Unboxing the Picasso Master Carbon fins

Recently I ordered some new gear as a gift to myself for/if reaching the next freediving level. The package contained the Picasso Master Carbon fins, the Picasso Shadow wetsuit (5mm Yamamoto neoprene), the Picasso Atomic mask and some fin binders from the Portugese brand.

I ordered the package from a Portugese spearfishing shop with close ties to Picasso. The delivery was fast and without problems. Continue reading below the video for a bit more on the gear.

I apologize for the soft sound, but here is the embedded video to watch the unboxing and get a first impression of the contents:

The fins turn out to be the biggest difference in my freediving arsenal. Switching from plastics to carbon is quite a noticeable improvement to my movement through the water. The foot pockets are made of real rubber, which feels great and subtle on the feet. I now (in summer) even tend to use them mostly without socks and fin holders.

I’m a size 45EU sneaker wearer (more reliably around 11UK) and went for the size 44/46 foot pockets. They fit comfortably and are easy to get on, especially without socks.

Engaging in some abrupt movements I feel they could fit a bit more secure, but I don’t know if a size smaller would still fit me comfortably and it would probably rule out the use of socks – which is nice to have as an option in spring and autumn. Anyhow: the insecurity with abrupt moves might be fixable with the use of fin holders.

The wetsuit fits like a glove (I contacted both the shop and Picasso to get a sense of what would be the right size for me). The Yamamoto neoprene really sticks to my skin like glue. I pull it from the outside, the skin moves with. It’s kind of strange, I definitely haven’t felt this kind of stickiness with other neoprenes I used.

I haven’t felt cold once while wearing it, and the Vinkeveense Plassen (my local training spot) has a below thermocline water temperature of 9 degrees Celsius (48 degrees Fahrenheit), even in summer. So the seals are proper. But I did make two holes at both sides of the hood to prevent hood squeeze (some older Picasso models had an inbuilt prevention: different material around the ears). This adjustment doesn’t noticeably impact insulation.

The mask: I’m not sure about it yet. It fits and doesn’t leak, but the grip on the nose for equalization seems a bit less easy than with the Mares X-Free or Aqualung Micro Mask. What I did notice is its ability to bend, also when diving! When you descent and don’t bother to equalize the mask, it will at a certain point bend around your face a bit. This gives you a clear sign you need to (and are actually a bit late to) equalize your mask.

It seems a mask with a lot of potential and a very low internal volume, but comfort and habituation are hard to step away from when it comes to freedive and spearfishing masks. I will have to test it out more, and I promise to do a review of multiple masks in the future.

If you have any questions about pricing, sizing or whatever else: don’t be shy and contact me! 🙂

Review of the Apneaman Apneautic Freediving Buoy

A while ago I did a review video on the Apneaman Freediving Buoy (Apneautic).

Below I have embedded the video for you to watch, but there is one subject in particular I still wanted to discuss here, since I did not discuss it in depth in the video: the rope. I will keep it short though, and let the video speak for itself.

There are different opinions on what properties the ideal freediving rope should have. Basically there are a couple of main separating criteria: (1) does it float or not; (2) is it 10mm or 12mm thick; and (3) does it stretch a little or the least amount possible.

(1) Whether the line floats or not mostly influences the handling after the dive. I think it is mainly a personal preference whether you find it more convenient to knot it back up and/or put it back into the buoy when it sinks down or comes to the surface after you have pulled up the bottom weight.

(2) The thickness of the line is also a matter of personal preference. I like the rope a bit thicker. It just feels nicer in the hand when grabbing it. That said: I’m a pretty big fellow.

(3) The elasticity (or possible percentage of elongation) of the rope is especially a factor in deep dives. Simply put: if the line is 100 meters long and has a possible 4% elongation that is a possible 4 meters extra you might unintentionally get. Of course the negative influence of this on your dive is very much dependant on the sort of bottom weight or anchoring you use and whether you have or have not taken this factor in consideration. Ideally, though, you have the least amount of elongation possible.

SSI Level 2 freediving course (Tenerife)

The first posts on this blog are about my first introduction to freediving and the (bumpy) road to completing the requirements for the level 1 certification. However, after you achieve one milestone, you need to aim for another. Logical… But before doing so, you better know you can meet the requirements. That much I learned from my first course…

A good one and a half year into my freediving practice I felt ready to start the level 2 course. But where?

