It took me a number of days to gather myself after my last excursion into these waters, which was last Thursday (May10th) . I consulted my usual trusted advisers, Lesley Rochat, Cormac McCreesh, Gary Akal, all leaders in their lives in different ways. And I consulted a few others too, experienced divers, Dean Channon from underwater world, Shane Breedt from Freedivers and other experienced divers. Some friendly words from my good friend Simon Thomas. All solid people.
Well that will always be a question , no matter where one is diving? It is something of a relative question, I guess it can be framed better thus, “Can this dive be done with relative safety?”
If I have learnt one thing on this trip it is to be flexible, in this regard I am latex!
On Friday, although afraid, I was still running on adrenalin and was adamant that I would do “whatever it takes”. By Saturday I had settled and I was lucky to be visiting with close family, perspective started to kick in, and slowly over the weekend I started to feel a very clear doubt and fear. By Sunday the brave face had totally disappeared and I knew that I had to come up with something new.
About a year ago while diving in Egypt I had latched onto Einstein’s famous quote…”insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result…”
This had become something of a mantra for me. But while I thought about it, it is easier said than done to change the way on thinks and the way one perceives things.
I have always believed the way to be is to ‘break down the door’. I have never stood back, and it has often brought results, unfortunately in this sport it can also have consequences, and I have been on the receiving end a number of times. Most importantly, this attitude erodes trust, if you use this paradigm to bring out your best it can become a very limiting energy. The problem is that you cannot trust yourself to always act in your own best interests. It is actually your ego doing whatever it takes to keep feeding itself. And from there doubt creeps in.
So, on Monday I had a new thought, I have thousands of shark warriors following my progress, fellow Freedivers, peers, friends, family, members of the media. While they are all supporting me, they are also trusting me to make mature decisions and to do what is right. My safety team is also putting their own safety in my hands and their reputations. I have a four year old son to consider. My partner Lesley, her daughter Tamera, and my own family.
So, I was ready to walk away, I decided that I would go out to sea one more time with my team. We had a few things we felt could make a big difference to diving these conditions. I wanted to test these changes, but if things were still the same, I was ready to WALK AWAY.
On Tuesday I was feeling less fearful because I knew I could trust myself to do what was right. I was actually feeling more nerves about the impending announcement that my campaign and my career is over.
On Tuesday evening I called my team together and we had a full briefing, I told them exactly where I was, and brought the gravity of the situation into full focus and we had an open and honest discussion. With me obviously doing most of the talking, but the guys pitched in with their points.
Then I came home to the Tropicana hotel and got ready for bed. I wonder if I got in even 2 hours of sleep. I went over the dive in the minutest detail in my head, over and over again, every muscle movement, every feeling and sensation in the finest, brightest detail in full focus, I heard the sounds, I felt the sensations, I saw the colors and the shadows and the light.
At 5.30 the alarm went off and Roelof got his kit together and left to get the couterballast prepped with Gareth.
I ate an apple and went down to the harbor, everybody was arriving and going about their tasks, prepping kit, loading the boat. I had a good long stretch, I saw Cormac looking over and deciding whether he wanted to get some pics of me stretching, it was a surreal picture, I was stretching my hamstrings on the trunk of a tree, the other side of the tree was the prone body of a homeless person, wrapped tight in his blanket, probably wondering who is this person in his bedroom!
God’s energy and presence is everywhere.
I can handle some current, I can handle poor viz, I can handle the fear of the deep open ocean, I can handle the swell, I can handle chop, I have handled the lot combined. BUT I am done risking all and I will not dive deep if faced with the full house of these conditions.
My team deployed the rig and I got into the water, they were all fantastic, Roelof showed real maturity way beyond his 22 years and he communicated so well with the rest of the crew, giving clear instructions on my behalf. He anticipated my every move and took a massive load off my shoulders. Chris West was totally in the present and brought a great deal of security and calm with his 33 years of diving experience in these waters. Gareth Staats was his usual joking self, with an underlying steeliness that I think will often be missed by most, but I saw it…and drew strength and confidence from it.
I have the least contact with my scuba team, my face is already down breathing through a snorkel by the time they get into the water, I hardly even see them during the dive, but the sense of security they bring cannot be measured, in freediving competition these days, safety divers are hardly ever used anymore, we rely on the counterballast for safety. But to go deep in these waters all by yourself , with no other human soul down there, somehow just seems to be asking too much. I have done it on many occasions, but as with the current and swell, it is just another of the multiple factors that when combined makes it all too much.
During my warm up I do a partial exhale dive to 40m and meet Ian Pasley and Mike Osborne there, we test the current and I am pleased to see that the line is more or less vertical and I am able to stay with the line. I know then that this dive is going to be a walk in the park. I am feeling relaxed and my whole team is working like clockwork.
Back on the surface, Dean Channon comes up and gives me a report on the deeper water, he can see the bottom plate from 50m! What a turn around. There is a cold current in the deeper water, but it does not appear to be too bad, the line is pushing off vertical, about 2-3m over a 20m stretch, but if you consider that I have got about 50kg at the end of a 12mm line, that indicates a very strong current on the deepest part of the dive.
So this is a niggle that is a bit disconcerting, but at least if I can get through that quickly and powerfully on the way up, I can rest for the last 50m back to the surface. And I made a mental note to check the movement on the descent and abort if it is too strong.
As things stand, on the balance of things, the surface is ugly, but underwater we have great visibility today, the current is reasonable, there is uncertainty over the current in the deeper water, but I feel confident that I will abort if needed. And my team is operating like a well-oiled machine.
