2017 Australian pool Freediving Championships
Updated: Jan 21, 2018
The Nationals Competition dates were set. 29th of April to may 3rd. The moment I saw the Facebook post by Australian Freediving Association I knew I wanted to compete. I have always liked the pool disciplines of freediving. I think coming from Sydney with limited options for depth we tended to hit the pool for training. I was in good physical shape and had a good group of training buddies who were keen to train. We still had a few months to prepare. Having a solid training buddy is a must as it is not possible to do any real training with out one. Jared, my training buddy, and I upped our training schedule to include a static session at least once a week. Static is the easiest discipline to train as it can be done dry on a sofa. As the name says it’s basically laying still holding your breath. Yet at the same time it can be the hardest discipline to find motivation for. My training schedule now was 3 pool sessions per week. 1x static, 1x dynamic with fins and 1x cross training. My static was fast to get on track and soon was back up near the 7 minute mark, still nearly a minute off my training personal best but it was good for the amount of effort I had put in. The cross-training session was more focused on attacking any mental weak points. This session was really challenging but fun. We were joined by four or five of our diving mates which made this session awesome. My Dynamic with mono fin training was consistent. In fact, so consistent that I had not had a personal best in this discipline for 8 years. It was a thorn in my side. All my other disciplines have constantly seen improvement but not this one. But in 2017 I changed a part of my training. I invested more time into the mental side of the sport. For years I had been 95% physical and 5% psychological in my training. But at the start of 2017 I had split my physical and mental training evenly. Even when I was physically training I was observing the mental effects. I even changed how I mentally viewed my training. Then it happened. I swam my first 200m on a single breath, and set a new P.B. The moment I surface I knew that I could have physically swam this distance any day over the last 8 years. It felt easy. I had been holding my self back. With observing how I mentally dealt with my training and not just how I trained physically I had opened the door. Not just in freediving but had seen results is many areas of my life. A few days later I swam my next 200m as easy as the first, just to lock it away.
My first 200!
When winning is losing. My training was going great. The 6am sessions were my favourite. I seemed to go from strength to strength. It was only days out from the competition when I thought “I need a beer.” Sitting in the pub with a mate having a beer I decided to put a few dollars into a poker machine. (hey don’t judge me.) Next minute it lights up and spits out a few hundred bucks! At nearly the same time a lady turned up and said my $2 raffle ticket had won a massive meat tray.... This was the start of my downfall...
To cut an awesome but long story short I will pick it up 3 days later. I boarded the plane to Brisbane. I was feeling less than average. But was looking forward to getting down there and catching up with all the Brisbane crew including my dad.
Day 1. The next day I turned up at the pool ready to compete. It was static breath hold on day one. I had nominated a big time, 6 minutes, as I wanted to go late in the day. They normally start with the smaller times and work their way up to the bigger nominated times. Normally 6 minutes is a walk in the park for me but today was not my day. I would like to blame lots of things like water temperature or wrong moon phase, something! But static breath hold is a mental sport, and I can only blame a weak mindset going into the competition. I pulled out at around five minutes and thirty seconds. Well off my goal and because I didn’t make my nominated time I was penalised. A terrible start. Day two. Day two was dynamic with out fins. I honestly love this event. It is a real mixture between breath hold and technique. I had decided I needed to up my game if I was to justify my trip and months of training. So I was mentally prepared to swim a big swim. Once again going late in the day I had got to see what the other competitors had swam. I knew what I wanted to swim but was also taking into account that I was not 100%. The meat tray and Woolshed nightclub had put a chink in my immune system and I was not going to be able to push as hard as I wanted. But luck was on my side. A few of the big guns in this event also didn’t do the dives they were capable of and with my swim of 150m I had clawed back a few points. I was back in the game!
Day 3 The last day of any competition you will see tactics. There is no doubt that freediving should be a competition against yourself, but when you know there is an awesome prize waiting for you if you manage to place, it is easy to start counting the points and meters you need to get a place. This is all very good but remember if you swim one meter more than your capabilities you get disqualified. With only a few points separating a few of the top Australian men I knew I still had to swim a big swim, but did I have a 200m swim in me today? In my heat I was swimming at the same time as one of my best mates and a training buddy, whom I had trained with, for many years, Ant Williams. Ant is a next level competitor and I had seen him swim over 225m. He is the real deal. As the countdown started I really had to focus on my breathing as I couldn’t help feeling the pressure of this swim. The clock hit zero and we were off. I calmed down by telling my self “swim your own swim”. With freediving you really have to check your ego. I wanted my 200m. I wanted to do it as I really thought Ant would swim a 200m as well. But to win the title of national pool champion I didn’t need to swim more than around 180m. Do I risk it all and go big knowing I didn’t feel 100%? I wanted to.
Watch the swim here I have an internal alarm. It sends me a small but recognisable signal when it is time to come up. When I listen to it I have never had any problem. I have developed this with many years of training and spearfishing. I know I can swim past it, but I know that this cue has never let me down. I got it as I passed 170m. This was the moment. Listen to my ego, or the mantra in my head on repeat “swim your own swim” and I did. I surfaced at 179m well off my P.B but enough to secure the Australian title. And that was what I had been training for.
Freediving has seen a massive jump in popularity over the last few years. It is not slowing down. We are seeing awesome performances from new faces in the sport and with many clubs running comps and regular training we are seeing the average level of diver skyrocket! I would like to congratulate all the competitors in this and any comp as it is an awesome challenge to push yourself both mentally or physically and to just to get in and have a go. You new divers will be the next Australian champions and I can’t wait to watch you celebrate. Massive congratulations to Amber Bourke for being the 2017 ladies champion. And massive respect to Judges and Brisbane Freedivers Club for once again organising an awesome comp. My lesson to myself here is that winning a meat tray and a few hundred bucks is nice but to drop my mental guard and nearly throw away months of training was a loss. I really wanted to see what I could do in this comp but in the end had to fight just to be able to swim. Next time I will actually save the party for after the comp. Ant.