By freedivinguae

Freediving The Caves Of Kefalonia

Kefalonia, the largest of the Ionian Islands has typical Greek rocky coastline with crystal clear water – a perfect late summer freediving holiday destination. It also boasts 17 caves in one area 5 of which contain lakes, albeit with various degrees of accessibility or suitability for swimming.

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Kiri and I dived several untouched beaches and were pleasantly surprised to find a few rare giant mussels, Pinna Nobilis, (found only in the Mediterranean Sea). It is one of the largest bivalves in the world, growing to 120cm long.

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After some scenic coastal dives we met up with Aquatic World, a friendly shop on the islands east coast, who provided us some local geographical information and kindly lent us some lead!

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We told them that NoTanx specialized in underground lake diving (Phreatic Divers), and that we were interested in the islands hidden, secret labyrinth of phreatic tunnels. Water is sucked into huge sink holes from the Ionian Sea on the west side of the island, via huge karst conduits and expelled in the Bay of Sami on the east of the island. Although just 10miles on land this journey takes the water over 2 weeks to filter through these huge underground systems.

phreatic (adj) relating to or denoting underground water in the zone of saturation (beneath the water table)

They pointed us in the direction of several of the cenotes pits that have resulted from the collapse of the limestone bedrock, exposing the water beneath, very similar to those found in the Yucatán peninsula of Mexico. Here is what we uncovered…

Melissani Cave

Melissani cave is one of these cenotes, it was discovered after a collapsed during the 1953 Ionian Earthquake. Tourists can take a short trip by paddle boat through both sections of the lake; one open to the sunlight, the other dark and mysterious despite the incandescent floodlight flickering behind a mound of fallen roof rubble.

As it is a famous tourist site; diving is forbidden. Despite this, we persevered and managed to arrange a meeting with the Mayor of Kefalonia, who, after some negotiating, gave us permission to freedive in exchange for photographs.

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Returning to the cave, the crystal turquoise of the water almost takes your breath away, as does the 14°c / 57°f water temperature. The sudden change in temperature forms a permanent mist below the surface of the water at about 8meters.

The chamber drops off quickly to 30m with water so clear it feels like flying. The visibility is stunning, we could almost see the entire length of the 50m long 1st chamber!

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The splendor of the main chamber is awe-inspiring: thousands of years ago the cave was dry, leaving huge speleothems (stalactites & stalagmites). Surprisingly, there is very little life in the water considering the amount of sunlight falling on the open section. Eels, however, seem to thrive there, and are not afraid of divers.

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By freedivinguae

Relaxation, Recovery Breathing & Daily Breath Holds?

Last week we learned about Controlling The Chemical Axis Of Breathing from renowned breathing expert Dr Peter Litchfield. If you happened to miss the equation that explains optimal breathing as defined by the “chemical axis,” why hyperventilation is so bad and how our reflexes get in the way of proper breathing habits, click here to listen to that episode first so you have a good understanding of what you are about to hear this week.

Putting It To Work For You

In part 3, Peter puts all the information from the previous episodes together to give you actionable tips on how to make important changes in your own life. Listen to the interview above to learn, how to relax during a dive, the proper approach to recovery breathing and why holding your breath might be good for you!

Dr Litchfield talks about how to relax during a dive by finding something in your day-to-day life that will trigger a thought process which moves you from sympathetic (fight or flight response) to parasympathetic (a ‘rest-and-digest” or “feed and breed’ state of mind). This is especially key for freedivers who need to keep their heart rate low and their awareness sharp to control the dive properly. This relaxed state of mind can be achieved in a variety of ways, but everyone responds to different methods. If you are having trouble finding something from your every day experiences, try something like yoga, which has worked for many world class freedivers around the world.

Trusting Your Body

Most freedivers know that recovery breathing is an important part of the dive. However, some may not be aware that the best technique is to simply allow your body to naturally return your breathing to normal. Peter suggests relying on your own reflexes because the body can self-regulate. You will breath off the CO2 and the system will adjust itself without fancy techniques or assistance in most cases.

The secret is to rest and focus on your breathing spectator’s perspective, from a third person point of view if you will, to get what he calls breath awareness. Avoid the urge to “control” your breathing and allow the reflex to do its job. If you alter the recovery process, by trying to breath harder for example, you run the risk of developing bad habits in other areas of your life and cause dysfunctional breathing.

People who hold their breath every day normally don’t experience oxygen deficit. If anything, holding your breath can restore good carbon dioxide levels (CO2). Incidentally, the best way to check is to use a capnometer to check how quickly the CO2 level restores itself. Keep your head and fight the urge to hyperventilate to avoid headaches or nausea that may keep you from enjoying the next dive.

We aren’t breathing experts like Dr Litchfield, but we do know a thing or two about freediving and hitting your personal goals. If you have a question about anything we’ve discussed or just freediving in general, let us know in the comments section below. We’ll be sure to respond and maybe even get Peter to do a follow up interview if you need some further clarification!

