pure momentum.
25 meters (82 feet)… Now I can feel my body aching. Foot, calf, or thigh cramps at this depth can be a real pain or even life threatening if they lead to panic. I wish I had been more consistent with all the stretches my instructors had shown me. Thankfully, at this depth, I am sinking. The weight of my body is more than the tiny pocket of air left in my lungs. Like a rock, if I don’t move I will freefall to the ocean bed and never be seen again. The feeling of cold water flowing across my face is exhilarating.
30 meters (98 feet) The tennis ball….this is literally the end of the line. A green fuzzy sphere almost knocks my mask off warning me the only thing below me is a bunch of weights to anchor the line. This is it, I have reached my personal best depth and the maximum possible for today’s training. I am so surprised by its appearance that I almost forget what to do. Repetition and muscle memory kick in as I automatically grab the line and let momentum turn me head up for the first time on my dive.
This is where I want to stay. All is quiet and I am one with creation and my Creator. Sometimes I can see massive coral gardens as if flying over the a sunken skyline of at great alien city. Fish, oblivious to the depth, freely move in all three dimensions, mocking my horizontal life on the surface. This is peace and rest on the edge of the abyss. The stresses of life are the last thing on my mind. Is it possible to live my life like this? To every day, bring a bit more of heaven back to the surface of earth? I may never know, but I am willing to give everything… just trying. Now…swimming back to the surface is the most dangerous part.
25 meters (82 feet)… My muscles are still working but with significantly less amounts of oxygen in my blood flow. Every kick must overcome the gravity that gave me an assist on the way down.
20 meters (64 feet)… My belly contracts on its own like a super strong hiccup. This is a warning that I need to get air soon.
10 meters (32 feet)…. My safety diver has shadowed me closer on the last half of my ascent and is looking intently, through my mask, into my eyes. The slightest hesitation or lack of focus will mean that I need to be rescued and assisted to the surface.
5 meters (16 feet)…. My chest feels full again as the air re-expands but unfortunately this doesn’t help. Most of the usable oxygen has already been replaced by carbon dioxide. These last moments while submerged are filled with an irrational near desperation to open my mouth and inhale. For obvious reasons to do with the difference between water and air, I resist this urge. My training replaces intuition and I cease kicking. This conserves my last bit of energy, and possibly consciousness, while allowing momentum and buoyancy to bring me to the surface.
Zero meters, sea level… I throw my arms over the life ring style buoy and exhale half of the air in my lungs. Stopping short so I can force new air in my body delivering the oxygen that will renew me. Disciplined recovery breathing; proactively sucking in, pause and release, in, pause, and out, rewards me with the view of a smiling safety diver and eventually a high five.
I had just dove past the depth of a nine story building and came back to tell about it. This is deeper than most SCUBA divers will attempt even though they must carry a tank of air and hundreds of dollars of gear. I have taught my body to do things and stretch muscles I didn’t know I had. My brain has absorbed the theory that gave me faith the impossible could be done. My safety divers and instructors from Fusion Freediving were with me all the way knowing exactly how to help me expand my realm of possibility. Stay tuned for third article describing why I am willing to push my body to such great depths and the beautiful reward awaiting my silent journey to the open ocean floor.
This is the second post in a series about freediving in Bali by my husband and guest blogger, Creagon Patrick. To read Pt 1 of 3, click here. Stay tuned for upcoming installments!