Sebastien Murat, a native of Switzerland, divides his time between Bali, Indonesia and Australia, and works as a scuba instructor and underwater consultant for television. His schedule gives him the time to train full-time in his passion: freediving.
PS: I’ll start off with the question of your freediving “roots”. Talk about what made you choose freediving over the other sports you used to do.
SM: It was purely accidental. My mother, of all people, indirectly introduced me to it after my athletics career came to an abrupt and unfortunate end due to injuries. The first time I tried it I managed to pull out a 6’45″ sitting around at home and 7’17″ by weeks end which motivated me to switch sports without too much regret. Retrospectively, I don’t think I was especially talented for it; I was just extremely fit from all the athletics.
PS: Why do you freedive?
["sebastien_murat1" left] SM: Above all else, there’s great joy in being close to nature; it’s a revitalizing experience. In truth, I’d be hard pressed to find an activity that would be better suited to my temperamentor that would offer me as many unique, even creative possibilities. Water is such fascinating medium to explore. Apart from that, diving helps clear the head of rubbish thoughts and regain some control. There’s a positive spill over to other parts of my life because of it.
PS: I know a lot of freedivers would agree that freediving is a positive force in their lives, the joy of being underwater, shielded from the hubbub of everyday life. For some, it is a hobby; for others it consumes their every waking hour. How does freediving affect your lifestyle?
SM: It’s a central part of my life taking most of my time, the remainder shared with family and friends. It fits in relatively well as I’m fortunate enough to be able to train full-time and still put bread on the table.
PS: On yourwebsite, you promote yourself as a highly accomplished diver. What motivates you to dive deep?
SM: I’m not particularly motivated to dive deep, that’s incidental, something that happens when I’m feeling fine. The ‘softer’ approach to training yields better more lasting and satisfying results. It’s no accident that I’ve kept on improving using such training methods.
PS: Given the youth of our sport, many training methods abound, personalities and organizations. What’s the “next thing” that will change freediving?
SM: No “thing” will change freediving. Only people and their willingness to recognize, accept and embrace change will change freediving. Some think that the “next thing” will be an amazing world record, better security, rules, techniques or equipment. No doubt, these will help but it’s not good to let the act of diving be overshadowed by such things. These are only short-term fixes.
PS: Which part of freediving is most open to or needs??improvement and innovation?
["sebastien_murat2" right] SM: As far as I’m concerned the teaching of diving needs the most improvement. It’s often a case of a too keen willingness to teach. I consider teaching freediving as a very serious practice that can be both risky and dangerous to student and instructor. On one hand, you often end up teaching people whose abilities are less than your own so they look up to you to make all the decisions and take the responsibility for their well-being, all the while they’re trying to impress you, pushing and exceeding their limits. Now they have half a clue but that’s still not the whole picture. My view is that without knowing someone’s temperament, which takes time, it can be like playing Russian Roulette. As you might expect, because of this, I have few students.
PS: What about specific problems with current instruction practices?
SM: There’s much misinformation regarding the topic of ventilation and how it should be done to maximize performance and not compromise safety. There are many variants, most used incorrectly. All ventilation that is forced, even slightly, is hyperventilation. For maximal effort diving it is absolutely risky and dangerous to hyperventilate. Moreover, unnaturally lowering ppCO2 will reduce one’s tolerance to hypoxia, lowering your true potential. Hyperventilation is only beneficial in ‘natural’ diving, i.e., repetitive, sub-maximal diving, as it reduces the accumulation of metabolic waste products, which would otherwise lead to an early onset of muscular fatigue.