45M / 147FT – The Story

Unassisted Constant Ballast, Mens Saltwater.
14/4/01 – 45m / 147ft / 1:40 Sec. Blue Lagoon, Jamaica.

In January when we decided to set the First Unassisted Freediving World Record.  I was a bit leery about the idea…after all, being at depth with nothing but a suit to keep you warm is a bit demented. Over the Christmas holidays I dove with Rudi and Yasemin in the lagoon mostly messing around with the line assisted category and playing around. After Rudi and Yasemin’s departure, Rudi told me to give the unassisted category a shot. On my first try I was able to complete -37m/122ft. This was done quite easily to my surprise. After reporting the results to Rudi, we decided to give the Unassisted World Record an official shot.

Sponsorship for the event was provided by Air Jamaica, Dragon Bay Resort, Lady G’Diver Ltd., Frontier Productions, and The Blue Lagoon. With all our major necessities covered all we needed was to cover the cash issue of paying our divers and all the miscellaneous expenses that comes with Freediving World Records.  There are lots, believe me. This cash fund was provided by two very generous individuals who asked to remain anonymous.

I returned to the Untied States to work and also to start a long eight weeks of training. After working a 7am – 5:30 pm job, I would drive 30 minutes to the pool and train for 3 – 3.5 hours six days a week. Many days while training I would be so tired that I felt like curling up on the bottom of the pool and sleeping. Over eight weeks I left a permanent partition in the water from swimming so many laps. At times in excess of 2.5 miles a day. Sometimes I thought, “My trainer is trying to kill me!” But freediving is something I love dearly and was not going to give up because of a little hard work.

After the seventh week I was beginning to have a permanent smell of chlorine from being in the pool for so many hours. I was very ocean starved and wanted to dive really badly. I believe that living in land-locked Tulsa, Oklahoma really makes me a better free diver. All there is to do is train for freediving. When the times comes to once again meet with the beloved ocean, my urge to dive is so great that I perform better. The eighth week has arrived and there were just a few more days of training left before departing for my homeland, Jamaica.

We have finally made it to Port Antonio, Jamaica, location of the first official Unassisted Free Diving World Record. The first day was spent preparing the platform and getting ready for a solid week worth of diving in preparation for the depth we had established, -45m. We would only do one deep dive a day and then in the afternoon do some training. Starting at -30m, we would increase the depth 2-3 meters every day. When the time came to where we were hitting -40m the technique was starting to feel natural. Two days before the record day we set everything up to do -45m. My trusty crew dropped the line and bottom plate to what they thought was -45m. I did my preparation which took approximately 30 minutes and then started the dive. I would think about everything I had to do and try to make my strokes as efficient as possible. I made it to the bottom and retrieved the confirmation tag and then started the ascent. This is definitely the hard part. When you turn around you have to kick a few times before you start moving. I wore no weights and I still felt really negative at the bottom. When I made it back to the surface I was completely fresh and felt like I could have gone another -12 -15m/. 40 – 50ft I checked my Sporasub computer and it read 47m/155ft. I thought to myself “Thanks guys, nice rope measurement!”

One day before the record and the Judges Jarrod Jablonski and Robert Hambidge appointed by FREE (Freediving Regulations & Education Entity) have arrived. According to the rules set by FREE, the judges must witness a dive before the actual record dive. We set everything up once again and I got to show off for the judges. -30m/100ft, Yeeehaaaawww!!…The dive has to be at least 75% of the record depth (or something like that). Up till now I wasn’t very nervous…I think it was because I was in the company of friends and family.

