In the last half year I have witnessed a human evolution. It has been one of the most fascinating times in my water sports career. Just recently I was lucky enough to be a part of the scuba support team who worked with Brett Lemaster as he trained for and set the Men’s Constant Ballast world free diving record. In my free diving and scuba diving history of over ten years, I was never so awed by a person’s drive to accomplish a challenge in the water. I’ve completed around 3000hrs underwater plus or minus. Nothing prepared me for what I experienced. I had one of the most amazing moments in my life watching Brett swim down unassisted to 266ft, pick a tag off a line, then turn around, calm, cool and collected swimming back to the surface, all on his own accord!
The Constant Ballast category in free diving compititions is by far the most difficult form of free diving. It is the one that demands the most amount of respect from anyone who is involved in the sport of free diving. In terms of what holding the Constant Ballast World Record would be if you were a boxer, baseball player or even into hockey. It’s like the Heavy Weight Belt, World Series or Stanley Cup! What’s even better is there has never been a North American who held the TITLE. History in the making!
During Brett’s two minute and fifty second dive he wore four pounds of weight. A three millimeter wet suit and C4 carbon fiber blade fins. He spent about an hour preparing to make his descent. During warm up Brett would go into a transformation. Brett moved from being a terrestrial being, morfing into an aquatic one. A process that Brett has been perfecting over the past five years of his life. Mammalian Diving Reflex what is it? It’s Brett’s heart rate dropping, bradicardia ever slowly as he drops in the water column on his descent. His heart rate may drop as low as 10-12 beats per minute, maybe less? His blood shunting (blood vessel contractions in the extremities forcing blood back to the body’s core). The oxygen rich blood is relocated back to the major organs, brain, heart and liver. His body became fully transitioned from our air environment to his now very familiar aquatic surroundings. We as human beings grow up with our stimulus coming from the land. Brett has adapted to take control of his aquatic reaction. He uses his aquatic biorhythms, (latent breath-hold skills deep in his brain cortex) to forge ever deeper past what no other person has ever done. Most land locked humans will never understand what we as free divers experience. Basically we change during repetitive breath-hold dives. Focus, breathing patterns, descent turn around at depth and lastly ascent back to the surface. Nothing like it is there? NOTHING!
That does it take to be the best, the very best in free diving? From what I can see, drive and dedication for sure, a willingness to let it all go, get in touch and trust your most basic instincts and go for it! Trust in yourself. And Big…. Call it passions; call it destiny call it what ever you want, Brett became very serious about becoming the world’s deepest man. I teach free diving. I free dive, alot! I can tell you from a person who has made, what I would consider deep free dives, to accomplish what Brett did is amazing!
I was very lucky I had the opportunities to see Brett’s free dives from all sorts of wild angles. On the surface and down too 140ish, just out free diving with Brett on the deep wall in front of the dive shop. At depths past 270 feet on open circuit scuba with four different scuba cylinders, three different kinds of breathing mixtures, two masks and a Video with lights, in a pear tree (Christmas humor). Having all these different views afforded a perspective that only proved more how incredible Brett’s dive was. It is always quite the amazing site, watching a free diver ascending. Appearing from no-where. Rising up from the cobalt blue depths off a deep reef wall.
As Brett made his descent he was allowed to utilize a reference line dropped from the dive boat. The line was weighted at one hundred and fifty pounds. The heavier the weight the straighter the line. That single straight line and tank tapping by Brett’s safety divers were his only references all the way down to forty-four fathoms under the sea. The rules Brett’s followed for his free dive would not allow him to pull down or even touch the line on descent. The only time Brett could touch the line was at depth. He would stop turn right around, reach out grab the tag and start kicking back up. The depth is marked with a colored tag. Pre-dive weighted measurements of the line were made the day before under the direction of two judges from AIDA (a new free diving organization performing judging, Aida’s role is to establish judging consistency in the competition side of the sport). A heavy security was put on to watch the line that night. Measuring the line insured that when Brett reached depth it was with precise accuracy. With all things in place Brett prepared for his dive. Breathing, focus, relax ready go! All the way descending target depth at 266ft his diving reflex preserving him, preparing him for his long ascent back to the first atmosphere. Then just under three minutes into his dive Brett is back to the surface.
Whether you go out for your first ever snorkel on a shallow coral reef, as an experienced underwater hunter cruise kelp beds endlessly searching for the elusive White Sea Bass or attempt a personal best constant ballast breath-hold dive well past recreational scuba diving limits. Every one of you can all appreciate the kind of effort that goes into the training, preparations in attempting and in the end setting the world record for constant ballast free diving!