In order for Lu to get her advanced freediving ticket, she had to hold her breath for two minutes and forty-five seconds.
To test her, Hugo the instructor swam over to Quest at 4pm on Friday with his large surface buoy. They went then and did the static apnea (fancy name for holding your breath) by the shore.
Quest’s crew followed them. We had to. So much work has gone into Lu holding her breath. Such a small thing – except when it’s for this long!
Over the weeks, we’ve sat reading to her to distract her… with her eyes popping out of her head. Pressed endless stopwatch sessions on her phone while she exhaled like a whale. Encouraged her in the sea. Counted out loud while she looked to all those who passed her on the nearby promenade with concerned expressions, exactly like a corpse. We consulted Hugo and Carlos’ CO2 tables. Hold breath. Recover. Hold breath. And recover.
We’ve learnt the body can hold its breath for longer not just by inhaling more oxygen, but by tolerating a build-up of carbon dioxide in its tissues. This is because the rising levels of carbon dioxide are toxic, and make the body want to breathe more than just the depletion of oxygen. So for each breath hold, Lu was instructed to decrease her recovery time by ten seconds to allow her body to get used to its carbon dioxide build-up. Slowly slowly.
The freediving team call Lu their deep mermaid. I love this. Apparently, the challenge of learning to freedive usually brings either a struggle with apnea, or depth. Lu hasn’t had a problem with depth. Indeed, some of the freediving team (cough – Hugo) are setting sights on her achieving a competitive level.
‘A Welsh champion?’ he says a tad wistfully.
This makes me laugh. We only enrolled her before Christmas to distract her from the craziness of her IGCSE exams – and to do something that didn’t involve hanging out with us all the time. So, for her to come so far in such a short time, it’s been a blessing.
The camaraderie in the freediving club has been lovely. And for the Deepsea Freediving School in Bonaire to be headed by world freediving champion Carlos Coste, well that’s just pure luck.
There we were with Hugo last Friday. Watching Lu fight to hold her breath for so long.
Hugo stopped her. He said, ‘The problem is you move too much, Lulu. You have to stay really still, and just forget about time. And when you get to two minutes, I’ll tap you on the arm and slowly bring you to shore.
When your fingers touch the sea bed, I want you to pick up a stone or a piece of coral. I want you to bring it up to your face, examine it closely. Put it down. Then I want you to pick up another stone. Pick it up, examine it, put it down. I want you to do this ten times.’
Everyone nodded. Me, Jack, Delph. Oh yeah, and Lu. And she did it.
Photos by Hugo Lampe 😊