Marsa Alam, Egypt

It was in September 2010, that my girlfriend and I had almost given up on our search for a new house and booked ourselves a holiday to Marsa Alam, Egypt. Of course Marieke found the perfect resort, which featured a long pier (long as in a 15 minutes walk) which dropped you right off the coral edge. Depth’s starting at 10 meters and gradually declining to 25-30 meters over a very wide span of the coast. So enough territory for us to explore by means of freediving.

I almost couldn’t go freediving during that holiday as I depended on a surgery that was planned only a few weeks before our departure, but luckily my recovery was very speedy and I was able to explore the depth’s of the sea. The marine life that was present on the house reef was just immense, the tourism really didn’t yet find this spot to ruin it for the marine life.

Our dream was to encounter dolphins in the wild and had been to places where the possibilities of that happening were present, but actually never encountered them. Our perseverance was definitely not unanswered as the 2nd day came and we ran into our first school of dolphins at the housereef. A rather small group (about 15 or so dolphins) passed by us when we resurfaced from a freedive. Surprised and overjoyed as we were I actually got some footage from them passing through the bay. Later in the holiday we had our second encounter with a large group of about 60 dolphins. I am glad to have freediving fins, because wow they are fast. As fast as they came, they disappeared into the distant blue, trying to keep up with them felt like running a marathon with a pair C4’s on my feet :).

Furthermore we encountered a wide variety of marine life just at the house reef, including; turtles, baracuda’s, a guitar shark, a blacktip reef shark, starry puffers, spade fishes, octopuses,moray’s and a lot more. It was a joy to be freediving there. For both me and Marieke we enjoyed the freediving there and the depths were more than enough for our satisfaction. Since our last trip to Cuba, Marieke had shown a great improvement to reach depth’s of 25+ meters and proved that overtime her abilities were still there.

Besides the freediving, we also try and up our scuba game every time we’ve got the opportunity. With our main goal of finally reaching a certain level for scuba which could take us to the more advanced diving places. Because currently it feels like we’re for ever stuck at the coastal stuff… we’d really have loved to dive at elphin stone, but this was not possible due to this problem. Never the less we booked our share of scuba dives and enjoyed the wide variety of marine life as well. During the scuba we encountered a guitar shark, some squids, a juvenile napoleon and a lot more. The team of scuba divers from the resort were very friendly and spotted our relaxed way of diving which was not what they regularly encounter, a nice compliment for the both of us.

Just an amazing week full of enjoyment for the sea and marine life, of course with a good deal of relaxing and resting as well. With a fully charged battery we came back from our holiday and about 3 weeks after we were home we signed a contract for the dream house we were looking for. Two of our dreams within the timespan of a month, what more to ask for…. encountering dolphins and our own house.

you can find a few of the pictures we shot underwater here on my facebook page.

Sidenote:
For those of you wondering why updating the sharkbait site has been low; the house & surgery have played a role, but on top of that I’ve developed a 2nd and 3rd addiction in the forms of snowboarding and skateboarding.

Preparing For The Snow

9 Weeks and 3 days to go! You probably can tell I’m looking forward to our Snowboard vacation to Flachau, Austria, in January. Maybe more about that trip later, but for now I want to focus on preparing my body as much as possible for the trip. Because there will be loads of powder snow and park riding involved, I really need to prepare myself to ‘survive’ the intense week in the snow.

So, where am I standing? Well, it has been months since I last visited the gym to work with some weights. Running is at an all time low. I stopped freediving for the winter. But the good news is I’m skateboarding around two times a week and snowboarding 1 to 2 times as well. So specific sport conditioning has already started. Now the rest.

In short, I’m too heavy, to much fat, too little cardiovasculair power, not enough strength and for sure not flexible enough. And I really need to change that before we go in 9 weeks time. This week I already started again with some light basic fitness exercises and running to warn my body to prepare for the coming weeks.

While I normally plan such projects to the minute, I’m going to change that a little this time and see where this will get me. Just some basic rules and that it. A few rules that I can remember and stick to it for 9 weeks. How hard can it be?

  1. do some regular fitness, running and stretching for the basics. Try to do some for 6 days a week and take 1 day rest.
  2. try to eat as healthy as possible with 3 meals a day. Don’t eat anything anymore after the last meal of the day. No sugar drinks! Eat what and when you want on Sunday, just to keep sane.
  3. keep skateboarding and snowboarding as much as possible and have fun doing it. Except that growth doesn’t occur in a straight diagonal line, but that it sometimes can plateau. Stick to it!