I decided to do it somewhere near the sea and after a lot of Googling and YouTubin’, checking ticket and accommodation prices, I chose Atlantis Freediving on Tenerife.

Tenerife is a small island in the Atlantic Ocean, part of the canary islands, and under Spanish rule. It has multiple freediving schools. The most famous are Apnea Canarias, owned by Spanish record holder Miguel Lozano, and Atlantis Freediving, a school connected to the Freedive International franchise.

The choice between the two was based on a buddy’s advice. She had spent quite some time on Tenerife and had some experience with both schools. She liked the location of Atlantis Freediving better (sheltered) and even though she had not done an official course with them (just some fun dives) they had left a good impression. Also, they have a shipwreck very close to shore. Enough reasons for me 🙂

This was going to be my first course in the ocean. Sea even. And it definitely came with some nerves. The requirements for the SSI level 2 freediving certification are:

  • Academic (online course material, theorie classes and exam);
  • Dynamic swim of at least 55 meters;
  • Static breath hold, minimum of 2:30 minutes;
  • Safety/rescue at 15 meters;
  • Hands only ascent from 15 meters;
  • Mask off ascent from 15 meters;
  • Constant weight dive to 20 meters minimum.

None of these numbers intimidated me anymore, but when you ‘must’ to do them, it is a different story. One of performance under slight pressure.

The first things that will come to light under these kind of circumstances are your weakest points. Compare it to a tennis player and his weakest stroke. In tense situations that stroke will fail on him first, and will therefore be exploited first, as you have an opponent in tennis.

Luckily there is no opponent other than yourself in freediving. But then again: aren’t you always your own biggest opponent in doing/achieving anything? Clichés are clichés for a reason. Dealing with yourself; your abilities and your beliefs is therefore paramount in taking up any challenge, if you’d ask me…

As the avid reader of this blog knows: my weak point was equalization. And even though I have gotten a better understanding of it through my practice, ánd even though I’m (by now) definitely more proficient at it than the average person: there are multiple levels to equalization for freediving. True mastery of equalization is still a somewhat enigmatic feat.

One thing is for sure though: equalization and relaxation are linked together and influence each other in a big way. So… well…: my equalization worked sufficiently to meet the requirements, but it definitely was a negative factor for my relaxation (and the other way around probably).

Fortunately, the instructor at Atlantis Freediving, Pavol Ivanov, had been dealing with the same sort of problems at the start of his freediving journey. Which made him exactly the right person to do this course with. He immediately noticed how I tried to ‘help’ my frenzel with a valsalva like push as soon as it became more challenging in depth. This is an ineffective technique, disruptive to your focus and can cause problems with the trachea (hoarse throat) and lungs (possible squeeze).

With some pointers and a couple of exercises Pavol gave me (probably the most import things I learned this course), I slowly started to get a better feeling for it and unnecessary movements and sounds started to disappear. After the three days it ‘clicked’ even more. I feel Pavol left me with some tools to take the next steps in developing a potent and consistent frenzel equalization that can take me to at least 30 meters. Kudos Pavol!

So now you might still wonder: did you meet ALL requirements and get your level 2 certification?! I will no longer keep you guys in suspense: I DID meet all my level 2 requirements (even swam 75 meters dynamic) and am now officially an advanced freediver 🙂

Of course I got a hell of a lot of other pointers as well, concerning finning and freefall techniques, as well as possible improvements to make to my recovery breaths. Things that improved during the course and things to keep improving and paying attention to on my way to an eventual level 3 course. Basically it comes down to: keep finetuning every aspect of your freediving. That figures, if you want to become a master freediver, right? Yes. Yes, it does.

Below some footage to get a sense of freediving around Tabaiba:

If you have any questions or need some information, don’t hesitate and comment below or send me a personal message!

Hasta luego amigos!

The Freedive Café: my favourite episodes

If you don’t know, now you know!

There is a podcast for freedivers and it is called: The Freedive Café.