I called 6 minutes for a breathe-up, now one of the most critical phases of any freedive is the breathe-up. This is the part that has challenged me the most, to stay attached to the bucking bronco that is the surface rig and still relax and breathe deeply is quite an ask.
Here my safety team has got to get a lot of credit, they somehow manage to stabilize me enough that I can relax. When the count comes I take a deep breathe, with my usual 10 packs (which I don’t think are real packs anyway). And turn down towards the bottom, I have a good wide amplitude kick down to about 25m and at 30m do my mouthfill, kick for about another 10m and then go into a foetal freefall position, I drop like a rock and feel the rush of the cold water as I hit the deep current, while it is definitely there, it is not washing me off the cable and there is no need to correct my position too much so I continue, at the bottom I have to work a little more than I like to position myself on the rope for the ascent but quickly get into a powerful upward stroke and it really only takes about 6 strokes of the monofin and I know I will be ok, now it is just a normal freedive until I reach the surface, where I will have to be very alert to the conditions and the surface structure.
My safety freedivers pick me up at 20m and we glide back to the raging bull topside. I snatch a breath of air before the swell can engulf me and while I do my hook breath I am ever conscious of the swell and the structure and I do a surface protocol, with my signature Greek OK. I practiced my surfacing protocol so well in Greece 2 years ago with my friend Michael Chelmis that the accent has stuck.
We have accomplished something very special here today. I say we because it really took a team effort, from my skipper Rob Welman, who led the way and organized the team from the boat and tended us so professionally to Gary Akal, the boat sponsor who made sure we had everything we needed long before we launched. All of my safety divers.
The AfriOceans team who is working tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure that these dives are not done in vain, or just for vanity.
For more info see: www.deepfreediveforsharks.com
And a very big thank you to my angel, Lesley Rochat. She has helped me arrive at a place where it is possible for me, if I choose to retire today, I could do so with an open heart. She has taken me to a place of safety. I no longer feel the world is a desperate place. I can go into challenges with an open heart and an open mind. That is a priceless gift.
The judges arrive on the 29th May. I will be diving a few more times before then and hopefully once they are here I will be able to do this dive in their presence and make it official. But I have already won my battle.
I’ve known Trevor for a while now and I’ve become accustomed to his can-do, all-conquering attitude. So when I met with him last week after his taxing dive to 66 metres and he told me that the dive had rattled him, I knew it was far more serious than that.
The tight jawline, thin lips and the frown on his brow gave the game away. That he seemed constantly distracted and struggled to stay on topic in conversation told me there was much going on in his gray matter.
When I read his blog and understood the full impact of his 66 metre dive, I became pretty rattled myself just thinking about it. It’s one thing to dive the Blue Hole in Dahab (and I have dived it, albeit on scuba) and quite another to plunge into the uninviting dark, churning, swell heaving waters off Durban.
Free divers choose to dive in Egypt, Greece and similar places for a reason – the water is calm allowing for controlled breath-ups, there is little or no current to contend with and visibility is generally pretty good, add to this the miniscule chance of bumping into a large predator and you can understand. Or rather, you may struggle to understand why Trevor has chosen to follow the road less travelled and plunge into the oftentimes gray-green and dark waters off Durban.
But leaders go where others choose not to and Trevor is on a mission to raise awareness of the need for conservation of sharks. What better way to do that than set the bar in waters that are renowned for sharks?
Yesterday was Trevor’s day. He hit the plate at 72.6 metres and breached the surface with loads in his tank. This was the Trevor I know, in control, determined, pushing his limits and staring down his demons. Inspirational, motivating? … Absolutely.
I attended Trevor’s predive briefing the night before the dive. The tension was palpable and Trevor was firm, authoritative and focused. Minor glitches with far-reaching consequences were resolved and team members were told in no-uncertain terms of their roles. When we left the briefing the nervous tension in the team crackled.
On dive day the tension was heightened and each team member retreated into his own world as Rob skippered us out to the dive site where the sonar reported a depth of in excess of 200 metres. The swell was pretty big but the water was less gray-green, hinting at an inviting blue.
At the dive site, the equipment was deployed with a minimum of fuss and activity by the team and Trevor was shepherded into the water by the three free diving safety divers of Roelof Du Plooy, Gareth Staats and Chris West. The scuba team of Ian Pasley and Mike Osborne, led by Dean Channon of Underwater World, efficiently slipped on their gear and disappeared down the line and Trevor’s diving began.
It all went according to plan: Trevor’s warm up dives were ticked off efficiently and procedurally and the big dive was over before anyone was able to register the full import of what Trevor has just achieved.
On the day and in the water, Trevor was different from the man who had led the predive briefing. Gentle and coaxing he talked his team members through their processes and his needs. Roelof, his surface manager stepped up and assertively called time, dispatched divers and managed Trevor’s breath-up and relaxation.
The free diving and scuba diving safety team hit their stations and did their jobs in a focused and relaxed way. And skipper Rob stood by on high alert. It was an exercise in teamwork, communication and focus.
When Neil Armstrong stepped off the lunar module of Apollo 11 onto the surface of the moon he said “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” but it is also reported that he said “just like drill”. Trevor’s dive reminded me of Neil Armstrong’s reported words because I know that Trevor had dived that dive in his head over and over again before actually doing it. I know that every member of Trevor’s team had mentally played their role repeatedly and I know that everyone’s energy was focused on the one goal they were out there to achieve. It was “just like drill”.
Posted by Trevor Hutton Free Diving Academy at 10:35:00 AM 2 comments: Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to Facebook