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HomeFreedivingApnea Profile - Kathryn McPhee

Apnea Profile – Kathryn McPhee

Apnea Profile – Kathryn McPhee

KathrynMcPhee is New Zealand’shottest news in the freediving world and is making her debut into theinternational circuit with astonishing results. Sara-Lise Haith, News Editor for manages to capture someof Kathryn’s time to find out what lies behind this spectacular young up andcoming athlete.


Where were you born? In whichtown do you live?

I was bornand grew up in Palmerston North, New Zealand. I moved to thecapital: Wellington 10 years ago to study atuniversity and have been living here ever since.

What is your profession?

I’m anarchitect in a small firm – there are three of us, and there’s a great vibe inthe office.

When did you start freediving?

Three and ahalf years ago I was dragged along to a training session with a friend TammyAnderson to see if I liked it. She no longer trains but has partnered up with DaveMullins and was our safety diver at the Apneists’ Challenge.

Have you always been in and around the water?

My parentsbought a house with a very cold pool when I was seven. My older brother Craigand I had to go to swimming lessons as I couldn’t even touch the bottom. Welearned to swim and then started taking it seriously. I was a competitiveswimmer from the age of 9 to 14. I got a couple of regional breaststrokerecords but nothing of real note. We didn’t end up using the pool at home verymuch. I then did virtually nothing physical until I finished my architecturedegree in 2003. I learned to scuba dive (without my husband) on our honeymoonin Thailandlate 2003. A couple of years of pretty intense scuba diving around Wellington with Tammy andmy boss Angela followed. Then Ang got pregnant, Tammy took up spear fishingwith Dave and my freediving training started to get in the way…

How often do you train? What is your training programme? Do youcross-train, and if so, which sports/exercises?

I havepulled back my training a lot since last year’s world champs in Slovenia. I nowdo four pool sessions and one dry session each week. In summer the pool mightbe replaced by depth training on the weekends. I try to do things I enjoy. I dominimal fitness work. I used to swim and do Bikram yoga, but I’ve stopped bothas I don’t think they were helping apart from making me more tired. I also usedto do a lot of CO2 tables, which I think gave me a really good base when Ialtered my training. Now I do a lot of max attempts and technique work now. Itmeans I don’t get as tired and I’m really learning to deal with everything inthe later stages of my dives.

I always dobody stretching prior to diving. All mymax attempts are without warm ups now. The dry session is normally a fewstatics followed by lung stretching. I should probably also note that I finallylearned how to pack in October last year, which has made a huge difference tomy results. My lungs are still growing. I’ve also found that getting enoughsleep and enough to eat is really important. I’m quite a goal driven person, soa lot of my training focuses fairly obsessively around the latest goal, whetherit be a greater distance or perfecting part of my technique.


How long did it take you to start reaching considerable depths? Did youfind it easy?

I stillhaven’t done a lot of deep diving. I still struggle mentally with deep divesbeyond about 15m. Four years ago I wouldn’t even submerge while snorkelling.Before this year I hadn’t been past 42m with fins and had only done about 4deep dives without fins. William Trubridge came home at Christmas and took anadvanced course in Lake Taupo, which most of thecompetitive Kiwis freedivers took part in. I learn a lot and doubled the numberof deep dives I’d done without fins. We had a lot of bad weather over summerand each time we planned to take the 5 hour trip each way to the lake we had tocall it off due to some pretty extreme storms. I instead did a lot of negativesin Wellingtonharbour to about 15m and sat in the silt trying to deal with depth.

It wasn’tuntil I got to the Bahamaswhere I spent three weeks training and competing that I really started to beable to get into some good depth. The negatives paid off at depth but I stillhave a lot to learn in this area. I’ve still done less than 20 no fins deepdives now, probably about the same with fins and 2 free immersion. I’mdesperate to go back to somewhere with warm clear calm water to learn to relaxat depth and really see what I am capable of. I’m pretty buoyant so being ableto go without a wetsuit would be ideal. It’s always a struggle with the 5mmsuit and lots of lead. We only dive in Lake Taupoover summer. The lake sounds pretty good compared to a lot of others I’ve heardabout, but there are some pretty nasty thermoclines and we normally have toswim out about 500m to get to depth, by which time any real max attempts arecompromised. I think it was about 18 degrees on the surface and 9 at 50m at theend of summer this year.

What (if any) are you dietary habits? Do you eat anything special, andwhat do you not eat?

I’ve gladlydiscovered that a couple of red wines and a steak the night before a maxattempt seems to really pay off! I do drink a lot of water and avoid eatingbread on the same day before diving. I quite eat a lot before diving otherwiseI get shaky – mainly fruit and muesli. Generally, I just have a pretty balanceddiet and try to avoid nasty pre-packaged and fast foods. I do enjoy darkchocolate rather too often though.

Which freediver is your major influence, and why?

I’m mostlyinfluenced by the people around me. I work closely with my dive buddies: ChrisMarshall, Kerian Hibbs, Phil Clayton and Guy Brew. We help each other out withtechnique and ideas a lot and push each other along as we all improve. We’reall rather obsessive competitive perfectionists which really helps. WilliamTrubridge has also taught me quite a lot of helpful bits and pieces this yearthrough his advanced course and training with him in the Bahamas – a few of histechniques have really helped increase my dives. I think he fits into theobsessive competitive perfectionist category too.



What made you decide to compete?

The nationalrecords weren’t very high when I first started and I wanted to break the 66mDNF. I had my first black out trying too hard for it in training. Once Istarted competing I got hooked.

What are your current personal bests? Which is your favourite discipline?

STA:5’46” 5/8/06 NR

DYN: 169m11/5/08 NR

DNF: 150m10/5/08 NR

CW: -65m10/4/08 NR

CNF: -50m9/4/08 NR

FIM: -57m 1/4/08 NR

I really enjoythe no fins events and I’ve really been coming around to statics lately. Ithink I’d quite enjoy free immersion too (limited experience as we don’tgenerally have enough weight on the bottom of the line for safety reasons).Does that just give you the (correct) impression that I don’t really enjoywearing fins? Must start working on that…

What are your goals for your future in freediving?

I was toyingwith the idea of taking on the guys and attempting the Kiwi men’s records, butwith half of them being world records and the others still exceeding thewomen’s world records I might have to look at just pushing out my records andcompeting with other women internationally. I’d like to have a go at the DNFworld record soon and spend some time training at depth to try to relax a bitmore and see where my limits are.


Good luckKathryn, we hope to see more of you in the future.

Sara-Lise Haith
Sara-Lise Haith
Sara-Lise is the former News Editor for She is based in Dubai.