Bill Rhamey | Marketing Director | Confidence Starts Within

As I float on my back on the surface of the deep Mediterranean waters below me, I relax and breathe deeply, thinking on what I am about to attempt.

In about 30 seconds, I will be attempting to dive to a depth of 138 feet, my new personal best, with no air tank.

I’m confident. I’ve trained for this for weeks, I have a safety diver that I trust watching my every move, and there is a surface team that will be tracking me on the depth finder.

As I continue to drop into a trance-like state of zen-like relaxation, I think playfully of how I arrived here, to this moment, and how all of this, my dive attempt, my relaxed feeling, and my utmost confidence in my abilities all stemmed from one unlikely place…

Utter fear.

I take one last huge breath and slip below the surface, gliding downwards through the first leg of my journey. The first 30 feet or so is the most violent in terms of water pressure change, so I have to constantly equalize my ears to avoid injury.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I remember how I was once terrified of the sea. Being from a small midwestern town, all I could think of while swimming was of all the unknown things under the surface, just waiting to nip at my feet, sting me, or drag me down into the beautiful emerald waters, never to be seen again.

I’m now at 50 feet and descending more rapidly into the ever-colder depths as the water pressure starts to ramp up. It’s here I have to pull a reserve of air from my lungs into my cheeks for use in compensating my ears. The underwater pressure will soon exert enough pressure to close off my throat, making it impossible to pull additional air reserves from my lungs.

As I descend, I remember how, before I found freediving, I was constantly torn between the desire to immerse myself in the sea and the fear of the unknown dangers it held, with my fear winning out more often than not.

My dive watch beeps out an alert at 90 feet. At this depth, the external pressure has become so great that the neoprene on my dive suit is compressed to almost nothing, and I can feel my abdomen being pushed in. I close my eyes, relax, and simply sink like a stone.

In my relaxed, sinking state, my mind’s eye shows me an image of the moment I discovered freediving. It was the day when my friend took me out and introduced me to it. I can see the very first time I saw him glide under the surface as if it was yesterday. The pure joy I felt when I realized, at that moment, I had found the key to overcoming my fear comes rushing back.

I open my eyes as I approach my targeted depth. The pressure, combined with the lack of oxygen and exertion is resulting in muscle spasms in my abdomen. I want to breathe badly, but I know the worst is almost over. I see the depth marker approaching closer, closer, there! 138 feet! With satisfaction, I turn and head for the surface.

As I head to the surface, I feel a small sense of pride in what I have just done, but more than that, I feel the payoff of hard work, training, and understanding my own self and my own limits. As I rise, the water gets warmer and the pressure releases, matching my own feelings of accomplishment.

I’m now at 60 feet and I see my safety diver, ready to swim me to the surface if I blackout or have an issue. This is the most dangerous part of the journey, the very last leg of the dive, but I know I’ve got this. I look into his eyes, give him a smile, and flash him a thumbs up. He visibly relaxes and we slide back onto the surface.

I am reminded at this moment that I didn’t get here by myself. While a solo sport, freediving needs a community to work together, all of us helping each other to push farther.

My safety diver and I break the surface, and as I take my first breath, the oxygen begins to return to my bloodstream, and I start to feel refreshed. The other divers congratulate me on a new personal best, and we share smiles and high fives. I thank my safety diver and the surface team.

I feel ready for anything…

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