Some people asked me why I needed that. Here’s why
I do not know where to start… Perhaps I should start by telling how a long time ago, when I was a kid, I watched a movie called “The Big Blue”, and it forever imprinted in my memory, somewhere between the French cartoon “Time Masters” and the Bratislavan TV series “She Came Out of the Blue Sky”.
Afterwards I always wondered how Luc Besson at such a young age (when the movie came out in 1988, he was 29) could make such a powerful movie. That is, up until I looked at the page about him on IMDB, from which I learned that young Luc loved the sea. He planned to become a marine biologist specialising in dolphins. But at the age of 17 he had an accident which rendered him unable to dive.
I grew up in a place called Sochi on the coast of the Black Sea. Swimming and diving were always a part of my life. And I did it neither better nor worse than other boys. I do not know exactly when it came upon me, but somewhere by the end of high school I started to realise that the sea gives me a whole new world – I just need to submerge my head under water. Then the fuss and noise of the world goes away and a new freedom appears – freedom to swim like a dolphin. And in this new world I feel at home. Unfortunately, back than I didn’t know what I could do with my newly discovered talent.
It was only 10 years later when I discovered the Internet, I found out that I was not the only one, that there were others sharing my passion, and their name was “freedivers”. And the very first website where I came across the word “freediver” was Julia Petrik’s site “Homo Delphinius”.
Further, as I found the clue, I began unwinding it. I read all I could find about freediving in Russian and, when I moved to Australia, I started exploring the English-speaking Internet. So, Homo Delphinius was followed by Deeperblue.com, then by Umberto Pelizzari’s book The Manual of Freediving. This book gave me all the theoretical knowledge I needed. But I still could find no opportunity to apply it in practice.
In Australia, freediving as a sport is poorly developed. There are spearfishers, but somehow I wasn’t interested in killing fish. It is ironic that in a country, which is famous for its achievements in the field of water sports, there wasn’t even a branch of AIDA, the International Association for the Development of Freediving, three years ago. Now we have one, but, unfortunately, it is sort of virtual. Although Australia has its own freediving team and records, there is neither formal training nor AIDA-accredited courses. Nevertheless scuba diving is very popular, and dive shops offering PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) courses are practically in every suburb. I obtained an Open Water Diver certificate just to realise that scuba diving was not what I needed. When I was putting on pounds of equipment, including a massive tank and BCD, I was losing that freedom to swim underwater like a dolphin, which attracted me to the underwater world in the first place. Then, because of the lack of a better option, I started playing underwater hockey. This was a dynamic game and good exercise, but that crazy romping in the pool was not what I was looking for. Unfortunately, underwater hockey did not give me the second component of freediving – the silent tranquillity.
Well, that is almost it. From time to time I thought about going somewhere to learn freediving. To Moscow, perhaps, or to Egypt. Or to England for Deeper Blue’s course in the SETT pool. But it was all so far away and so expensive….
And then one day I saw a post at one of the online forums. The post was saying that the group of Russian freedivers led by Julia Petrik was about to have a freediving course on the Philippine island of Cebu and invited whoever was interested to join. I saw it – but didn’t pay much attention. Thought I was too busy at work, at home (I have a small kid and it was still a long time till annual leave). But a few days later I returned to it. Something clicked inside me, and I decided to go, no matter what. I took an unpaid leave, got my wife’s approval, contacted Julia, and bought a plane ticket. And yet even then I could not believe that I would get there. All that was too good to be true…. Then a few days before the scheduled departure I had a pretty serious food poisoning and lay in bed a couple of days with a fever. I thought I definitely wasn’t going anywhere. And yet destiny wanted me to go.
You know about the rest. All that has accumulated in me over the years or even decades of searching unwound in a flash, like a compressed spring. And what comes next – even I don’t know.
By the way, Luc Besson now can dive.
© 2010 Sergey Stadnik