By freedivinguae

[AUDIO] Alexey Molchanov: The Secret To Success… ? It’s Just Like Brushing Your Teeth

45 times national record holder and 4 times world record holder Alexey Molchanov started his freediving career young. At the age of 5 he was diving for sea shells and mussles in the Black Sea in Russia, growing up he was a competitive finswimmer, and at the age of just 17 he broke a national record in his first ever pool competition with a dynamic distance of 158m, after his mum (Natalia Molchanova) read about the sport in a magazine.

These are huge achievements for a freediver who today is still just 27 years old and by all observations has a promising career in front of him. As he says himself, “I was always 100% sure that I made the right choice and every year I’m happier and happier with it.” So what is his secret to this success? And what motivates him to keep trying for it?

“For me just the process of training I enjoy a lot. If I don’t train I feel like my mood is just going down. I like to train because it makes me feel good… it’s just nice when you put a lot of effort into training and in the end you get a nice result as confirmation that your training process was right… I think it’s something that comes from childhood…if you like to train and you like the process then you can’t stop… I like it just as a process, like you wake up in the morning and go and brush your teeth”.

Going Deep

Despite starting off in the pool, Alexey is now most known for his open water dives, holding the world record for constant weight with a depth of -128m:

“ depth is more challenging, it’s a much more complicated discipline than pool. I like to dive deep, so just that gives me joy to train and to compete…. I don’t think that I want to be a champion or anything, I just feel that I have this ability to dive deep so I just follow it and I enjoy it.

If you want to get a good result in freediving you need to be persistent…This is more important than talent.”

Learning To Explore

Alexey’s passion for the sport and the results he achieves are certainly inspiring. He admits that learning to freedive benefits people in endless ways, even those who don’t feel passionate about the water, and even those who can’t swim! But what is the most important thing he has learned from freediving? And what can others learn themselves by taking up the sport?

“When you spend so much time practicing relaxation and trying to swim more efficiently… you learn to be relaxed in any circumstances, like in depth diving, so it really helps in everyday life… being calm, being relaxed. So I think freediving gives this quality, not only to me but to a lot of people.”

“[For others] they would be able to swim and dive whenever they want to and be comfortable in the water….they could just dive and check for corals and sea animals and just being able to explore water: oceans, seas, rivers, lakes, anything. It’s a really useful skill to have and a really nice skill to have… Some, even if they’re not so passionate about water, they just come to learn freediving as a survival skill which is useful to have… We’ve had people who didn’t know how to swim even, learn freediving to overcome their fears”.

We want to share that experience with you! Or maybe you can share your experience with us Either way, write us a comment below and tell us what freediving means to you or why you are interested in this amazing underwater experience.

Like, share, tweet and comment on this post in order to help us spread the word about the incredible power of freediving and its effects on health, stress and life in general.

By freedivinguae

{AUDIO} Matt Malina: “Freediving Goes Beyond Training: It’s A Lifestyle”

In November 2014 Matt Malina broke the DNF world record by swimming a distance of 226m; a dive which took him 4 min 27 seconds. The Polish freediver is the first world record holder from his country, and also holds the title of the fourth deepest man of all time in Free Immersion. Matt was attracted to the sport, like so many of us, by the silence, and the freedom of movement under the water, but what is it that separates him from so many others? What is it that has made him a freediving super-achiever?
“When my results just started getting better and better, I realised that I’m good at it, and I just followed this path” Matt firmly believes that when it comes to freediving, persistence is the key. “Many people train really hard and then they have a time when they do nothing. Like it’s a long time, like a month or 2 months. So they train in jumps, they train then they do nothing, then they train then they do nothing, and it’s not really working. In freediving, what’s working for me is I’m constantly thinking about training and improving: I just train most of the time when I can. I don’t have breaks during the year like where I don’t train for a few months.”

OK we’ve got it, to reach super-achiever level we’ve got to be persistent, no more slacking. Matt divides his training time between the pool and doing cross-fit at home: he believes that to be a good freediver it’s important to be physically fit; to have good strength and endurance, but how does he prepare immediately before a dive?

“I lay on my bed I visualise it, so when the actual dive happens, I’ve gone through it many times in my head so I’m not that stressed any more. I think going well prepared for the dive also gives you confidence so if you have confidence you are less stressed. So generally I try to think about anything, just to do my best That’s the best attitude you can have.”

For Matt, freediving goes beyond training; it’s a lifestyle:

“You overcome your own demons, own challenges. You set yourself a goal and then you reach this goal and that’s the great feeling. I think if someone is focused just on records, it won’t get them far. I think it’s good to focus on improving yourself in general”.

Matt, thanks for the inspiration, time to get in the water! We want to share that experience with you! Or maybe you can share your experience with us Either way, write us a comment below and tell us what freediving means to you or why you are interested in this amazing underwater experience. Like, share, tweet and comment on this post in order to help us spread the word about the incredible power of freediving and its effects on health, stress and life in general.