AAS Depth Championship, p.1

I’ve been trying to write about my first experience competing freediving but I can’t seem to get into the flow of things. I’ve written paragraphs about how I began freediving, the certifications I’ve done, the places I’ve been. But none of that feels important.

I decided I wanted to set the national record for Panama the day I did my first static session during my AIDA 2[1]. At the time the record was something like 2:24 and I had done 3:30 during my first try. The first time I actually said it and began talking about setting national records was a few months later while training in the Phillippines. I wrote it down in my journal, I put it on my vision board for New Years, I kept going. Then I moved to Bali to do my freediving master training program.

What I have lived these months here have been some of the hardest times of my life. I have lived a situation that has caused me to question essential parts of my being and my character. Basically, it hasn’t been easy. I have felt lost and weak, I have felt broken and disposable. I have come to realize how little I valued myself, how I lack self-love and am currently in the process of rebuilding that. All through this process, this realization, this cry for help…I have been diving.

 Back to giving myself some me-time

The most important thing when it comes to freediving is being relaxed, at peace with your mind and body…present. With so much going inside my head it wasn’t always easy to find this relaxation. Mind you, even harder when some of the people that made me feel this way were a few meters in another buoy. So, in the midst of my hardest and darkest moment I decided to go for it – to sign up for a competition. I told myself “If I can train through this, if I can manage to dive safely when my head is going 100 miles per hour, then when I’m ok it will be amazing!” At this point I realized and was very grateful for this athletic mentality that developed over my years as a Nossa paddler. In a way it felt like one of those things in life where my past had very clearly prepared me for my present. During those hard training days and moments I just reminded myself “I’m a MF Panda![2]” . I gave my mind something to focus on and decided to shift my energy into something I had wanted for so long, following my desires and my passions. Yes, it meant spending money which I didn’t have and right now my credit card is saving my butt. But I don’t regret it for a second.

I signed up for the Singapore Depth Championship in July. Paid the fee the day after my 30th birthday and then went dry for two weeks while working in Malaysia. I had the weeks and days counted for the competition. I wanted to feel prepared, to do all three disciplines and perform well. I returned to Bali on time for Deep Week which ended up being more like Deep 3xWeek. Long hours working, being still emotionally vulnerable and working on myself with very little rest took a toll on my immune system so I caught a small ear infection, managed to ‘fix’ it and had three days to train until it eventually came back and developed into a full on 10-day course of antibiotic ear infection. Long story short, my plan to train and work on all disciplines had to be re-evaluated.

Enjoyed every sunset

Exactly one year prior I had found myself in the same situation, fighting a gnarly ear infection in both my ears. Back then it took a big toll on my emotional state. I remember I didn’t even want to be around myself. Living on an island, working in front of the ocean and not being able to dive was torturous. This time around I switched the chip and listened my body, giving it what it needed – some love! After working in Malaysia two weeks and then at the shop so intensely I enjoyed the quiet that came when everyone left. I went back to doing yoga, meditating, I treated myself to massages, I ate good nourishing food, I took plenty of probiotics in every possible way. I visualized my dives multiple times and changed my expectations for the comp. Now, it wasn’t about setting all three discipline records or making a podium. It was about making it to the competition healthy and doing all my dives comfortable, safely and mainly enjoying it!

Healthy, yummy, good food!

Luckily, four days before the competition started my ears were good to go and my antibiotics were finished. By that point I had simply accepted I would only be doing FIM because I hadn’t had any time to practice CW so I didn’t feel comfortable, and had never even done a NF dive other than for fun at the end of a session so that discipline was out of the question. 

I was ready to go in the water…and no buddy to go with me at the shop! I quickly found a solution because all the waiting was not going to go in vain and I drove over to Tulamben. There were already plenty of people from the competition there to train and the fun began. My first warm-up felt magical! Better than any warm up I had ever done, and I was ready for depth. Went for my 45m FIM dive and did it easily. It was just what I needed, my ears were perfect, my body felt good, it gave me the right push and confidence I needed. 

The next day I went diving in Tulamben again. Making the drive over, meeting the people, being in the space, it all helped me settle into the competition nerves/excitement. A friend I had met  during DWx3 lent me his amazing Molchanov fins and on that second day I did an easy 36m dive (PB of 38). There are two more days to train before having a rest day and then beginning the competition. In my head I had forgotten about doing CW and was just going to go deep in FIM but when I mentioned this to my instructor he wasn’t taking it. “I know you can do 40m on a dive. If you can do 45m FIM easy then you definitely can do 40 in CW. I know it.” So i drove back again to Tulamben to get the magical fins for my last practice.

      Apneista crew representing!

It was just about doing it. And I did it! Kicked down to 20m, not 25 like when I do my FIM, and just let myself fall…”its only lactic acid. you are ok, you have oxygen.” was what I kept reminding myself on the way up when I felt the burn. I came up, did my recovery breaths and that was it. A new PB! 41m CW. Then I waited for a few minutes and went for my FIM for 47m that felt easy and comfortable. Two new Personal Bests that felt good were the perfect way to finish my pre-competition dives. It’s funny how someone else’s belief in you can give you that extra little ooomph…to believe in yourself. 

Sweet little details

On Sept. 19th I headed back to Tulamben for the meeting and met more of the athletes and staff that would me participating. It was going to be an early start. I announced 40m FIM for my first dive because it was a number I knew I could do regardless of anything. I was surprising myself at how relax I felt with the whole situation. Because of the tides and currents we would have an early start. I was the 4th athlete and check-in time was 6.54 a.m. In a split second I decided to book a room nearby. Driving in the morning with my gear was going to be anything but relaxing.

To be continued…

          John, organizer and head judge.


[1] AIDA is one of the organizations that does freedive certification. The 2-star course in equivalent to a Level 1 in other organizations

[2] During our sports coaching we had to identify ourselves with a spirit animal. Mine turned out to be a panda. Why? Because pandas’ don’t care about anything and keep doing whatever they need to be doing that brings them joy.



FIM: Free Immersion. Consists on pulling yourself down and up the line using your arms

CW: Constant weight. Kicking down and up, can be with bifins or monofin

NF: No fins. Going up and down not using any fins. 






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