I think I’ve mentioned The Freedive Café before, but I can’t remember in which post. If I didn’t say it before: the podcasts are highly recommended (if not a must) for anyone who’s interested in or obsessed (;-)) with freediving.

The concept is pretty basic: every episode Donny Mac (McFarlane) interviews one of the bigger names in freediving and asks them about their history, their first contact with the sport, their progression, the obstacles they encountered, the lessons they learned, any plans they might have for the future, etcetera. To conclude the podcasts Donny usually asks them about their morning routine and a book recommendation.

Depending on the guest and their expertise, some podcasts will go deeper into training methods, the science behind freediving or the effective teaching and coaching of newbies to expert freedivers.

Below is a list some of my favourite episodes, but let me start off by saying that anyone new to The Freedive Café should – of course – begin with the first episode and let Donny (himself) explain what it’s all about.

The list:

The Italians                                                                                                                                What’s not to love about the Italians? Exactly: nothing! There is truly nothing not to enjoy about their accents, confidence, experience, slight hubris, brutal talent for storytelling and the fact that they are living freedive legends. Umberto Pelizzari is featured in episodes #20 and #63. Andrea Zuccari is featured in episode #51.

The freedive king of YouTube                                                                                               Almost everyone that has done any sort of search for freediving on YouTube knows who I’m talking about: Adam Stern (episodes #9 and #36). This hyperactive and funny Australian is not only a very popular online video maker (together with his partner), but a serious freediving athlete and organizer of the popular Deep Week events (usually hosted on Bali, Indonesia).

A Danish feel-good story                                                                                                             Stig Pryds is a Danish freediver with an interesting back-story. Suffering from a condition known as psoriatic arthritis, he was condemned to retire earlier than he had planned and forced to use aids just to be able to walk. That all changed when he discovered that he could manage the condition through freediving, yoga and eating a plant-based diet. Stig is featured in episodes #4 and #65.

The expert freediving coach                                                                                                   Down in Indonesia there is a place called Apnea Bali. You can go there to do the ordinary freediving courses or to get some serious high level coaching by Julia Mouce. We’re talking about elite freedivers that appreciate her guidance. Listening to this woman talk, you immediately realise this is an all around freediving badass. She has strong opinions backed by well thought-through arguments and she’s anything but a punishment to listen to. Julia is featured in episodes #28 and #52.

The oxygen advantage                                                                                                             There are a couple of episodes that don’t feature freedivers. Episode #54 is one of those. Patrick McKeown might know little about freediving, he knows a lot about functional breathing and the science around this thing we do that’s so extremely critical to our (quality of) life. This episode is generally interesting, even to non-freedivers. And even though you might think: “what’s the use for freedivers, aren’t they explicitly in the business of breath-holding and not breathing?”; those two actions go hand-in-hand and are way more (performance-)interdependent than you might realise.

The World Champ                                                                                                                          The most impressive freedive perfomances in recent times have been achieved by Russian freediver Alexey Molchanov, son of the late Natalia Molchanova. This prodigy is the deepest self propelled human being on planet earth (vid below). This impressive fact is by itself reason enough to listen to his story and take on the sport. Alexey is featured in episode #35.

The old freedive Yoda                                                                                                                    His coaching style might not be as Zen-like and incoherent as Yoda’s, but Aharon Solomons is definitely a wise old man with many lessons to teach. Come to think of it: might be better to compare him to Rocky Balboa’s coach “Mighty” Mick. In two parts, episodes #15 and #16, Donny and Aharon discuss a whole lot of subjects: from equalization techniques and their origins, to residual volume dives, to mouthfill, to lung squeeze problems, to packing, to brain-waves and dreaming, and so forth.

I hope the (already) avid listeners of the podcast can agree with the above selection and if this is the first time you’re hearing (reading) about The Freedive Café podcasts: definitely give them go if you’re interested in freediving!

Goals set, Goals met (NYE-post)

December 31st, 2018.

No better day to look back and contemplate a year of freediving.

In October 2017 I started on a journey to learn freediving and took you by the hand as much as possible. It hasn’t all been smooth sailing, mainly because equalization of the middle ear didn’t come naturally for me. I had to grab every possible opportunity to learn about it and practice quite a bit. You can read about the whole process on this blog and hopefully it will help or has helped some of you out there.

