Surprise visit at the 4th Dutch Open

I always said, if you are a freediver and there is a freedive competition within your reach, there is no question. You must go and you must and you must compete.

Why? Simply because there aren’t enough opportunities for meeting with all those cool but crazy people that I now call my friends.

That being said, there seemed to be no real chance for me to go and do just that at the 4th Dutch Apnea Open. For one I had just been forced to quit competing at the Long Night of Apnea due to a cold that lasted the past three weeks. Second, Eindhoven is not really around the corner but rather far to the west and I had committed to meet with the board of AIDA Germany that Saturday. Last, but not least, Elisabeth did not plan to go anyways…

But then… things changed. First, Elisabeth decided to jump in a ancient car that was supposed to carry her and a bunch of Danish freedivers to Eindhoven but broke down about 100 km from the target. When I sat on the plain going to Düsseldorf it dawned on me that I was going quite a bit west. I checked the competition schedule and realized that they did not compete until Sunday morning. Checking train schedules I then saw that it would only take two hours to get to Eindhoven and since my plain back to Berlin would not leave until 3 pm… I started thinking and calculating…

At 6:35 I was on the train to arrive in Eindhoven at 9:00 am. I caught a cab to take me to the pool where I arrived about 9:15 am to be greeted by many of the above mentioned folks. Some thought it quite natural to see me there, some asked why they had not seen me on the in-list, some asked whether I was judging… it made me feel real good. Surprising Elisabeth was one of the coolest things I have ever done.

She was paying me back by doing a 5:02 min STA dive (me coaching) and later 136m DYN which was winning the competition. Makes me very proud!

Seeing the pool was great. I would have been even more impressed by it would we not have a pool of the exact dimensions here in Berlin. I remember what it was like to go in there for the first time. When a 50m lane is looking small and you start doubting it actually is 50m because the structure of the building is scaling it down… what a place to have a competition!

It was great seeing everyone there. Even when I was under stress to get catch a taxi at 11:30 to be back on the train at 12:02 and back in Düsseldorf at 14:08 and at the airport at 14:25 to catch the plain at 15:15 pm. But it was all worth it…

PS: Yes, Pim, I will do everything to make sure I can come back next year. You just make sure it is not so close to the LNA again... ;)


Diving for a good cause

On Monday I had the chance to be part of a photo and video performance the Word Wildlife Foundation (WWF) was organizing here in Berlin. The event took place at the Stadtbad Schöneberg and involved six freedivers being body painted as fish and swim into a net under water.

The performance was supposed to symbolize the bycatch that is making up to 100.000 tons of fish, that is a third of the overall amount that is fished in the North Sea. Bycatch is all of the fish that the fisher men actually do not want to end up in their nets because they are either too small or not the sort of fish they were fishing for. Most of these fish, however die in the process of fishing and are being cast back into the water.

Those numbers are getting even worse when you look at some special types of fish. The WWF report that was presented to the press just before the performance shows that for one kilogram of shrimps 15 kilogram of other fish die. So you might want to think twice before ordering a shrimps sandwich.

This been said there was no reason for us to fully support the WWF with this campaign. The six divers where Anna von Boetticher, Ulli Wulf, Ilka Michaelis and Martin Legat from the German national team, Nadine Werner (professional under water model and hopefully soon a competitive freediver) and my mermaid Elisabeth (yes, I had a hand in that selection).

The pool is 3,8m deep at the lower end and has a 3m wide window in about 2m depth. That made it perfect for a press event because the various camera teams could get a close look at what was going on under water.

I was in charge of coordinating the safety divers. We had 4 safety freedivers and two scuba diver. We were all quite nervous because that was a real fishing net and it did exactly what it was supposed to do. It caught people. I am very happy that the only thing that needed to be rescued was a nose clip.

Six huge spot lights lit the water as we laid out large lanes of black foil weight with sandbags on the bottom of the pool. On top of that we put the nets and hang one across the pool for the divers/fish to get caught in. In the meantime the body painter got to work and paintbrushed the different motives onto the freedivers. That all took from about 6:00 to 12:00 am. We then did three sessions of shooting and at 13:00 pm it was all over.

The performance was a big success as you can see on the campaign website. There you will also find a video. I will be waiting for the press reports and the DVD that the WWF is going to send out to tell you more about it.

PS: I am thinking of a pool competition in that pool just because of the window... let’s see...