By David Watson, AIDA Instructor Trainer & PADI Master Freediver Instructor and Owner & Founder at One Breath Freediving
“Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time — past and future — the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.”
By David Watson, AIDA & PADI Master Freediver Instructor and Owner & Founder at One Breath Freediving, based in Malta
Dahab on the Red Sea Sinai coast of Egypt has long been home to a thriving freediving scene. Let’s look at ten good reasons you should visit as a freediver this winter!
1. Blue Hole:
Visit the famous Blue Hole of Dahab which has 100m deep water just metres from the shore (see photo). Here you will find some of the world’s top freedivers training alongside the stunning scenery of the deep blue water and mountain back drop.
2. Tropical Water:
The red sea is the closest tropical water to Europe and it is very different to the Mediterranean Sea with much more colours and corals. Here water temperatures range from 22c-30c, so even at its coldest in winter, it is still much warmer than the nearby Mediterranean at the same time of year.
3. Winter Sun:
Dahab is lovely and sunny! While Northern Europe gets rain and darkness, Egypt is still a lovely 18c-28c which is perfect without feeling like it is too much. And being in a desert region there is virtually no rain.
Very easy access to depth for deeper freediving. The bay where Dahab sits is sheltered from any wind and gives depths of up to 50m just metres from the shore. For depths over 50m, the Blue Hole is just a short taxi ride away. And all with no thermoclines.
5. Social – Lots of Freedivers!:
Dahab has to be one of, if not the only, place in the world where freedivers are not greatly outnumbered by scuba divers, and to talk to someone about freediving does not have to involve a long explanation about the sport (“No...... not cliff jumping”).
6. Chilled Out & Friendly Vibe:
Unlike the more touristy parts of Egypt or North Africa, Dahab has a slower and more relaxed vibe. There is less hassle and a much more relaxed atmosphere than many other parts of Egypt, such as Sherm el Sheikh.
7. ‘Finding Nemo’:
Naturally, as the water is more tropical, so the marine life is more colourful and there are lots of colourful corals and fish to see. A favourite at recreational freediving depths are the numerous Anemone Fish (Nemo fish). If you are really luck the turtles in Dahab bay will come over to say hello.
Dahab has to be one of the few places in the world that is good for both freediving and kite surfing. With a prevailing wind from the North, the main dive sites remain sheltered while giving enough wind to make superb windsurfing and kite surfing conditions. Not to mention scuba diving, rock climbing, trekking.......
9. Bedouin Camp Hospitality:
The Bedouins, the nomadic people of this region of the world, are extremely friendly and always offer wonderful hospitality. There is nothing better for an evening than sitting under the stars next to a camp fire with a cup of sweet Bedouin tea in your hand.
10. One Breath Freediving:
In winter One Breath Freediving will be providing high quality and customised freediving training and courses from Dahab. Expect the same high standard just in a different location! So if you have seen Malta and want to experience somewhere different, this is definitely the place to go next.
By David Watson, AIDA & PADI Master Freediver Instructor and Owner & Founder at One Breath Freediving, based in Malta
Freediving in the Maltese Islands has lots of wonderful features that make it spectacular; the stunning underwater visibility of up to 40m, the cliffs and caves that are prevalent across the islands, the deep blue colour of the water that is unique to the Mediterranean Sea. But one thing that really draws freedivers to Malta is the chance to dive on ship wrecks. Malta has a LOT of wrecks, some sunk by nature (storms), by humans (wars), or on purpose to create artificial reefs. The P-31 wreck falls into the latter category.
P-31 History & Key Information:
Since being purchased by the Maltese Tourism Authority and sank as an artificial reef attraction for divers, the P-31 now sits upright on the sandy seabed West of Comino( just South of Blue Lagoon and just West of Crystal Lagoon), approximately 200m from shore. The depth on the bottom here is 20m and the top of the wreck is at just 10m deep. In fact the P-31 sits so shallow that it was necessary to cut off the mast of the ship before sinking her so as not to obstruct boat traffic. The wreck can often be seen clearly from the surface when you arrive by boat and I have even seen it occasionally from out of the airplane window when arriving or leaving Malta on certain days! In the summer months you will see a yellow ‘X’ marker buoy above to indicate the wrecks position.