When I first tried for my level 1 freediving certification I couldn’t equalize upside down at all. So I failed miserably. The bottom of the Dive4Life dive tower seemed very far away, reaching it so unattainable. However… in the back of my mind two primary goals formed: getting my level 1 certification one way or the other, and touching the bottom of the 20 meters deep pool in Germany.

After quite a bit of practice in between, in March of this year I went back to Dive4Life to do the re-examination for my SSI level 1 freediver certification. Luck was not on my side. I was having a proper nose cold that, together with the pressure to finally meet the requirements, had taken away all relaxation I so sorely needed. But all’s well that ends well. And so it did. Goal number one reached!

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to kill two birds with one stone. I’d have to return one day to truly conquer the pool by reaching the bottom.

In the meanwhile I have written about my summer practice in the Vinkeveense Plassen (one and two) and reaching new PB’s, but in my last post I left the readers at a Paris overlay ahead of a holiday in Spain, ending with a post scriptum hint that my luggage (full of freediving gear) did arrive at Malaga airport. Behold below the result of two good days of diving with my girlfriend’s brother who knew to find all nooks and crannies (watch in HD):

You can see the visibility was great and most beauty is to be found in shadowy places 🙂

I was really looking out for some encounters with octopuses. Which are a lot harder to spot than you might think. Especially if you don’t have that spear-fisherman’s eye… Unfortunately I got an ear infection soon after above images were shot and had to stop diving for a couple of days 😦 That was a huuuuge bummer.

The last couple of days I was able to enter the water again and I still kept on the lookout for octopuses. Sadly without having my camera with me, it was only on the last day of the holiday I had an encounter, but a long one that lasted maybe fifteen minutes. A small octopus in shallow water, constantly changing his colours, moving and settling, squirting ink when I came too close for his liking. What fascinating creatures.

After this holiday, going into autumn, regular diving had quickly stagnated. The outdoor waters of the Netherlands were still okay for a while, but the weather out of the water became too harsh to truly keep enjoying dives outside. Hoisting oneself in and out the wetsuit on the water’s edge became too cold a undertaking to keep it an enjoyable experience.

So what better to do than go back to Dive4Life and finally touch summit (read: bottom) there? Exactly: nothing… So when I was invited to come with some buddies I met at the Vinkeveense Plassen last summer, I took a day off work on the 7th of December and joined them for a day of diving in the pool in Siegburg, Germany.

What can I say… both goals were reached this year that day 🙂 I filmed it all (except for the shot of me freefalling) so best to join me in this predominantly POV-video and see for yourself:

And… you might ask, what about new goals? Any new years resolutions? Well… Next year I plan to get comfortable between 25-30 meters and possibly get my level 2 certification. I’ll keep you guys posted and I’ll keep the video’s coming. Oh yeah, and also, as a last but not least: I’m planning a couple of gear reviews for you guys!

Till next year! Best wishes, keep diving and keep safe!

Freediving @ Vinkeveense Plassen #2

I’m up 36,000ft in the sky while writing this blog update; barely having survived a Serbian wedding and now halfway a full day of travel to get to my girlfriend in Spain. 

It’s been a while, and I wanted to let you guys know what’s up before reporting on this coming holiday where I plan to do some nice Mediterranean dives and hopefully film some.

Don’t think I went for a freediving break in the meantime. No, no… I have been training at least once a week for the last couple of months. In the green, murky waters of Vinkeveen. 

We might have found the deepest spot within the diving area there. I know this because I touched bottom and took some mud back to the surface, and by doing so also set a new personal best of 23.7 meters! 🙂

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Dives of around 18 meters come more easily and regularly now. I found out that to go deeper I have to focus quite a bit on keeping the glottis (or is it called the epiglottis, I still don’t f**king know) closed, but also not forget to equalize the mask at some point. Slowly and steadily I’m getting to finetune this whole Frenzel equalization process.