And that’s about it! 3 simple rules: basic maintenance of the body, energy intake, the passion. Not to difficult to follow? Lets see in the coming weeks where it will bring me.

Natural Evolution

I just love sports! I can’t live without it and I need to do it every day. Yes, I’m still talking about sports. There are many great sports out there, but the ones I’m always attracted to are the ones where creativity, individualism and natural skills are involved.

Because there are loads of sports that fall in that category I could never dedicate myself to only one discipline. There are just too many fun sports out there to just keep myself to only one kind of experience. I’m a multi-disciplinary guy. I can’t just focus on one thing in life and keep myself committed to it. There are way too many good things out there to keep untouched.

And I’m not alone. Also co-creator of this blog Sanne is a multi-sport person. We always shared interest in all kind of sports like Fitness, Cycling, Track & Field, Running, Swimming, Snowboarding, Skateboarding and of course the reason we started this blog, Freediving.

In the last years we trained together in many sports but only blogged about freediving. But while we still have fun freediving, at the moment we have even more fun with some other sports where improvement and skill development is still in its infancy.

After loads of talks and discussions with Sanne about this blog and freediving, we notice that our freediving philosophy is not only a freediving philosophy but a philosophy in general. Our way of doing sports together and collecting different experiences and developing skills to become better at a certain sport is what drives us time and time again to improve as a person and as a team. And that is what Team Sharkbait is about!

So, while freediving training has gone into hibernation mode for the winter, our skateboarding and snowboarding trainings are more awake then ever. And while we started this blog as a freediving only blog, we see now that it’s time to have a natural evolution to expand to write about all our sport  experiences. This blog will not only be about freediving anymore, but about all our sport experiences we do as a team.

To make sure that our regular readers who are only interested in our freediving adventures are not drowned in content they are not interested in (and vice versa) we will update the Team Sharkbait blog so that you can very easily select a different sport to read about, if you’re only interested in certain parts. We will even create some separate RSS feeds for the people who use them.

We hope that you will continue to follow us and give feedback now that we expand to an even more interesting road!

Water & Web Update

Water firmly attached to the Gene pool - My Son Rody and Daughter Indy

On Thursday Bertrand, Sanne and I went in the water again. While Bertrand had seen plenty of water in the last weeks, it has been a while since Sanne and I put our heads below the water surface. To be exact, almost 3 months without any pool training.

After last weeks surprise of a decent dry static, I was pretty eager to go to the pool and experience some more freediving feelings like that. Arriving in the pool we set out our own private lane and I started with some neutral statics at 5 meter depth, the bottom of the pool. It felt pretty good to be under again and relax and look around at the scubbies and snorkelers.

Three deep statics later it was time to put some motion in it and I started walking across the bottom of the pool. Still fun to do and almost as relaxing as the statics. After that it was time for some dynamic without fins and wow, that felt really really bad. So bad in fact that after two tries my positive feeling was completely gone and I was thinking of going home again. I just don’t know, something felt really wrong after those dynamics. The breath hold crawls to test things out still felt the same as 3 months before, but this dynamic thing, I don’t know…

In fact two days later I’m still thinking what to do with it. Should I start training again, or will I just keep to some recreational outdoor freediving and that’s it. Lets see what next week will bring. Maybe I will only do some crawls for the rest of the year, or maybe just stick to some statics at the bottom. So yeah, got some motivational issues at the moment 😉

On another note, I’ve been pretty busy restoring the old posts on the Sharkbait website. Links to websites and other posts were wrong, pictures were missing, etc. I fixed everything from the beginning to January 2008 at the moment and my plan is to slowly fix the whole archive. Over the years we wrote already more then 250+ blog posts here and it’s sometimes very inspirational to look back and see what we did some years back. I’ll give an update when I’m completely done with the monk work

In the last few weeks Sanne and I have also been discussing about how to continue with Team Sharkbait and what to write about and slowly the ideas are getting clearer and clearer, so expect an update on that as well.

Dry Summer

Autumn has already started and my deep freediving counter says ‘1’. I’ve never did so little depth freediving as this year! And still the dive I did, together with Bertrand and Sanne was great! So much fun and no problems reaching the same bottom as last years end of season, also slightly less relaxed then before.

From January till the July we did our weekly freediving pool training, even sometimes two times a week. Pool space is open again for us since two weeks, but I still have to start with pool training again.

Is it lack of motivation? Not for freediving! During my holiday visit to Turkey with the family I did several ‘freedives’ over there, but it was limited to ‘deep snorkeling’ due to absence of a buddy who could spot me. But for sure the depth was pulling again.

