The remote island of Long Island in the Bahamas hides some extraordinary diving locations along its coast. One of them is Dean's Blue Hole, a natural phenomenon located in the middle of a protected bay, reaching down to a depth of 203 metres. Due to the outstanding conditions it provides, it is no coincidence that most world records in depth freediving have been set there. Unlike out in the open sea, divers are not obliged to wrestle with waves, currents or lower temperatures occurring as they swim deeper and deeper down the abyss. The only condition requiring special preparation is the lack of light.
As part of the prestigious “Vertical Blue” competition taking place in July of last year, I performed some of my deepest dives into this hole, during some of which I dived more than 110 metres deep. The day of this feat began like any other. A simple breakfast consisting of cereal, coconut water, and rice milk is an ideal hydration meal which also makes for an easily digestible source of energy.
One hour before the dive, I make my presence known to the judges at the beach right next to Dean’s Blue Hole, thus officially confirming my arrival. Before each dive, I always breathe through my nose, taking shallow, slow breaths. This helps me keep the proportion between oxygen and carbon dioxide in my blood at an optimal level. Twenty minutes before the beginning of the dive, I slowly swim towards the platform with competition ropes hanging from it. I move at a slow pace as I continue to control my breathing in order to calm my body and relax my spirit. Through years of training, I’ve been able to eliminate warm-up dive sessions from my training procedure, which leaves me to float on the surface of the water, waiting for my time to dive, which will be announced through a countdown two minutes before the actual dive is to take place.
After taking a deep breath which fills my lungs with over twelve litres of precious oxygen, my dive begins as I set out to swim towards the depth announced in advance. After twenty metres of swimming, the buoyancy force loses its power as I begin the most beautiful part of the dive: free-falling. This phenomenon occurs when the buoyancy force wears off due to the pressure of the environment, leaving the gravity force to pull us towards the ocean floor at a speed of one metre per second. It is an addictive feeling and the reason why I’m practising this sport in the first place. At the same time, our heart rate slows down, falling at under thirty beats per minute: our thoughts become crystal clear and we are suddenly completely present in the moment. We use air in our lungs or mouths to equalise the pressure. Right before reaching the announced depth, an alarm on my watch reminds me to pick up the tag waiting for me on a plaque: the tag will serve as proof to the judges that I really dived all the way down to the target depth.
Swimming back, however, is a completely different experience. Unlike during the dive, you have to work extremely hard when swimming up. Upon noticing the safety divers waiting for me at the depth of 35 metres, I focus on my breathing after the dive, which is the most important part of the whole experience in terms of safety. In addition to the safety divers, we are also protected by a rope with which we are attached to the competition rope, allowing the organiser of the event to pull us back to the surface at any time.
Everything else on this island, however, is not secondary to setting records in freediving. Numerous other blue abysses in even more remote locations allow for extraordinary underwater photography backdrops. Due to the limestone terrain, sea abysses with crystal clear water and many marine organisms can even be found in the heart of the island. For me, this is why Long Island falls into the category of those rare places that have left such a lasting impression in my memory that I am constantly dreaming of going back.
Eternally in love with the sea and its depths that he first approached as an underwater hunter, he is a competitive freediver and an experienced freediving instructor. By diving to a depth of 110 metres with a dive fin, he became the world silver medallist and, to date, the only Slovenian to dive that deep. Through photos and stories, he enjoys sharing his passion for the underwater world with readers of The Hive.