April 14th, 2001. Record day has arrived and I woke up extra early compared to the usual 7:45am. Went to Dragon Bay to the beach restaurant and ate my lovely breakfast which comprised of 2 pieces of wheat toast and a half spoon of jam. Yummy! We went to one of our plush rooms provided by Dragon Bay where we never slept, it was just a place to keep all the underwater video and photo equipment. Rudi, Yas, Justin, and Ana prepared all the underwater videography equipment while I started my predive breathing preparation which takes approximately 30 minutes. After doing the preparation, Yas decides to sit me down and tell me how to handle the stresses of record day. Being three time record holder she has lots of practice with this sort of thing…she starts out by telling me to stay calm and not let the crowd throw off my concentration. She says, “There are going to be A LOT of people there but don’t let that bother you.” I was thinking, “You know, I was doing a lot better before this talk.”

The dive crew radioed from the lagoon and told us that everything is ready to go…we left Dragon Bay by boat and took the long three minute boat ride to the lagoon. When the lagoon was in site I realized that Yasemin was right, there are a crap load of people there! I thought maybe 50 people who I knew were coming to watch but this was more like 400 people lining the coast of the lagoon. My heart rate elevated just a bit…I was never doubting that I could perform the dive, I was just thinking, “what if I get to the bottom and pick up a tag and drop it?”…Everything that could go wrong was flashing through my mind…It’s weird when everything is riding on you.

We made it to the other boat where all the safety divers waited patiently (or impatiently) for us to arrive. I suited up and did a couple of dives to 20m and hanging out for a while to get into my zone. The time has arrived. Time to get on the freediving platform which was painted in the design of the Jamaican flag. Justin’s idea and turned out to be a nice touch. I started my breathing cycles and then did one negative pressure dive (empty lung dive for warm up). I thought to myself, “This should be a piece of cake if just two days ago I did 2m deeper than what we are attempting today” That thought made me calm down a bit. By the second negative dive I was so calm I had forgotten that I had a huge crowd watching. Rudi asked if I was ready, and I replied, “let’s do this thing!”

Rudi started the countdown…Seven minutes he yelled. All the safety divers were already in the water by the time I was completing the second negative. The safety divers gathered behind the platform as to not distract me while I was breathing.  The time ticked away 6 minutes, and then 5 minutes all safety divers yell “Good Luck David!” and then down they go. 4, 3, 2, 1, 0, +1…at plus 1 minute I took my last breath slowly and controlled and then packed till I was full (7 packs). I then slipped into the water and started the descent. Stroke by stroke I descended into the dark lagoon, staring at my only friend, the rope, and listening for the safety divers signals on the way down. Before I knew it I heard the bottom safety diver clanging away at the bottom plate (you should see this thing…it’s huge!) I reached the bottom turned around and plucked one of the eight confirmation tags from the plate, threaded it to my right arm and then started my fight against gravity. To get going when you turn around is the toughest and then it gets easier as you pick up momentum. Yasemin met me at 20m and followed me back to the surface…at approximately 10m she asked if I was “OK” and I was feeling so good I interrupted the rhythm and gave her the “Ok”signal. Reaching the surface I supported myself by the railing of the platform and removed the tag from my arm and gave it to the surface judge, Jarrod Jablonski. Weird because during the entire time we were diving, the two deep dives (-47m & -45m) were easier than all the training dives. Over all I saw it as an awesome diving session with some great friends and we just happened to set a World Record in the process. I would definitely repeat this event. Someone out there needs to give this record a shot. Take it from me, IT ROCKS!

I owe this record to everyone who helped me organize it. Without you I would not have achieved something so great. This record belongs to all of us. Much Love.

Team Members: Rudi Castineyra (Trainer), Yasemin Dalkilic (Female Record Holder and Training Partner), Jan Lee Widener (Safety Diver -15m), Marvin McCarthy (Safety Diver – 30m), Richie Garel (Safety Diver – 40m), Emmy Castro (Bottom Safety Diver -45m), Jarrod Jablonski (Surface Judge), Robert Hambidge (Deep Judge -45m), Justin Wheeler (Frontier Productions Video), Ana Wheeler (Frontier Productions Video), Steve Widener (Member of Organizing Committee).