Relaxing on the platform with PFI instructor and competition judge, Rebecca Philips. Photo by Jessea Lu.
Ambition vs Surrender
Don’t get me wrong–ambition can be a powerful motivator, but at a certain point, when we sink eyes-closed into dark water, it doesn’t serve us. Better to surrender. Better to let the majesty of the ocean wreck our egos so we become empty vessels, pliable and undamaged by pressure. Nerves and jitters give way eventually to rhythm. And fear — fear of the unknown, fear of pain, and fear of failure — it becomes wonderment. That’s when the magic happens.
On the second to last day of the competition, I got to the Hole, did my warm-up swim at the surface around the platform, and then a few dives on the warm-up line. I felt neither good nor bad, just happy to be in the water. Besides three days of solid plane travel, I’d been in the water either for work or training every single day for the last 8 weeks. I was smiling as I moved onto the competition line. I honestly love what I do, but the psychology of freediving is such that we can’t perform at our best if we have negative thoughts, so I love it even when I don’t. The little zone around the competition line is called ‘the pit,’ and only judges, safeties, and diver are allowed in the pit. It feels like being in a fishbowl though since everyone is watching and Diveye broadcasts every moment via satellite, so I nod hello to the safeties and judges who are now my family, then I mostly look down into the water and smile into the Hole.
I announced a 74-meter dive without fins. It’d be a few meters deeper than the current US National Record. Two years ago, I made the dive in training for the world championships, then when I’d tried in competition, I’d lost consciousness upon surfacing. That dive two years ago had, however, been in every way a beautiful dive.
Today’s dive would also be a beautiful dive.
I rolled onto my back and slowed my breathing, prepping for the dive. Sometimes I count seconds between breaths — it’s a framework on which to drape my anxiety. But today as the final countdown started I felt calm and still….
A moment after breaking the surface, having just set a new US men’s national record for Constant No Fins with a dive to 74 meters. Photo by Johnny Vicari.