Sport Diver meets a world record-breaker
Following his world record-breaking dive in the Bahamas, Sport Diver catches up with man-of-the-moment, freediver William Trubridge…
First of all, congratulations on an incredible achievement. How does is feel to be the first person to pass the 100m mark without weights or fins?
It feels great! As well as the sense of achievement, there's also the honour and privilege of being able to take part in the history of this incredible sport and perhaps expand our understanding of how far we're capable of integrating with the liquid element.
It took you three attempts to secure the record. What was going through your mind when you resurfaced after number two?
The second was actually a great dive; I reached the depth and surfaced fine, but was disqualified for a technicality - not taking off my noseclip. This put a lot of pressure on me to repeat the performance when my body was starting to become tired. Thankfully I had one more in me.
While we’re on mind games, what are you thinking when you turn around at 100m and start the lengthy return to the surface? I’m sure the words ‘stay calm’ come into it somewhere…
I have a lot of mantras like that - 'flow', 'save thinking for later'... At that depth I am mostly on autopilot though. My body knows what to do, and it would be inefficient to waste oxygen on rational thought. At the most I might count the strokes to give me an idea of where I am at in the ascent.
Flow, flow, flow....
There are obviously umpteen suitable places for attempting such a record, what made you choose Dean’s Blue Hole on Long Island in the Bahamas?
There are many places, but Dean's is by far and away the most suitable. It is enclosed in a lagoon, so offers protection from weather - no waves, current, thermoclines or boats to deal with. You can literally step off a perfect white sand beach and take two strokes to reach water 200m deep. The fact that it stays warm year round is a nice bonus too!
For those inspired by this feat, what would be your recommendation as the best way to start freediving?
The first approach to freediving has to be via a freediving school, or with someone who has been trained to a high level. I wouldn't recommend a do-it-yourself approach, at least at first, and never train alone, no matter how confident you are.
On that note, who was it that inspired you to get into the sport?
As a child I was brought up on a boat, so I have been snorkelling most of my life. The film "The Big Blue" influenced me, but I didn't find out about the sport of freediving until I was 23. When I travelled to Belize and Utila in Honduras to try it, I knew that I had found my calling.
Do you spend much time with a tank on your back, and if so how long do you think you could make 200-bar last on a shallow 10m dive?
(Laughs) I'm not even scuba certified! The only time I blow bubbles is after very deep dives when we breathe 100% oxygen at 5m as a precaution against microbubbles of nitrogen. As part of my training I can slow breathe down to once every 90 seconds and sustain that indefinitely, so I don't know what that would equate to with a tank..
It will obviously predominantly be scuba divers reading this, how beneficial do you think freediving can be for those who enjoy a spot of the compressed stuff? Or do you see them as very separate sports?
I think freediving techniques will greatly improve anyone's scuba diving. You'll be able to make a tank last longer and be more dexterous underwater. For shallow locations you might find yourself leaving the BCD on the boat more and more as you enter the liquid element on its own terms. A lot of the sea life will show greater interest in you if you are quiet and unencumbered.
Where’s the best place to freedive in the world?
Dean's Blue Hole, Long Island, Bahamas of course! Actually, it is easily the best place to train or compete. There are many other places where freediving is spectacular - the Bay Islands in Utila, anywhere in the Pacific, and Turkey and Greece I here are pretty amazing as well.
How do you, as a freediver, relax away from the sport? The world must seem a little chaotic compared with the silence of work…
That's true! I find it difficult to cope with big cities these days. I like to go hiking, or if I'm at home I'll relax with a good book, or a game of scrabble! My sport is so relaxing that I don't need to escape on days off - sometimes we end up right back in the water again!
Has there ever been a moment when you thought you wouldn’t make the surface?
Yes. However, when I'm at depth I don't give particular attention to these voices - that would only make things worse. I haven't had any serious incidents at depth, only shallow water blackouts close to the surface where my safety divers can easily assist me; but I’ve not had any of these recently.
Ascending as a soon-to-be record holder
I’m sure you spend a great deal of your spare time freediving for leisure, what’s been the coolest critter you’ve swum with?
Maybe a seahorse. They have always been a talisman for me, and one appeared just before my first successful record attempt and left soon after. Atlantic Spotted Dolphins in Bimini are pretty cool to swim with as well.
110m? 120m? Where does the next goal lie?
For now I will take a break from this discipline and perhaps concentrate for a while on diving with the monofin. The world record there is 124m, and I have done dives to 116m so far, so perhaps with training I might be able to attempt that as well. No fins freediving is my passion though, so I will keep coming back to this discipline and attempt to extend the limits of the unassisted human body underwater.
What do you think is the deepest a human could ever go?
In this discipline it’s hard to say - 100m was a hard dive that has taken years of specific training and the perfect team and conditions. I know that 100m isn't the limit, but if someone asked me if 120m was possible I would say 'no'. There will always be a grey zone between the possible and the impossible and it is our job to delve as far as we can into that zone!
So what’s next for this world record breaker?
Now I’m returning to my homeland of New Zealand for a break. Next year we are once again organising our annual invitational competition "Vertical Blue 2011" in April here in the Bahamas, so I will be back to train for that in early 2011, and see what I am capable of in some of the other freediving disciplines.