What It's Like... To Free Dive to 381 Feet
By: Carlos Coste
10:28 a.m. After finishing some warmup dives to 60 feet — to activate my mammalian diving reflex and adapt my mind and body for the upcoming challenge — I float in the water, waiting for the 30-second window to start my dive to a spot 40 floors beneath the surface.
10:29 a.m. The countdown begins and I hear the starter calling out times: 1 minute, 30 seconds, 15, 10, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.
10:30 a.m. I take a deep breath and dive.
66 feet My kicking is strong in order to overcome the buoyancy of my body as I descend the first few feet. It’s like trying to sink a big balloon.
80 feet I’ve achieved neutral buoyancy, and descending is easier.
140 feet My kicking rhythm changes to a more gentle pace as I reach negative buoyancy. I’m flying down like a glider into the abyss.
200 feet Narcosis has set in, but I have to stay focused: I’m looking for the maximum relaxation and hydrodynamic position for a fast glide.
297 feet My equalization technique is getting more complicated. At this depth, I’m under 10 atmospheres of pressure. My lungs are tiny and my thorax is filled with blood — known as a blood shift — to tolerate the vacuum.
347 feet An alarm on my dive computer sounds, indicating that I’m just 33 feet away.
381 feet I take the tag indicating that I made it to my intended depth. It’s taken me two minutes to reach half of my goal. I pause for a second; it’s time to go back.
380 feet My first kicks are hard so I can get out of the deepest zone fast. Even though I’m freediving, there’s a lot of nitrogen absorption and the abyss is pulling me down due to my negative buoyancy.
250 feet I’m starting to feel the tiredness in my legs. Lactic acid is punishing my muscles.
180 feet Buoyancy starts to change and I slow my kicking rhythm out of necessity — I’m feeling very tired and I have to manage my energy.
130 feet Emerging from the gloom I meet the safety freedivers, my escort for the remainder of the dive.
100 feet I’m visualizing my successful exit, but can’t get too ahead of myself. Overcoming the neutral buoyancy zone, my kicks become even gentler to save what remaining energy I have.
33 feet I stop kicking and float to the surface.
0 feet I reach the surface and grab a rope — it’s not just so I can steady myself as I suck in a lungful of air, it’s also surface protocol for the judges. After catching my breath, I reflect on my accomplishment: After 3 minutes 51 seconds, and a 761-foot round-trip on a single breath, I have set a new Panamerican record!
NEXT: What It's Like to Lull a Shark to Sleep >>>