The Myth of a Simple Free Dive


Photo by: Igor Liberti

The Hectometer Dive

I have previously written about William Trubridge here and here.

This week, William gave fans of free diving and dolphin lovers an early Christmas present.  On Monday, 13 December 2010, at Dean’s Blue Hole on Long Island in the Bahamas, William completed the first unassisted free dive to 100 meters. That’s more than 30 stories down and more than 4 minutes without a breath.


William is the first human to swim to this depth and return to the surface unassisted.  To accomplish this amazing feat, he trains 5 to 7 hours a day, using yogic breathing exercises and mind control techniques.

The dive itself was not without difficulties.  The day before, he had completed a dive to 100m and returned, but failed to properly complete the surface protocol. Consequently, the dive was disqualified.  To add to the frustration, during that effort, he tweaked a muscle in his neck.

With rest and a dose of anti-inflammatories, he was ready to try again.  More difficulties were on the horizon, as a cold front had come in dropping temperatures and clouding the sky.  Then more trouble: At the end of my breathe-up, as I turned to start the dive, some of the air in my lungs was forced into my mouth, and from there into my stomach. For a split-second I contemplated continuing, but it would have been foolhardy, so I aborted and rolled back onto the surface with a groan of dismay.

After warming himself in his car, William made the decision to give the dive one more try.

Photo by: Igor Liberti

After roasting myself for twenty minutes, I returned to the platform. This time I spent less time breathing up in the water, and turned carefully to start the dive. After that moment I have few memories, as my body was operating on autopilot, as it has become accustomed to do in deep dives. I remember relaxing as I entered the free fall, and telling myself to ‘relax even the potential for contraction.’ I remember my depth alarm going off and pulling the tag from the bottom plate, 100 meters below the surface. I remember keeping my eyes half-closed and telling myself to ‘relax’ and ‘flow’ as I set off on the long swim back towards the light. I remember coming to the surface, reminding myself to concentrate on doing the protocol correctly in order to ensure a valid dive. And I remember erupting into celebration with my team the moment the judges displayed their white cards.

Overcoming these obstacles and making this world record happen was a demonstration of poise.  But, William wasn’t 100% satisfied.  Although he successfully completed the surfacing protocol.  He suffered a brief samba (loss of motor control) and his  hand shook as he made the OK sign.  He was fighting to remain lucid.  This was a successful dive, but not a smooth one.

So, on 17 December 2010 he tried again.  This time,conditions were much better  and William was relaxed.  He reached 101 meters on this dive.  After 4 minutes and 8 seconds, he surfaced and completed the protocol, breaking his own days old world record.  You can watch the video here.

On his facebook page, you can read William’s account of the 13 December 2010 dive here and his account of the 17 December 2010 dive here.

Project Hector

These dives were accomplished as part of Project Hector, Trubridge and Vertical Blue’s project to raise funds and awareness of the plight of Hector’s Dolphins.  Hector’s Dolphins are native to New Zealand and are the world’s smallest dolphins.  Due to human impact, particularly gill net fishing, their numbers are decreasing.  The overall population has been reduced by 75% in the last 30 years, and the Maui Dolphin subspecies, with less than 100 dolphins, is teetering on the verge of extinction.

You can still help.  Please watch this slide show by the World Wildlife Fund – New Zealand.  Also, stop by the Vertical Blue facebook store, where you can support Project Hector and own a piece of the dive, by buying one of the 100 individual meters and receive the actual meter of the glow-in-the-dark descent line used for the record dive, mounted in a spiral on a commemorative plaque, as well as a DVD of the dive, and an official team shirt.  Funds raised will be donated to the New Zealand Whale and Dolphin Trust.

The Greater Meaning of Water

Also this week, I was notified by Sky Christopherson that my DVD of The Greater Meaning of Water, a feature film about free diving, was ready. Earlier this year, I had reserved the DVD, as a way to help the independent film.  The film is finished and has been well received (Audience Choice and Best Cinematography – Los Angeles All Sports Film Festival / 2010 Best Spiritual Film – Amsterdam 2010 / Honorable Mention – 2010 LA Movie Awards / Featurette screened and discussed during TEDx La Jolla)…Another unexpected Christmas present.

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