Maybe it was just time to sharpen the saw once again. Once lesson I’ve learned since that I started freediving in 1997 is that sometimes you have to listen to your body and don’t push things. Just wait until you ‘need’ it again.

Well, that feeling is coming I guess! Tonight I did a dry static out of nowhere while watching a nice Snowskating movie. First try was a 2 minute hold and felt really bad and I was immediately having negative thoughts about quitting. But after a 10 minute rest I decided to try it again and did 3:51 minutes without any noticeable contractions. Was that 4 minute mark still in reach? After a 5 minute rest I tried again and 4:07 seconds later I was a happy man!

Now I need to find a way to bring these dry static times into the water once again. Because in the water I still suck big time with statics. Oh yeah, and it would be nice to try our monofin again! It’s been a while, but it’s not the end, only a new beginning.

My ideas to solve the neck weight problem

This is the second article in a series about finding a better design for the weight needed in a dynamic pool freediving performance. The first article focussed on my discomforts and dislikings about the current design, which I blindly followed when I first started freediving. This article will focus on the way I intend to solve these problems into new solution and the design around it. In the 3rd article I will focus on the testing we’ve done so far with different setups, to see if they actually solve my problems. The 4th article will show how the design evolved through time by incorporating our findings from the test phases. Finally in the 5th article I hope to present a solution with an easy design, so other freedivers can try and build/buy one of their own and see if they benefit from it as much as I do.

Weight placement
To solve the weight placement, I chose to locate the weight around the lung area. It’s a bit of a tricky location and might be disadvantageous due to the flexing of the chest when inhaling and exhaling. Only tests will find out if I find this comfortable or not and if it doesn’t effect my normal breath-up.

Balancing
One of the solutions for unbalanced tilting that caught my eye is already widely used in the shipbuilding industry and is called a keel. The principle behind this solution is to spread the center of gravity, by placing a weight below the structural keel. For ships the use of a keel brings stability and improves the directional movement of the ship. My interest lies with the stability problem it solves; when a sail ship is sailing, the wind will make it tilt, the keel will counter act this by it’s weight. That’s exactly the behavior I want my prototype to have when I’m doing a dynamic performance. So when I tilt over, due to a slightly rotated push-off while turning, the weight underneath the chest will be counteracting this and ensure my alignment in the horizontal plane. So from the balance point of view it is best to place the weight underneath the body, or at least on the lowest point of the chest.

Optimal arm placement
In the 2 preceding points I opted for the placement of the weight around the lung area and at the lowest point of the chest in the water. This will solve my discomfort and inability to fully stretch the arms over my head as well. Because the area around my neck will be clear of any objects what so ever. Ofcourse the question remains; “Will the new weight placement introduce a new discomfort or is it easier to live with?”.

Commence the Testing
As we’re already testing and have been testing with a few different setups, I’m going to continue to test for a while longer to see if he new approach really brings what it should. I will report about my findings in a 3rd article as soon as I think it’s a good point in time to share it with you all. I’ve already shared some insight from my setup through pictures, but my experience still needs to increase a little more to share. How would you like to see the solution tested in comparison to the neck weight? Please leave your ideas in the comments and I’ll see if I can include this in the tests.

5kg in a vest to go under a blue seventy suit5kg vest under the blue seventy freediving suit

PS. Current design lacks the safety feature, so I cannot compare this in the tests.

Time for distance training

“Once the technique is dialed in, it’s time for getting some distance in with the monofin.”

…And that time is now, because the past few weeks we’ve been experimenting with technique and alignment, but both seem to be working out good enough to get into some practice. Last night and the past 2 weeks I’ve already dialed in some distance with the monofin, but in the next weeks it’s time to up the distance. Not the performance distance, but many many meters getting used to the monofin on my feet and getting the technique dialed into the core.

Getting ready for the turn

It’s a good thing to see that since we purchased the new glide monofin, we’ve booked a lot of progress in both technique and alignment. Our previous monofin just wasn’t made for this kind of use… Besides the new monofin, I also used the Blue Seventy suit to see how that influenced distance and technique. I think the suit influences both in a positive way. So I think I’ll be alternating between making distance with and without the suit, where I think that without the suit will bring me more strength and with the suit will help me get used to swimming with it.

Old School Freediving

Our Hardcore Trainings Pool

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Yesterday evening me, Sanne and Bertrand were forced into freediving between the recreational swimmers. And instead of just putting on our monofin and making a bloodbath between the swimmers with lost finger, toes, or worse, we decided to give ourselves a real old school freediving training once again.