Since her sinking, the P-31 has had to weather some rough storms as the prevailing winds on the islands are from a NW direction and sitting this shallow in the water means that waves and swell have had an impact, but considering that she has been underwater for 10 years already the wreck is still in very good condition. Before sinking she was thoroughly cleaned and made safe for divers. This means doors and hatches were removed and obstructions such fixtures, wires and cables were cleared out. There are a number of levels to explore and for a freediver it is normally clear and obvious which direction it is possible and safe to go in.
Specific Tips for Freediving The P-31 wreck:
5 Essential Tips for Wreck Freediving:
Lastly, please remember, freediving, and especially wreck freediving, can be DANGEROUS. Always freedive with a buddy, never push your limits or enter enclosed spaces with no clear or obvious exit. Please take a freediving course for your own safety and that of your buddy.
Interested in wreck freediving? Then subscribe to One Breath Freediving and follow our ‘Wrecks of Malta’ video series! Speak to David about freediving courses and wreck exploration possibilities.
Monofin Training Drill:
Here Jose is using a kick board to help stabilise the upper body and a front snorkel to allow him to breath during the training exercise. This takes away the 'apnea' element away from this particular drill and allows him to focus on technique over breath hold while he adjusts to using the full sized monofin.
How do you think he is doing?
The freefall can be one of the nicest aspects of depth freediving. The moment on the descent when you become 'negatively buoyant' and start to sink independently of effort. This of course has it's advantages, most prominently; saving energy (and therefore oxygen) and aiding relaxation (saving oxygen and facilitating ear equalisation).
So what is involved in a good freefall? Let's take a look:
Those of you following One Breath Freediving on your social media channels will already know that I have been using the Paralenz dive camera quite extensively already, for both photos and videos, so for this review part 2 (part 1 is un-boxing and initial impressions),I wanted to look at it's use in the water. More than numbers such as pixels and frame rates, I wanted to discuss it's functionality and how well it works specifically from a freediver's point of view.
Firstly, it's primary mount method that I have employed so far with the Paralenz dive camera has been the mask mount. For me this has been the most convenient as I am normallly using it while teaching or guiding. Once the mask attachment is threaded to the mask strap, you clip the camera on using the 'T-Rail' mount system that gives a reassuring double 'click' when properly secured.
The first thing you notice while wearing it in the water is.....that you don't actually notice the camera! Despite feeling substantial and solid when held in the hand, once attached to the mask I can honestly say that I forget that the camera is actually there. Being so non-intrusive is a huge plus for freedivers as we take in the water minimum equipment and definitely don't like things that create drag or resistance.
Functionality from this position is another massive plus. The feedback loop of vibrations of the camera unit, mean that you do not need to remove the camera (and mask) at all to know what setting you are in! For example, rotate the selector ring clockwise while turned on gives one vibration for video, two vibrations for camera, three for settings etc. And then long or short holds of the activation switch can start or stop recording or offer other functions. This creates a simple user and selector operating system and excellent hands free usability.
Now lets look at the quality of photos that Paralenz is capable of (for videos, check the OBF YouTube channel). All the snaps in this review were taken from the mask mount position, so just a reach to the side of the head and a short pull on the activation switch can give you some great photos. While primarily a video camera, the photos are surprisingly clear, sharp and lacking in distortion at the edges (as can be common for extremely wide angle cameras). In these photos I had Depth Colour Correction (DCC) turned on and Depth & Temperature overlay turned on. The photo above from 5m displays nice blue water and clear white logos on the wetsuit hood. The first photo handles the reflecting light from the shallow water very well and also created a shot that is not blurred or distorted from the divers movement.
Initial in water conclusions:
You know that feeling. You've just flown out for your annual holiday to the dream destination and you have been planning this trip for the past year. Warm blue water awaits you, long fins at the ready, and then you feel it. The soreness at the back of your throat and the tickling in your nose....the cold you dreaded is here! Pretty much a disaster for any freediver on holiday
After suffering one recently I thought I would answer and look at a few of the questions and myths around the common cold:
Are you are more likely to catch a cold on a flight?
