Monday, June 7, 2010

Weekend Dive and Focus in Freediving and Spearfishing

I took out my new boat for a decent run. It went well but there is a bit of a splutter at high revs. Wind was up more than forecasted but Mark and I assumed it would drop as it most often does when forecasted from the north or northwest. I guessed it would glass-out later and was correct.

I got my first jelly fish sting. We were diving on a deeper reef and on the descent through the water column there were the odd jelly fish - small - about 4 inches across the dome but some had long tentacles of up to perhaps a meter. They were a light pink to lilac colour.
We were drift-diving as the current was fresh. After a few dives Mark had a go and then when I got back in the jellyfish density was way up. I would see at least 20-30 on every dive - there was a thermocline at about 12-15 m from the surface dropping from 16 to 14 deg - there were no jellyfish in the colder water. I was doing zig zag ascents and descents through the perceived obstacle course. After one dive I surfaced with a tentacle on my lip - it stung - only about 20% of a blue bottles' venomous blast, but enough to make me avoid them with greater intent on subsequent downs.

On a few descents I thought about the post I made last week on one's focus during apnea and my focus. I keep it pretty passive on the spearfishing dives but not so focused that I turn down my senses - that would be risky as I may crash into the reef or not see the sand tigre approaching.

In shallow water I will focus much less on what I do to conserve energy as it is more expendable due to the lessened risk of blackout. In the deep dives I will increasing switch off (reduce thought and active looking around) as far as possible - the main risk as I see it being collisions with the bottom especially in poor viz.

Yesterday for instance, the viz was good down to about 22 m then it dropped to about 4-5 m. The reef is jagged an drops from 23 to 35 m. Switching off mentally and tucking in my chin (i.e. looking sideways instead of down)would be risky in the dirtier water below. So if I know the reef well I could set a depth alarm on my watch to say 18 m and during the first 18 m I can shut down mentally and tuck in my chin, but beyond that (after my alarm goes off) I best "wake up". Assuming I mitigated the collision risk I still risk missing big fish (or sharks) higher up by switching off. So it's a trade off. If I am very fit the extent to which I must switch off reduces.

What about focus in a safe environment - where collisions are unlikely or where I want to push my breath?
I have tried various actions with varying degrees of success. If seeking a fish, closing my eyes is not an option - I rather focus onto an object near but in the plane where I expect to see a fish. This way the fishes motion triggers a "snap out of it" response and I begin to take actions to get the fish. The shut eye thing works too though - also a partial upward squint focus of my eyes - mediatitve technique - has also be successfull for me. Be sire to have competent back-up in experimenting with new techniques.

Jaques Mayol was known for his application of meditation before a dive. This meditation would no doubt max out his focus enabling him to reach his formerly amazing 105 m dive. In my prior post I wrote of how doing math was studied during apnea and it interfered with the heart rate reduction(bradycardia) which is a key aspect of the dive response. I doubt Jaques Mayol would have been doing any more reasoning than necessary on his deep dives. If I seek to push my breathhold I prefer focus outside my body on some object or point in space.

For safety it is important to train thoroughly and incrementally so that most of your actions are burnt into your subconscious rather than you having to think about them lest you loose focus and experience a rising heart rate with its counter-apnea effect. We prefer a low heart rate - meditation does this - try it and check your pulse before and after.

This last weekend I obtained a few more journal articles and had some great reading and even tried a few experiments. More to come about those over the next month or so. I plan to rope my kids into some of these experiments too and see what we can learn.

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