-47M / 154FT – The Story

Unassisted Constant Ballast, Mens Saltwater.
10/21/01 – 47m / 154ft / 1:49 Sec. Kos, Greece.

After setting the first official unassisted constant ballast world record on April 14th, 2001 I really didn’t know what my freediving future had in store for me. With no major sponsor I couldn’t exactly finance my way through another world record which would cost approximately $16,000USD. Sounds expensive but when you take into account all the costs of a world record everything starts to add up rather quickly. Think about it. You have to find a location where the water is calm, without current, decent visibility, and deep enough for the type of record you are attempting. Chances are this perfect spot is going to be thousands of miles away from Tulsa, Oklahoma. For the unassisted record we needed 5 safety divers to cover the required positions down to 47m, three to four camera operators to get video footage and still photography. Once the team is assembled you must provide meals, accommodations, airfare, and salary for each of these individuals for an 8 – 12 day period. Then you have to provide needed dive gear and boats for the entire period. The dive team doesn’t include the surface and bottom judges from FREE (Freediving Regulations & Education Entity) who need to be present during the actual record attempt to verify the record; the judges need to have meals and accommodations for approximately three days.

Providing that you have all these expenses covered and you have trained you are ready to attempt a world record the FREE way.

For the first record I was lucky enough to receive sponsorship from Dragon Bay Resort, Air Jamaica, Lady G’Diver, and the Blue Lagoon. Salaries and other miscellaneous expenses were covered by private sponsors. For this record I consider myself even luckier because Rudi and Yasemin have already organized a record attempt in Kos, Greece and I was invited to attempt to break the unassisted constant ballast record which was set by Erez Beteau (Israel) and Trevor Hutton (S. Africa) at -46m/151ft. On September 10, 2001. The only real expenses that I had to cover was airfare and other miscellaneous expenses to get myself to Kos, Greece. Very lucky break.

The time had come to start training and I had not been given much notice. I started training for this record approximately 3-4 weeks before departing for Kos Island. Within this time I had only done 7-8 days of free dive specific training. This worried me a bit because my last dive was six months ago and was the 45m unassisted record I set in Jamaica. I tried to not let the idea of being out of freediving shape get to me too much and made the best of the time I had to train.

October 14th had rolled around and it was time for me to jump on a plane and head for Bodrum, Turkey (yes, during all this terrorist madness) where I would catch a ferry to Kos Island. The itinerary was Tulsa – Cincinnati – New York – Istanbul – Bodrum. Upon arrival at Bodrum I was greeted by Erman Akarsu, owner of Earman Dive Center in Bodrum. I spent the night at his place and he was a very gracious host.  At one point that night I almost had to wrestle a rat…funny story that will not be covered here. The following morning I was taken to the EGE Express. This is the ferry that runs back and forth from Bodrum to Kos. I hopped on the ferry and in 45 minutes I was in another country…total travel time approximately 48 hours. Rudi, Yasemin, and Gido (professional photographer/videographer and owner of Deep Blue Productions) met me and we drove to the Akti Hotel in Kardamena.  All our accommodations and meal were provided by the Kos municipality. I was really surprised when I got to the hotel because they had a Jamaican and Turkish flag flying in the front of the hotel. It was just shocking because these people didn’t know me or Yas but we were treated like royalty.

At the Akti hotel I met the dive team, Ahmad (owner of Arian Dive Center), Eudokia (Ahmad’s right hand woman), Kutay, Ali, Corin, Rissa, Arthur, Neda, and Sebastian Naslund. In total there were fourteen people in our team and we had 9 different nationalities: Turkey, Greece, Iran, Jamaica, Cuba, Lithuania, Germany, Sweden, and France were all the countries that our team members came from …Pretty awesome. Our dive boat was Ahmad’s sail boat…A classic sailboat made completely of wood but in excellent shape…Had a nice size cabin where the entire team could fit for the pre and post-dive debriefings…The dive shop was equipped with fill tri-mix setup for the deep safety divers that were below 55m…The unassisted dives were never deeper than 50m but on occasion when Yasemin was training for the equipment assisted record she would do 65+ meters.