Yes. But it's not the circulating air on the plane as most people think. Simply being in a confined space with so many other people, increases the risk of germs spreading. ALTHOUGH, re-circulated air is more likely to give you sinus problems (another issue for freediving). Also, low humidity in the pressurised cabin increases the risk of infection.
Why is a cold a problem for freediving?
The cold virus is attacking the membranes of your nasal passages and your sinuses which makes them swell up and increase mucus production. This clogs up the sinus passages causing increased pressure and pain. During a dive air in the body expandes and needs to be able to move which it can't do as easily if these passages are blocked.
So we know there is no cold cure, but what can degongestant medication do?
As we all know, there is no cure yet for the common cold. Antibiotics will only fight bacteria, not viruses. Decongestants (tablets or spray) can shrink the swollen blood vessels in the nasal passages, lessening the pressure and helping with drainage.
Is it safe to freedive using decongestant medication?
Most research and advice on this topic is related to scuba diving (diving and descended under pressure for 30-45 minutes at a time). In scuba it is possible for the medication to wear off in that time causing problems on ascent. Freediving has different issues, most notably faster ascents and a lack of time to be able to stop and react if a reverse block (sinus pressure increasing from expanding air on ascent that is unable to escape the nasal cavity) occurs. Generally speaking it is risky, and anyway, if you are sick with a cold your body is fighting the infection and so is weaker and will therefore not be transporting oxygen as efficiently. Therefore you wont be feeling great and should not really be undertaking strenuous activity or pushing your limits!
Are there natural solutions for reducing congestion?
Inhaling steam such as in a hot shower or from a bowl of hot water. Adding an essential oil such a eucalyptus which has anti-inflammatory properties, can help. The hot steam dilates the blood vessels allowing increased blood flow and circulation, alleviates soreness and inflammation and liquifies mucus secretions making it easier to clear. Keeping hydrated also will allow the body to fight the virus quicker. Nasal irrigation such as a 'Neti pot' allows you to wash through the sinuses but this must be done with sterilised saline water and sterilised equipment and might feel uncomfortable if you are not used to it.
Any other options?
Snorkel!!! Most of the colour and marine life is in the top 0-10m of the sea, so you can still experience the wonder of being in the water and make the most of your holiday, even if you cannot dive down :)
Training and coaching sessions!
Taking training sessions or a one-to-one coaching session with an experienced instructor can give invaluable feedback on your dive preparation and technique, give you new solutions to problems, give you feedback on your dives and give you the tools to perform at your best. For more experienced freedivers, coaching could help you overcome a plateau in your performance or open up new depths with easier equalisation methods, for beginners it could help refine your technique and increase your comfort and time underwater.
Freediving is a SPORT (unlike some other underwater activities that shall remain nameless :)), with strong mental and physical components and a high emphasis on technique. So to improve and achieve personal gains you need to practice and train yourself. Repetition and consistencey are vital to see improvments in performance, there is no way around that. Remember, if it was easy and came with no real effort it would not be half as satisfying to reach new depths or times!
"Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect."
- Vince Lombardi
+++ Training and Coaching sessions are available year round for certified freedivers. David is an experienced AIDA & PADI freediving instructor with additional qualifications in Sport & Exercise Science and Personal Training. +++
There can't be many places as alluring and iconic to freedivers as the Blue Hole in Dahab. With imposing, barren mountains just metres from deep blue water and a kaliedoscope of colours amongst the corals on the reef with every shape and colour of fish possible, it is a truely beautiful place and draws freedivers from accross the world.
A natural submarine sinkhole, the depth within the hole is 100m and just outside, on the reef's edge, the depth reaches over 1,000m. A sheltered location and lack of current just metres from shore means that this is a wonderful place to train for freediving.
One Breath Freediving will be conducting a Training camp in in Dahab Egypt in January and February 2019. Enquire for further information.
Find out what the One Breath Freediving team is up to with the latest posts on this blog page.