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! 🙂
I’ve been on Malta since Monday. By now I have done three freedive sessions. In this blog post I want to tell you about the second and third session. You can read about my first night and first session here.
I write this post sitting really comfortably at Ghajn Tuffieha bay. Today I have been mountain biking around the North of Malta and ended up here for a while. I must say it’ll probably be a tough trip back. My legs are already tired and I have to cross the island again, with some considerable head wind to be expected. And don’t mind the saddle pains that’ll probably cut up rough (is that correct English?). Hashtag Yolo…
So… let’s start with Wednesday. Malta Two. Together with AIDA instructor David Watson (remember him from Malta One?) I decided to just do some relaxed exploring this day and not bother with line dives. This was an good idea, since it took my mind of the whole equalization thingy.
We dove at the same dive-spot and swam along the reef where he showed me some beautiful spots under some rocks. The most amazing organisms grow away from direct sunlight. They have colours ranging from greyish blue, green, orange and bright red. At two spots there were some swim throughs he pointed out, both around 10 meters deep. After David swam through them and I prudently scouted them out, I managed to do the same. It’s awesome fun! And isn’t this what we all do it for: being in the water, seeing beautiful things and having plain fun?
The dives went pretty well and I reached 14.3 meters at one point with a 1:02 minute dive time (I do tend to hang around for a while to see what’s to see). Around that depth equalization becomes a bit more challenging. Towards the end of the session David tried to spot us some octopuses or cuttlefish, but unfortunately he didn’t. And my eyes are definitely not trained to do so (yet…).
In the afternoon we took some time to do a short equalization workshop. After warming up all the required muscles for a while, we mainly followed a video by Andrea Zuccari and tried to re-enact the explained exercises. I wasn’t too impressed by this workshop, but I guess it did give me some exercises to take home with me.
Malta Three. David is not the most talkative guy out there. He is quite calm and non-intrusive. But in the water he’s in his element for sure. I guess it is also a lot about personal preference, but I don’t mind somebody being a bit more extrovert. That’s why I didn’t mind we were being joined by Denis on the third session (yesterday).
Denis was fulfilling his last requirements for the AIDA three star certificate, which is sort of the equivalent to the SSI level 2 Freediver certificate. Also, he turned out to be a Serb (and half Russian). Which got us talking all the way to the dive-spot. Actually… yesterday was all about the Serbs. I saw some typical Serbian graffiti (samo sloga Srbina spasava) and when I went to have a coffee that afternoon I unintentionally ended up in a bar with a Serbian waiter. Rumour goes there are about 20.000 Serbs on this island… I guess it’s easy to get a working permit here, even if you’re not an EU-citizen (yet).
Anyway, this third dive session was about line dives again. Of course this automatically comes with some nerves for me, because time and time again I hope the equalization will somehow ‘click’ mentally and physiologically. Nothing to do but see what happens, right?
Since this was going to be my last session with David, I took my iPhone with me in a waterproof casing I got at the airport. I supposed it would be a sin to not shoot anything at all. Unfortunately the case of the GoPro had been leaking and the casing of the camera I took to Dive4Life last time has scratched in front of the lens which makes it useless for good underwater shots as well.
Unfortunately filming with the iPhone – through the plastic casing I got – was no real success… This is all I have to show you guys:
So, about the dives. Swimming in towards the buoy setup point Denis pointed out a small octopus. After this day I can honestly say he sees f-ing everything on the sea’s bottom. Then again; he told me he’s been spearfishing for a long time and sometimes even sells the fish he’s speared.
David set the buoy up at the same spot as the first day (above the P29 shipwreck at Cirkewwa). The three of us started out taking turns on the line, of course warming up with some free immersions again. I took it a bit slower and they went better. We did some hangs as well. I did my longest hang around 9 meters with 1:28 minutes dive time.
After the warm-ups we started to do constant weight dives. David put the line at 30 meters for Denis, who wanted to increase his depth. He eventually touched the bottom at 31 meters and was happy because this was the shirt number of his favourite NBA player Reggie Miller, haha…
For me, equalizing went better than before. Especially when I got it right from the start, with the right force and a proper rhythm. I regularly passed the 10 meters. I also set a constant weight personal best at 14.9 meters. This dive was amazing because I could see the shipwreck at the bottom from this depth. Pretty impressive, even though it was still at least 10 meters away 🙂
All in all I was quite content with these dives. I do still have some work ahead in order to figure out the equalization beyond the 10 meter marker. It is hard to focus on what I feel exactly and what is happening with the epiglottis and soft palate. Mainly because I’m still thinking about a lot of things when diving down. I think maybe my soft palate closes up at a certain depth, possibly because of negative pressure in the mask I didn’t equalize (although I don’t consciously feel it squeezing). Or maybe I lose the tong block somewhere along the way and when I put it back and open the soft palate I might unconsciously open the epiglottis at the same time as well, which might make the air from my mouth ‘escape’ back to my lungs.
These – of course – are things to figure out by doing it more and more and getting a better sense of what I’m doing (wrong) beyond a certain depth. There are a lot of mechanisms at play and controlling new muscles/bodyparts always takes a bit of time. Gradually these things will improve though, as they are already. And believe me: those 20 meters will come close quicker than even I might expect.
Swimming back to shore Denis pointed out a cuttlefish. I truly wouldn’t have spotted it. They are great at camouflage. Denis was able to catch it with his hands, because it moved in a predictable pattern. I tried to make a picture of it, but the iPhone was failing on me. I guess I pressed the sleep button so long it turned off.
The animal kept changing colour, at last even to red (it probably wanted to express anger), but it was really wonderful and the ‘W’ shape of its eyes is fascinating; as if you’re having eye contact with an alien of sorts.
And so this third day of diving ended. Don’t worry about the cuttlefish. Denis set it free and it swam off like nothing happened.
Before this holiday ends, I might do another exploration dive somewhere. By myself or maybe with Denis. If I do, you’ll hear about it here first!