The first day had come to do a practice dive…I was always wondering how I was going to do because I had been out of the water for 6 months. Surprisingly I completed the first unassisted training dive to 40m and it was quite easy. Yasemin and I alternated…she would dive first then I would dive after.  There would be a short break between dives to allow the safety divers time to off gas and get ready to go back down…By this time the effects of jetlag were starting to set in and I caught a cold…The following day I did 45m which was equal to the record I set in April 2001 and it was also was easy. I thought that being out of the water for so long was going to affect me but it really didn’t…The only trouble I had was a bit of trouble equalizing with a sinus cold…No fun.  After 5 days of diving and training, Yasemin and I were ready to attempt the first wave of records. Yasemin dove first to 40m and came back saying to Rudi that she thinks she is going to have to do the record over because she accidentally pulled on the line when she did the tag retrieval and violated the FREE rules. The judges, and Rudi examined the video tapes and came to the conclusion that it was in fact a line violation and she would have to redo the record. Now it was my turn to dive to 47m. I was not worried about it because I had already done that depth in training for the previous unassisted record…I did my two negative pressure dives (which still feel terrible) and then did 9 minutes of breathing cycles and was ready to go down…Rudi got the OK from the safety divers and assured me that everyone was in place. I did my last cycle and packed 8 times and headed head first into the clearest waters I have ever seen in my life.  At 5m down you can see the bottom plate at 47m…absolutely amazing…It throws your depth perception off a bit…especially looking through fluid goggles. I received my signals from the safety divers at 15m, 30m, and then at about 42m…the signals help you to keep audible reference of where you are

The last signal at 42m the diver keep sounding them until you retrieve the tag. These are extremely helpful. When I heard the signal at 42m I looked towards the bottom plate and extended my arms and then held the line about 1m above the plate…on this dive I almost crashed into the plate because it looked further away than it really was…Maybe on the goggles it should say, “Objects in goggles are closer than they appear.” 😀

I did the tag retrieval and started that strenuous journey to the surface…at 20m Rudi swims down and accompanies me back to the surface…at 15m he asks if I am ok by giving me the ok signal, I reply by giving him the same signal. At the surface I took a few breaths and then handed the tag to Erman Akarsu the appointed surface judge and tadaaaa! A new world record! Rudi like always wanted an account of how difficult the dive was on a scale of 1-10…I rated this dive a 6.5…the dive time was 1:49 and the depth that was recorded on the Suunto Stinger was 48.9m/160ft. Unfortunately when you request FREE for verification of your record you have to state the depth that you are going for…so we said 47m, unfortunately we can’t claim 48.9m…

On October 22nd Yasemin completes her unassisted dive to 40m with no line violations and comes out of the water smiling, this little girl is amazing. With about 6 days left Yasemin and I had two more record planned 50m unassisted for me and then 72m equipment assisted for Yasemin…the following day Yasemin is feeling quite sick and nauseous all the time…I could tell that she didn’t feel like doing the dive, but feeling sick and everything she completes a 65m equipment assisted dive.

The weather had now gone from calm, clear, and warm, to rough, semi clear and freezing (well, freezing for a Jamaican). It was now hard to do your pre-dive prep on the platform because the waves are knocking you out of the seat…The water was cold and the air was cold. The winds blowing up to 45knots didn’t help much either…all these things are acting against us. The days were winding down and we were running out of time. The day came where I would have attempt 50m unassisted but unfortunately I had to abort the dive at 30m because of equalization problems. All routes back to the fluctuating head cold. Now there were just enough days left for Yasemin to attempt her 72m equipment assisted dive. I remember the day we went out to set up for the dive, it was so windy I saw a scuba tank get blown over by the wind and it wasn’t due to a wave throwing it off balance. With all this crazy weather we had to install a seatbelt on the platform to keep us from falling out of the seat when the waves came by…The team set everything up as best as they could and Rudi and Yas set out to do the preparation…there were mini tornadoes on the surface from the strong winds…It felt crazy to be out there attempting a record…I just remember thinking, “I am glad I am not diving today” but I still felt bad for Yasemin knowing exactly what she was going through. After about 20 minutes of getting knocked around by waves and strong winds Rudi called off the attempt because the descent line, anchor line, and decompression line we all tangled up looking like a neatly braded ponytail. Now we had one more day left to attempt Yasemin’s record. Unfortunately that day turned out to be three times worse that the day before…seems like someone up above was trying to say something…

Although we had only achieved 2 of 4 records it was still an awesome experience. I got to meet an awesome dive team and spend an incredible two weeks with them diving in really beautiful water. Once again, this dive belongs to all of us…Thanks guys!

On another note , Rudi is not only a great trainer, he is also a great friend. I would like to send a special thanks to him for giving me the opportunity to do this record for the second time. Thanks Rudi!

Team Members: Arthur (Deep Judge), Evdokia (Safety Diver), Gido (Photographer/Videographer), Kutay (Safety Diver), Ali (Videographer), Ahmad (Anything we needed done), Neda (Safety Diver), Rudi (Trainer), Rissa, Safety Diver), Yasemin (Freediver), David (Freediver), Mutlu (FREE Judge), Corin (Videographer), Sebastian (Videographer…Sebastian took the picture Above…thanks Sebastian).