Head to Head: Rudi Castineyra – Part I

DB: Your Name?

Rudi: Rudi Castineyra

DB: Your nationality?

Rudi: Born in Cuba, currently naturalized as an American citizen.

DB: And your age ?

Rudi: 34 man, it’s all downhill from here…

DB: What are some of your key accomplishments in freediving ?

Rudi: Trainer of 4 world record holders (Alejandro Ravelo, Tanya Streeter, Yasemin Dalkilic, David Lee), directly responsible for training and organizing a combined 15 world records with these athletes. Founder and current president of F.R.E.E. and the most important accomplishment, to have dived for 25 years and have lived to tell the story…

DB: Why did you become involved in freediving?

Rudi: Being born in Cuba, the Caribbean sea was only about 200 meters from my backyard, so how could I resist? For all of us, the sea was a means to help us put food on the table growing up during hard times but also a place of inspiration and beauty, basically, the main theme in our lives.

Photo: Richard Garel

Rudi Castineyra

DB: How often do you train?

Rudi: I train every day whenever possible, even if not directly for freediving, to stay fit and healthy.

DB: What is a typical day for you in your training routine – without divulging any special techniques that you don’t feel comfortable revealing:

Rudi: I try to train at around 60-90 minutes per day, always doing 2-3 cardio sessions per week, another 3-4 muscle strengthening sessions and 2-3 freediving/pool sessions. I train hard, always striving to be at the top of my safe limits, whatever they may be at that point.

DB: Do you have any special dietary needs or preferences that you feel helps your training? Do you have any recommendations regarding this topic?

Rudi: Definitely, diet is very important. Freediving is purely anaerobic and as such it consumes a lot of the protein stores in the muscles, so restoring adequate levels of protein to the body is my main concern. I follow a 40/50/10 diet ratio (carbs/proteins/fats) and find that it works very well for me. Most importantly, meals should be consumed immediately after heavy workouts, when the muscles are at their most receptive for nutrients and the body at its weakest, the perfect time to replenish. I drink between 3-5 liters of water per day and find that this is the best cleansing tool and most powerful detoxifier there is.

DB: Where do you mainly train – i.e.; pool, open water, etc.

Rudi: Mostly in the gym actually, even for freediving purposes I can find exercises that I can do there that will keep me in top diving shape. I use the pool about twice per week, though sometimes even less and ocean training is at this point of my life quite minimal unfortunately…

DB: What is your favorite discipline in the sport of freediving?

Rudi: Definitely Unassisted Constant Ballast, as I find it to be the "truest" and most athletic of all categories.

DB: What is the most memorable dive or attempt that you have had – positive or negative:

Rudi: My most memorable dive was without a doubt the first time I reached 30 meters, which happened about a week after I turned 13 years old, and which was a goal that back in 1982 seemed like the crowning achievement of my life. That day I stayed in the water for more than one hour after the dive, just floating there, thinking about what a great dive that had been…

DB: What advice would you give to someone who might be interested in the sport of freediving?

Rudi: BE SAFE!!! If it feels hard, or too much, too deep, too long, or you are not sure that you can’t do it, then don’t do it! Always dive with a partner who is at least as safety minded as you are and as good a diver as you are. Also, don’t rush to break records or attain personal bests, just relax and let your progression be slow, concentrate on enjoying yourself instead of on the numbers.

DB: What do you do outside of the sport?

Rudi: I have a production company that specializes in underwater video, photography, safety and rescue support and even stunt work for the movie industry.

DB: Tell us about how you learned to freedive and spearfish in your native Cuba?

Rudi: My grandfather had been a school teacher and he taught me to read when I was 4 years old. He then gave me Cousteau’s "The Silent World" as my first book and that was it, I became obsessed with underwater adventures and exploration. I started freediving with my friends around that time and we started spearfishing around the age of 7 or 8. We had an old Russian aluminum arbalette with an effective shot range of about 60 cm 🙂 and with that we managed to make our first catches! It all went from there, venturing always deeper and always chasing after bigger fish, but still the most amazing thing for me was the sea itself, bigger than any fish or any dive.

DB: Did you have any mentors? Who were they?

Rudi: No, no mentors really. I knew all about the amazing exploits of Cousteau, Mayol, Maiorca and Scarpatti, but by the time I met other older people with good knowledge and the gift to pass it on I had basically formed my own technique of freediving. However, I have indeed learned a LOT from other divers that I have met through the years and my training system today owes a lot to the contributions and discoveries of many others.

DB: Were you inspired by any of the early freediving pioneers?

Rudi: Definitely, I think I could recite by memory every event that the Calypso went through on each and everyone of its trips, and I used to "talk to" Cousteau, Dumas and Tailliez every night before I slept. Then as the exploits of the early freedivers started filtering through the Cuban press, I collected all of them and read and re-read these clippings millions of times, seeing myself diving with Maiorca in Siracusa or Mayol in Elba. it was an exciting and inspiring time of my life, and I cannot see myself growing up in this Nintendo age at all!

DB: Where are your favourite diving locations?

Rudi: Well, nothing beats the sheer vertical cliffs of the Southern coast of Cuba if you want to feel the majesty of the ocean, but the Red Sea is the champion of amazing colors and shapes and the Turkish Aegean coast is my favorite for deep freediving, with its mystical blues and unsurpassed visibility.

DB: Do you continue to train for the performance aspect of freediving?

Rudi: Not really, and I regret it frequently. I don’t have the time (or the will) to put myself under the same rigorous training regimes that I so happily prescribe for others, and feel content with shallower dives. However, before too long I want to equal my old personal best that I achieved when I was 16 years old and then surpass it, but that’s it, I do not feel the need to "go for it" anymore, not in that sense at least.

DB: You have a production company called ‘Ideas in Blue’ which is involved with underwater filming and photography. Can you tell us about some of your recent projects?

Rudi: We recently finished a great documentary about Yasemin Dalkilic called "A Passion in Blue" which is selling very successfully on the international market and will soon be available on video and DVD for all freediving fans. Other than that, we are currently working on a promotional video for a diving equipment manufacturing company and testing some underwater HID light systems for a major video and electronics manufacturer. Later in the year we will start production on several documentaries, including the series "History of Freediving" and the special "The Modern Sponge Hunters".

DB: If you were granted one final day of diving of any kind, what would you choose to do?

Rudi: Freediving at night around the small isles on the South of Cuba during the early part of May. The corals are spawning and huge schools of migrating red snappers, groupers and pelagics converge on the shallows and lay there for hours, it’s an incredible sight, definitely that last image I would like on my mind when it comes time to go.

In the second part of this 2-part feature, Rudi dives deep into controversy. Safety issues, ultimate limits, and the future of our sport as Rudi sees it.

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