Every now and then we still hang around the buswreck though. A backdrop like that is a bit more appealing for the images, since it’s absolutely pitch black down around those 18 meters and deeper. On one of our training sessions a scuba diver (from the dive school of my regular buddy) came along. He was interested to shoot some freediving stuff and ended up editing this short movie:

By now I’ve also introduced some friends to freediving. They all seem intrigued but everyone seems to struggle with equalization, even the guys with some prior scuba experience. Which makes me wonder why equalization has not yet really been made a part of the level 1 freediving courses. I would definitely make it part of one if I’m ever to become an instructor. Pinky promise. 

As for my travel today I can say that carrying the huge bag that can hold all the gear (including fins) is plain HELL… They should give these things good straps and maybe a back (rucksack) carry possibility like the North Face duffles do. Let’s just assume it’ll be all worth it 🙂 And I do sincerely hope it arrives at Malaga, because it’s been turning around on the Paris airport luggage belts for four hours during my overlay. 

For now I will leave you guys with this and my latest video:

Hasta luego!

PS My luggage with gear arrived!

Freediving PB testing the Apneaman Buoy

Last monday I went out diving with a buddy to properly test out the Apneaman Freediving Buoy. Or maybe it’s brand name is Apneautic; hard to say, but it deserves a mention here anyway.

I got the Apneaman Freediving Buoy a couple of months ago. I ordered the complete set with the buoy, inner bladder, 40 meters of rope, weight strap, carabiners and bottom plate. Mainly because it is very competitively priced.

I believe Apneaman is Martin Zajac’s company. Martin Zajac is a freediving athlete, coach, trainer and instructor from the Czech Republic and is competing at the Vertical Blue competition this year (held this and next week). I would imagine he can properly test (and stands behind) the gear he sells.

Since there is not a lot to find about this freediving buoy on the internet I decided to make an unboxing and first real use video about it (see below). “Firs real use” in the sense that I did use it once or twice before for some shallow and exploration dives.

As you can see in the video, the first buoy that arrived had a problem with the velcro. The Apneaman staff assured me this was something that happened rarely, if ever. Their service and understanding was exceptional and they sent out a new buoy within 24 hours. Not to mention that after I sent the faulty one back, they fully reimbursed my shipping costs. So… big props to Martin and the guys at Apneaman!

Now, to the diving. I took the complete set out; buoy, bladder, rope, bottom plate, weight strap, the whole lot. It was also a good opportunity to learn something about rope handing (line handling?). And well… that sh*t ain’t all that easy, guys! But I’m getting better at it and I plan to do a video about it soon.

My buddy (a PADI master freediver) and I swam to the furthest end of the dive zone at the Vinkeveense Plassen. We let down the rope with 9kg (+/- 20lbs) of lead attached until it touched the bottom. After we got the rope tight and right, we started warmin up.

We did some free immersion dives first, then some constant weight dives. In between we tried a couple of FRC dives. I tried FRC for the first time and went to 9.6m on it. It’s a strange sensation and you get to free fall very early. Also, FRC helps practising the right equalization technique, but comes with some risks and needs to be done with care and preferably with someone who can guide you through it.

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I did the final constant weight dives with full lungs again and managed to reach the bottom plate! With which I also set a new personal best constant weight dive to 18.8 meters (61.6ft) of depth!

If you’ve been following this blog, you might wonder how I fared with equalizing at that depth. If you haven’t been following the blog: equalization didn’t come easy for me, as you might also be able to guess from the titles of some of my previous blog posts.

As with lots of acquired skills I believe it takes some time for the brain and body to realise what is expected of it. In that sense the old adagium “practice makes perfect” holds true for anything you want to become proficient at in life.

When you train regularly and your mind and body are getting used to float about deeper and deeper under the surface of any body of water (even if it’s green, dark and murky), you get more relaxed, you start to have more time to feel what is happening inside. This makes it possible to process new things and adapt.

Together with my buddy I figured out it I was sometimes slightly opening my glottis and transitioning back to valsalva equalization at a certain depth. So focusing on not doing that and sticking to the frenzel I got deeper and deeper more comfortably, until I reached the bottom plate.

I won’t lie to you and say that equalisation didn’t become more challenging near the end (as before it became more challenging near the previous “end”), but I didn’t feel any uncomfortable pressure or pain. And that’s how going a bit further every time and getting used to it, relaxing into it, is how we will creep a bit further away from the surface every time we practice. Slowly.