Wednesday, 26 May 2010

It's not a Spectator Sport!

They watch me floating face down in the water of that far-away pool. So many moons and loves and dives ago. I'm completely relaxed. Not a single muscle is tensed.
I'm playing dead. My then quite new wetsuit looks shiny compared to it's present day state of patches and scratches.
Today the guys are huddled around my computer in the dim-lit wood cabin that serves as office and HQ for the Blue Wilderness dive operation on the KZN South Coast. We've done yoga, we've stretched our lungs, we've done deep breathing , they've experienced breathing contractions for the first time.
I've talked them through the theory of freediving, the history, the physiology, the philosophy. Now I am showing them this bad quality clip filmed on the judge's camera at a competition almost two years ago.'It's not a Spectator Sport!' I hear myself say, the guys laugh, as I knew they would. No, watching someone lie face down in a pool is not ice-skating. I laugh with them but the laughter gets stuck in my throat and I'm left with an uncomfortable jarring thought at the back of my head. But no time to ponder... getting changed into suits, grab masks and off to the pool.The guys float on their backs and when it's their turn I talk them through their three final breaths, the last deep deepest breath, and then he rolls over.

Face down. Playing dead.
'Relax your neck, relax your shoulders' I repeat, gentling squeezing his shoulders, encouraging him to relax. His head drops a little deeper, his body lets go. My voice echoes in my head... 'It's not a spectator sport...'

I am so wrong.

Freediving is the greatest spectator sport of all time. Greater than ice-skating, basketball, pole-vaulting (I love pole-vaulting!), gymnastics or even parkour.
The only difference is, there is only one spectator. You. The diver. And you are not only watching. You are seeing yourself from the inside. And you are not only seeing. You are feeling, experiencing, assimilating, learning, shifting, adjusting, growing. This is the ultimate experience. It just happens to happen within one person. For no-one else to see.
The breath-hold I had shown the guys as an example, I remember as if it was yesterday. My warm-up, my nerves, the song I had in my ipod just before. The first stage of holding my breath, the relaxation, I remember the thoughts, coming and going, memories, feelings, hopes, uncertainties... this quiet revolution going on inside.
Contractions starting, destroying the meditation, the focus, the die-hard kicking in. Sebastian's voice urging me on, supporting me, carrying me. My elation at feeling my body meet my mind in these perfect minutes of mind-body communication. Oxygen swirling through my blood, caressing my brain, deserting my toes. I know this. I know what my beautiful body is capable of. Beautiful for what she is capable of, for the dive response she harbours. Glorious, magnificent half-seal that I am. All this becoming as I lie there, face down. Dead to the world. Alive as never before. This is the greatest spectator sport of all time. And I am the only ticket-holder.

Rene, Rob, Anthony, David, Mike and Rowan, welcome to your stadium!

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Han! Dumb question from a landlubber: are those chaps really wearing camo wetsuits?