My body was still hurt from the snowboarding of the day before, but men did the training feel good! I can’t help it to just like those intense freediving trainings where you really gasp for air, build up Co2 till headache, burn your legs until you can’t move them anymore. All in all it was great again.

The combination of Apnea crawls, back kicks, different strokes and breathing patterns and around 1200 meter covered underwater felt painful but good. Bertrand is new in our group, but he managed to do an excellent job! Finally someone who is not only able to complete such a training, but even enjoys it as much as Sanne and me. He even managed to do 4 laps of relaxed underwater swimming with his bi-fins in the end! Good stuff and motivational to watch him continue.

We have to do this a lot more!

Kick & Glide ratio adjustment due to Blue Seventy suit

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Since the new suit arrived I had a great first test run with it last week. The result of this test run was that I had an increase of about 10 meters with my current set of parameters concerning Kick & Glide ratio. As this was tested in the 50 meter pool in Eindhoven, I faced a new challenge last night in the 25 meter pool. With what kind of ratio will I continue,…

The glide phase is definitely longer and more efficient than before, which in turn means that I can make more use of that. On the other hand I’ve always been a high intensity freediver, where long rest periods would just make me restless. So where do you decide on, with what set of parameters do I want to continue? Those are the questions that I’ve been struggling with and discussing it with Jorg led me to the point where we think it’s fair and right that I give this an honest shot.

To find the proper parameters we set out 3 different types of K&G-ratio’s for the 25 meter pool:

  • 2 * Kick-Kick-Kick-Glide
  • 3 * Kick-Kick-Glide
  • 2 * Kick-Kick-Glide

2KKKG
2KKKG was the first one I tested, I suited up the gear and went for it. I could easily make the 25 meters with this ratio, where I couldn’t do that without the suit in the weeks before. A big difference lies in the push-off, where I can glide a proper distance before even starting the first K&G-cycle.

3KKG
3KKG was next and surprisingly I was almost doing the 2KKG. If I just had a little bit more patience and let the glide phase be a little longer I could reach the other side by only doing a 2KKG. So got eager to try it in a more real situation by trying a 75 meter run with a 2KKG ratio.

2KKG over 75 meter
The first lap was like I did in the run before, I barely made it but with enough patience it worked, then the second lap I was a little bit less patient and had to a one kick to reach the wall. The 3rd lane was yet again a little less patient and I had to make 2 kicks at the end to reach the wall.

Concluding
By testing these different parameters I’d like to give the 2KKG a good test over the months to come. I believe that I just need to adapt to the new style of waiting a little longer in the glide phase before I start a KG-cycle. Eagerness should be tamed and restlessness turned into confidence. So my plan for a period of 2-3 month’s of training will be to focus on this 2KKG ratio and see to which level I can tweak this ratio. If this works out like I want it to, then it saves me a great deal of energy and for sure my confidence will grow. Let’s wait and see what the month’s ahead have in store.

Training: new Blue seventy suit

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Today I brought my new Blue Seventy suit to the training pool Tongelreep in Eindhoven. It was time to put it to work in the training to get used to freediving with it. I’ve tried the suit on several occasions, I tried Eric van Riet Paap’s suit at the RMC in Wiesbaden just before my actual run and I tried using the same suit twice at our own dynamic competition. On both occasions I was not able to fully test it before the competition, so in Wiesbaden I decided to go with the familiair – without suit – and at our own competition I did try it in the comp, but then I had other side-effects keeping me from properly putting it to use.

Last week I picked up my suit at Eric’s home, while I was in the area for work related stuff. Today I could finally put it up for a test run and see how it flows through the water. I set my distance to the usual 97,5 meter and went for it without any breathup or preparation. It felt like I was doing my normal rhythm and agreed with myself I’d turn at 50 meters to see how I felt. Somehow it did feel that I was generating more speed and had longer glide phases. Kind of startled to see I was almost at the 100 meter mark I gave the abort sign – like I agreed upon with Jorg – and resurfaced. Looked around a bit and actually everything was very OK.

Jorg gave me the feedback that it looked like I was trying to sprint – as opposed to my normal speed – but I could sustain this tempo longer. I told him that I was just doing my normal rhythm and not exaggerated the motion in any way. So to see what the difference was between without suit and with the suit, I agreed to do 2 test runs where I’d do three kick-kick-kick-glide cycles. Normally this will take me to 25 meters, but now it took me to 35 meters !! Some suit I got here, very glad I gave it a good try finally.

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