Even before moving to Egypt I had heard about Dahab being a centre of freediving. Whatever the pursuit, I am quite gearphobic, so diving without bottles, tubes, and lots of other stuff sounded attractive. Mmmm, still need a wet-suit…well, sometimes one has to compromise. Marjan and I went to Dahab first time early April, took a beginners class, and liked it a lot. Not that learning to “deal with” contractions of your spleen because your body tells you to breathe is necessarily comfortable or fun, but because it is truly amazing to experience that you can hold out so much longer than you would have ever imagined. Not because learning to equalize is necessarily fun, but because getting better at it allows you to go deeper which opens up a new world. We went again early May and did the full beginners course, even bought our own flippers and mask. To practice with in a Cairo pool that is, so apparently the bug has hit us. Freediving is still a very young sport and relatively marginal. Nevertheless, anyone surfing the web will come across loads of material, from interesting to crack pot, from practical to religious, from inspirational to outright scary. As I am bad at properly distinguishing these, and tend to become overly absorbed, let’s start with the Blues Brothers to remind us all about what really matters.
If you’re interested in the freediving, I’m not gonna satisfy you this time round. Be patient: to the extent that this fancy is going to last, more posts are bound to follow in due time. Here I focus on what struck me most when discovering it as a fancy.
To understand what follows you have to know that anything that I fancy immediately becomes a prominent subject in my informational diet. Apparently I’m not able to just experience and leave it at that. I need the cognitive engagement with others’ experiences, theories and musings (or should I say that I need the confirmation of, very likely that that’s the better description). It is not overstating it to claim that I only recognize something as a fancy through its popping up in/eating so much time of my reading and online viewing existence. Freediving showed me this once again, and even helped me put words to that reality.
This also means that freediving connects to a seemingly totally unrelated hobby-horse of mine: how to stay afloat in the stormy sea of information of all conceivable kinds (pun not intended but welcome). I’ve written other posts touching on this subject, e.g. the one on so much interesting stuff out there, make sure you get the balance right, and the one on my arm-chair running. I’ve even written on how unrelated fancies connect in the glass bead game of my wandering mind. So for me, there is nothing weird in seeing an intimate connection between my new-found fascination for freediving and being delighted and persuaded by a cognitive safety warning like the following.
Other connections that struck me are less personal.
One being that it doesn’t take a lot of browsing to realize that freediving shows us once more how very little we know about the human body. And I’m talking basics here. Just a couple of decades ago medics thought that unprotected dives deeper than 30 meters would be lethal. The parallels with running are obvious. E.g. the ongoing debate about the risks of dehydration versus the risks of overhydration. The first were discovered quite late in the game, the latter are only now being flagged (see here for Tim Noakes‘ argument).
Another is that enthusiasts always look for their ancestors, especially if the sport has a fringe aura. The ultrarunning world is replete with stories about long distance runners of yore. Freedivers refer to the pearl, sponge and shell divers of old.
You may wonder if these connections are indeed less personal. I do. Am I cherry picking just these kinds of connections? Or is establishing an ancestry, within the human domain and beyond, really a universal tendency? Anyway, I’ll leave it at this for now. There is more, but that deserves a post of its own: the plentiful zen of running and the bliss of diving self discovery talk opens up a whole new register.
Now, just to remind you that there is a whole different kinda diving out there, and connect all the above to big city living: enjoy…