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A freediving tale: how to win the battle with yourself

Adrian Sandu became male champion in the Romanian Freediving Challenge 2014, in the beginning of April, after accumulating the top score in the two best disciplines, and shared generously with a few thoughts about his experience in the competition. We liked very much what Adrian told us and we decided it is worth sharing what means to participate in such a competition with others as well. Maybe such an authentic experience recounted will inspire also others to dare and try this sport. Below is the story of a rainy freediving Saturday, somewhere close to Bucharest.

What do you feel during a dynamic discipline in the pool? Practically there are three stages:

The start:

Swimming pool

Entering the pool, a wave of adrenaline floods your body. Your heart beat quickens instead of slowing down in order to use as little oxygen as possible. All kind of dark thoughts fill your head before the start. The distance you want to cross suddenly appears impossible to achieve.

The performance:

And yet, you start to swim. The water sustains your body weight and you enter a world of silence. You feel how your heart beat slows down. You close your eyes and try to enter a state similar to sleeping. Any thought consumes oxygen. You try to think of nothing. Just to enjoy the experience. The monofin’s strokes are slow, identical to a well cadenced metronome. Too fast and you use the oxygen. Your muscles become heavy and you can’t go forward. Too slow and you feel you are out of air after a few tens of meters. You feel how the water caresses your body and you try to relax even more. The first tens of meters go well. Then a feeling of acute discomfort appears. It hits you in the plexus. Your dark thoughts return. And yet, you must go on. Suddenly a door opens (the mental barrier) and the discomfort disappears. You continue to swim. You enter the second stage. The lactic acid starts accumulating in your arms and legs. You feel you are close to the end.

The end:

Adrian Sandu – center

Hypoxia steps in. You know you have to get out… and yet a few meters more. Your thoughts become blurry. You focus on the sensations preceding a samba or a black-out. Either your peripheral view darkens, or you feel pins and needles in your arm and numbness and you don’t think straight. Sometimes you do simple math calculations in your mind and when the result takes too long to process, it’s clear… it is time to get out. Your last thoughts before you emerge from the water are focusing around the validation protocol. Remember you need to breathe, and hold yourself steady on the ledge, and to look at the judge, and to take off your goggles, and to show the OK sign… so many and it seems you forget the sequence.

You get out, you hold on well and breathe as deep as possible in the first seconds. Your legs feel like exploding, with a confused gaze you search for the judge and sign the OK. You wait for the decision for 15 seconds. You are extremely tired, but happy. The toughest part is behind now. You gave all you could. You defeated your inner monsters which were whispering to you that you can’t. Mentally and physically you overcame a new barrier, a new constraint. Which is the next limit? Does it exist really?

You leave tired, but happy thinking you can do anything. You discovered your inner strength and you went all the way. Nothing is in your way. You won the fight with yourself.

Freediving is a sport in which you discover your own limitations and then you overcome them. In the sea you become one with it/you melt into it and you re-discover yourself.

I recommend you to try it.

I will conclude with my favorite motto: “The scuba diver dives to look around while the freediver dives to look inside himself.” – Umberto Pelizzari.


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