The first ever freediving competition for Brisbane, will be held this month in a landmark event on the 18th and 19th of May. The Brisbane Freediving Open 2013 is a national pool competition, to include three disciplines over two days. The competition will be held at the Sleeman Sports Complex and is being hosted by the Brisbane Freedivers, who are a local not-for-profit group that train regularly in the sport of freediving.
“A freediving competition is where athletes attempt to dive the deepest, the furthest, or for the longest time on a single breath of air. Depth competitions are held in lakes and oceans around the world, whilst dynamic (distance travelled horizontally) and static apnea (simple test of breath hold) are held in pools,” said Ben Noble, AIDA Instructor and former Australian freediving record holder. “Freediving for me is a very personal experience and I learn more and more about myself every time I dive. I love to challenge myself and see what I can personally accomplish and also see how my body can adapt underwater.”
Freediving is a form of underwater breath-hold diving that relies on a diver's ability to hold his or her breath until resurfacing, or also known as apnea diving. For those who have explored and delved into freediving, a close experience reveals that it is a complex and diverse sport which encourages self-discovery and improvement, and overall can offer qualities that appeal to everyone.
Photo courtesy of Fran Rose
“Freediving is a bit different from a lot of other sports. Not only do you need to be on top of your physicall fitness, but you also need to be mentally in good shape,” said Wybrand du Toit, a freediver and member of the Brisbane Freedivers. “I think that for me personally the most important aspect of freediving is the fact that it can literally make a lot of people happier… I guess freediving helps us to disconnect from certain stress inducing aspects of our lives.”Australian National Record holder; Amber Bourke, preforming Dynamic Apnea. Photo courtesy of Wybrand du Toit
Competitions, however can be demanding; both mentally and physically. In order to ensure athletes are prepared for the upcoming event, the Brisbane Freedivers held a national training night on the 1st of May, where potential competitors practiced in a simulated competition. Event training, known as ‘max-nights’, are an excellent opportunity for new athletes to experience how a competition will be run on the day, and to practice under the rules.Freediver Andrew Kelly, about to swim dynamic apnea at max-night. Photo courtesy of Wybrand du Toit
On top of regular training methods and ‘max-nights’, serious athletes will go to further lengths to train for a freediving competition. A few months before an event, elite athletes stop all activities that increase heart rate and metabolism in order to reduce their oxygen consumption while increasing freedive training that adapts the body to increased carbon dioxide. This includes swapping cardiovascular exercise for increased apnea training, and cutting out foods such as coffee and chilli.
“Usually I start (training) 2-3 month before the comp. Do dry static daily, or at least very regularly, do lots of yoga and meditation practices, dynamics and static training with mock comp sessions (max nights), and control my diet,” said Aya Mizumura, a member of the Brisbane Freedivers. “When freediving in the sea you need to listen to your own body, control your mind, observe the external environment, and also use some technique to go deep. When all these things work well, you can feel so calm and relaxed in the water and feel as if you are melting into the deep blue. I love that feeling.”
While this freediving competition will be held in a pool rather than the ocean, the principles of breath-holding are the same. The mind is the biggest obstacle to success.
“Anyone who has a passion for freediving, loves the feeling of being underwater or just wants to test themselves in a safe environment can enter freediving competitions. It's a sport where the women have the ability to be as good, or better, than the men and there is no real age limit on who can dive - I've seen people in their 70's compete and keep up with the younger crowd!” said Ben Noble. “Pool entry is $4.70. Come and have a chat to the athletes and find out more about the underwater world and what drives us to do what we do.” -By Nicole Keating