A Night Diving Adventure 🤩

So far this has been an interesting year. Downs and ups and a lot of insecurity.

Luckily my girlfriend and I managed to squeeze in an actual holiday abroad. It is our last holiday with just the two of us, since we are expecting a child somewhere early November. After we’ll always have a third wheel 😉

So there were multiple reasons why we craved for a holiday, and all other previous plans had been cancelled this year due to Covid-19. Not to mention we had been working quite hard from home, which comes with challenges of its own.

At that time Greece was still considered to be code yellow – luckily we didn’t book anything to Spain… – but with mandatory PCR-test with a negative result no older than 72 hours before departure. It raised the price of the holiday a bit, but it was well worth it and it meant a return to Zakynthos for me.

And when on the Island of Zakynthos, I contact Apnea Academy instructor Ioannis Aliazis for some freediving 🤿 I joined him for around five sessions and had a lot of fun. But the most memorable session was the night session, especially because of the aftermath! Below you can read the long post I dedicated to it on Instagram:

These pictures come with a story about an adventure ⬇️⬇️⬇️ An adventure that ends with a death ☠️ 

A couple of days ago we went freediving at night 🌚 It was a bit scary but SO, SO, SO AMAZING as well.

Ioannis borrowed extra torches that lit up the midnight sea to a blue that’s hard to describe. And when we turned them off, flapping our fins made sea sparkles light up 😍

After some awesome line dives we decided to snorkel around the cave at Korakonisi a bit. I took my camera from the buoy and Monika (@apnoemoni) and I swam over there. Inside we decided to turn off the torches to look at the bright moonlight entering the crevasse. As I turned off my torch, my camera slipped out of my hand! Whaaaa!!! And in a strange movement to grab it (as I clearly forgot to put the wrist band on) my left foot slipped out of my fin’s footpocket. This shifted my focus from grabbing the camera and as a result BOTH the fin and the camera sank into the darkness… 😳

With the help of Ioannis and Imane (@imanezza_) we managed to find my fin back that same night. But after multiple dives by Ioannis and Monika, the camera was nowhere to be found. Which concerned me, as it was an Olympus TG-Tracker that can manage 30 meters of depth without any extra housing, but can’t do so for multiple hours. And now it was somewhere on the bottom of the cave, anywhere between 15 and 22 meters. But since I couldn’t possibly ask the others to exert themselves further, the camera had to spend the night 😴 at depth before I could go look for it again.

My far along pregnant girlfriend waited up for me that night, as she knew how sad I would return. Especially since the SD-card in the camera contained a lot of footage of the turtle 🐢 I swam with the day before.

The next day the trooper (yes, referring to my girlfriend) offered to go with me as a spotter 🙏🏻  So instead of going out boating, as originally planned, we left for Korakonisi again. I inflated the Subea Seatrekking and Spearfishing backpack (🎒 awesome thing!) and we swam around to the cave. There we tried to spot anything resembling the camera to no avail, even though the visibility was awesome. Definitely 25+ meters(!), but I still had to dive down to really distinguish things. 

After some dives I saw this drone 🛸 lying there on a big rock. I returned to the surface and asked my girlfriend with her big baby belly to keep the backpack/buoy above there and did my breathe-up. I dove down to 21 meters and recovered it. No sign of my camera however 😔 We started to think it maybe got stuck somewhere shallow and someone there before us might have found it. 

It was time to take a short break and try just a couple of more time a bit later. We had some water and some Greek 🇬🇷 snacks and returned to our quest 🧜🏻 I decided to search for the camera a bit more structured: diving down from the back of the cave and finning out. That way, if it was still there I must swim over and see it, right?!

🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻😍😎🤓 Well… that totally worked! I found it! There it was, between two rocks at 19.8 meters. Back to the surface for a good breathe-up and go! I dove down, got it and cheered so hard when I came up! The Olympus was back on land and the SD-card and battery slot looked quite dry! I was confident the footage was safe, which proofed to be true and so more turtle footage to come 😁🎉🎉🎉 And I’ll do you one more: we managed to recover the footage from the drone as well! 🥳

The camera itself was not in that good of a condition though… So I had to put it in a bowl of rice 🍚 to give it a chance. I left it for the night as well, but unfortunately it didn’t seem to help. It did turn on but then the screen gave a white noise. On the other hand: it looked like it would possibly still record something. And it actually did!!! We went out boating 🚤 the next day and it actually took one last film for us from the surface before it definitely passed away ☠️ and I had to give it the proper burial (see pic below). But that last film. A film of…… wait for it…… another turtle(!) 🐢 swimming beneath us!

