All the ones who come, all the ones who go down to the water…

Whew. What a couple of weeks it has been. And now that it is coming to the end of the Orr Season of Remembrance, breathing can begin again soon.

My apartment currently smells of fresh paint (my landlords painted my bathroom. I am far too excited about this), and the chorizo-paprika-tomatoeyness that was my interpretation of Kylie’s delicious looking soup. I’m pretty sure I was a wee ways off from the beautiful specimen she blogged. Still, I wiped the bowl clean. Thanks Kylie – that was some great inspiration. There is a knitting project that demands my most immediate attention, and a bathroom to unpack. How domestic.

But first things first. I went up to Taupo for my first depth competition this past weekend. I drove up with a fellow diver, his sister and her partner. It was precisely what I needed – and a really great trip. Tolkien, Hitchcock, A-team theme, pies… really fantastic.

And then came the nerves. What to nominate. What discipline to do first? In depth competitions, you have to state the depth you are going to dive to, and which discipline – Free Immersion/FIM (pulling yourself up and down the line), Constant Weight/CWT (swimming down to the plate at the bottom of the line with fins, and swimming back up), and Constant Weight with No Fins/CNF (swimming down and up the line by breaststroke) – you cannot swim any deeper as you are attached to the line, and have to remove a tag from the base plate to prove you made it to the bottom.

My first taste of depth was in the tropical waters of Gili… and Wellington harbour with its almost zero-visibility is a struggle to guess your progress, so my real training session happened in Taupo 2 weekends ago. In fresh water with decent vis and no real idea what I was capable of, other than knowing I really needed to work in several techniques. I’d made it to 19m FIM at the training camp, so I decided to do that again.

Waiting for the launch from Motutere wharf on the first day of competition

Waiting for the launch from Motutere wharf on the first day of competition

I was second last diver on the first day of the competition, and I was absolutely terrified. I had all day to psyche myself out of it. What was I doing there – the wonderful Aussies that had come over, as well as all the other divers were so much better than I am. I was going to screw up amazingly. I couldn’t equalise on the practice line. I was going to mess up my surface protocol… It was going to be an epic failure. I hung on the line for dear life and all could see my panic. They counted me down. I took a breath and went for it. Worried that I didn’t take a big enough breath. That I wasn’t going to equalise deep enough.

And then my rational brain smothered my hysterical emotional brain and went to business. I got down to depth, quite surprised when I saw the plate, grabbed the tag, and started for the surface thinking ah yeah… that wasn’t too bad. Did my surface protocol with some disbelief, and looked at the tag in my hand. It had been so easy.

I was the last diver on the second day of competition, and this time decided to do 20m CWT. I’d pulled myself up and down the line feet first on the first day to deal with my equalisation issues (my ears hate me sometimes), so the next test was to reach 20m head first. I was practicing my duck dives in my sleep. Keeping my chin in, equalising constantly… The lake was really choppy for this dive. But again, I did it. After panicking on the surface, the rational brain kicked in and so I got my second tag and white card.

I’m really thankful for my rational brain doing that. There is nothing between you and your thoughts when you are in the water, and my head was a constant mess on the practice line. There are several things I am dealing with that just wouldn’t let me relax. If it had been like that on the competition line, it would have been a disaster. Of course, have all day to think about it doesn’t help.

So I was delighted to be first up on the final day. I decided to go for broke. 25m FIM. My depth personal best. The depth I had targeted when I started. The depth I want to be comfortable at to swim with the deeper fishes. If I could do 25m, I can do anything. I needed to do this to prove to me that I am capable. Everybody else seemed to think so – they all started somewhere too – but I needed to do this for me.

It was an early start. My gods, it was early. And hot water for my suit and booties stopped me for turning into an icicle immediately. But there was still a wait. Just not too long again.

ready to go, Sunday morning.

All geared up for the PB dive. It was a stunning morning at Motutere Bay. Photo by Paul McKeown

I was first up, followed by the Australian mermaid herself, Amber Bourke. Amber is such a beautiful diver. I watched her in the pool last year at ODEX, and to see her depth disciplines as well… she’s going to go very far, that lass. Again, I was nervous. But I wasn’t giving myself too much time to think about it. Again on the practice line, I was a mess. Right up to beginning the dive on the competition line I was second guessing myself. I can’t just relax, it seems. The judges complained that I looked too serious. I was too busy freaking out. My inner calm was nowhere to be seen. Not until the pointy end of the performance.

My final dive, I counted my pulls. 19-20-21-22… at 22, I looked down to the very welcome sight of the base plate with all its tags ready for the day, some 3m from me. I felt good. I was able to even pause and choose which tag to take, rather than just grabbing and going. I glided up the line. I felt great. I nailed my surface protocol. I just proved to myself what I could do, and what I am capable of doing next. There may have even been a yell of elation.

PB photo

Showing off my tag for my 25m Free Immersion dive in Taupo on 23 March 2014. My depth PB. Photo by Kat Nevatt.

Of course, being freezing cold, and diving with a cap and not a hood meant that I managed to spasm my right arm, shoulder and side of my neck on the dive and waiting for the adjudication. Attempting to get onto the launch was interesting. The 25 minute hot shower and hot chocolate that followed was like manna from heaven.

Despite a few little niggles and my brain, it was an absolutely fantastic weekend with an incredible bunch of lunatics. Freedivers are a mad group, but they are also a wonderful shoal of merpeople. It is always such a pleasure being with others who love being in the water as much as I do. And so to the winter champs, and to ODEX in September. Countless lengths of working on my kick has already begun. There will be many more hours to go.

And so I sit here, with my fins across the way and my yoga mat behind me, missing the cold water of Lake Taupo and my wetsuit. My days have already been roughly ordered, and my WIPs and Books will not be neglected. Mind you, I may need to get my equinox back to the mindless knitting stage for the Lights Up Knitting in two weeks. It’s the Grand Budapest Hotel, and the trailer looks amazing. I can’t wait!

Summer has ended. My favourite season has begun. Now just to put my head down and reach my next set of goals. I have a very long way to go before June.

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