O, Poseidon 🔱, as you please, you give, you take, you give back and take back! Thank you for this adventure with a little cost and a lot of joy 🙏🏻

Enjoy this edit of the salvaged footage 😎

Equalization for Freediving

In the piece about Covid-19 and the freediving season so far I announced a post about equalization (or: equalisation) for freediving. Here it is! Maybe a little later than promised, but here nonetheless.

If you have visited this blog before, you’ll know I have written about my issues with equalization extensively. When I started out on this journey my main challenge was equalizing head down. If you want to read more about my personal experiences, you can read “The dawn of upside down equalization“, “Practice makes perfect” or “SSI level 2 freediving course” posts. They might contain tips that could help you as well.

This post will be a far more general introduction to equalization for freediving, totally made possible by my level 2 instructor Pavol Ivanov, who made good use of the Corona-measures imposed free time. Instructor Pavol is a protégé of Linda Paganelli, who was one of the original mouthfill guru’s.

We will focus on the techniques of Frenzel equalization, which is the best and most used technique for freediving. Frenzel is easiest for head down equalization, and definitely essential for transitioning from a beginner to an advanced freediver. Only after understanding the Frenzel technique well, you can start getting into mouthfill equalization for dives far below residual volume.

Okay, let’s get right into it with the first video:

How to learn the Frenzel equalization technique, by Pavol Ivanov.

In this video Pavol explains the difference between Valsalva and Frenzel equalization techniques and why the Frenzel method is preferred for freediving. He shows you how to check which technique you use naturally and what exercises you can do to get the right awareness for an effective Frenzel equalization. Be aware: even if you think you already have a steady Frenzel technique, this video is worth watching because it also contains some tips for finetuning it.

Pavol points it out several times, but it cannot be stressed enough: glottis control is very important. If you can’t keep it shut for the pressure manoeuvre, it greatly disadvantages your ability to equalize with the Frenzel technique. At the same time you need to be able to open it every now and then to recharge the air you need for the equalization. So practice glottis control often.

To finish the video Pavol introduces the Otovent tool as a way to check the status of your progress. Nowadays a lot of Freediving brands like Octopus and Molchanovs sell tools like this as well. It is a very valuable tool not only in the beginners phase of learning the Frenzel technique, but also when you are pushing your Frenzel to its depth limits and for the transition into the mouthfill technique.

Make sure your basics are perfect and then on to the next video:

How to take your Frenzel equalization as deep as possible, by Pavol Ivanov.

This video is about equalizing close to and beyond your residual lung volume. Pavol therefore introduces Boyle’s law as a factor in equalization. He also explains how learning the proper techniques from the beginning and getting the right awareness will help you in the long run. Such in comparison with the divers that start with no equalization problems at all and then reach the depths where they suddenly do encounter difficulties.

In the extensive introduction Pavol also discusses safety and potential dangers of progressing too quick and without caution, as well as the influence of flexibility and other physiological differences between divers.

After that Pavol goes into the motion of “recharging the Frenzel”. Which basically is the act of moving new air from the lungs to the throat/mouth so you can continue equalizing after the air in your mouth has run out or is so compressed you can’t use it to Frenzel anymore. There is (or should be) a rhythm and strategy to this, that you need to get aware of.

A complementary step to all this is relaxation of the body, especially your belly and chest. Feel your dives. Know when you tense up. Pay attention to a relaxed and functional body position in all parts of your dive.

Pavol visualizes equalization pressures for you with the assistance of the EQ-tool and discusses the difference between sequential frenzel (with sequential recharges) and a continuous pressurization.

To end the video Pavol gives you one of the best exercises there are to improve your Frenzel equalization. I think I have mentioned this exercise in one of my earlier blog posts. It was a game changer for me! Practicing this empty lung exercise with the releasing of the air after every equalization gives you a feeling for rhythmically recharging the Frenzel and doing so at a minimal lung volume.

I sincerely hope these video’s help you further. Whether you’re a beginner or somebody who was on the wrong path until now or just didn’t understand any other explanations out there. Good luck with your equalization practice! 🙂

If you have any questions or considerations, please comment below!

Interview with Legendary Freediver

The title might mislead you into thinking you’re about to read one of the greatest interviews with a Legendary Freediver like Umberto Pelizzari, Pipin Ferreras or Enzo Maiorca. Nothing is further from the truth, and I have been fooled by the title of the video below just the same. Doesn’t make it less funny though 🙂 And so recognisable for most free divers. I had to share immediately:

The Legendary Freediver about health, gear, scuba-diving and his wife.