Interview: Julia Mouce Dominguez, Founder of Apnea Bali

Apnea Bali's Safety Team at Australian Depth National Freediving Championship 2015. Photo: Julia Wheeler

The Australian Depth National Freediving Championship 2016 will take place in Tulamben from 13th to 16th November. DeeperBlue.com spoke to Julia Mouce Dominguez, founder of Apnea Bali and the host of this year’s event and about what it takes to organize freediving competitions.

DeeperBlue: You seem to like organizing comps. This will be the 2nd comp and 3rd event for Apnea Bali this year. What do you like about it?

Julia Mouce Dominguez: I love freediving and I like challenges. Organizing a freediving competition is a great opportunity to share experiences, I love the environment of the competition, even more, when they are nationals…everyone is so nice and supportive to each other. From an organizational point of view, we like competitions because they make you stay up to date with the latest in safety.

DB: Apnea Bali hosted a Chinese competition for the first time earlier this year. Tell us about it.

JMD: It was very different to our expectations of a first Chinese depth competition. Firstly, because we had very big dives, NR and NR attempts.

For a very young country in the sport of freediving, the level of depth is already very high and I think the world should look out for China because they are coming very strong. Another surprising thing was the really, really amazing environment. None of the competitors would come back to shore after the dive…they would all stay and cheer and laugh …and help each other after the dives. It was really really amazing , we can’t wait to organize the next one.

You could feel that freedivers felt at home. They have already trained depths with us from the very beginning and they looked like they were doing dives with family and not really competing with each other.

DB: Do you think competitions are affordable for freedivers from all countries?

JMD: Yes, I think they are. There are a lot of expenses when it comes to a freediving competition, such as flying in judges, accommodation for judges, ambulances, and doctors, government and community permits. Competitions are not massive and they require a lot of technology, safety, set up and staff to happen. All organizers around the world try their best to do it the most affordable, there’s really not income for schools coming out of them. And prizes tend to be very good in comparison with other sports. The only limiting factor for competitors around the world is travel distance.

DB: How would you like to see the FD scene grow in Indonesia?

JMD: I love Indonesia and Indonesians, I would love the sport of free diving to grow.

Indonesians are just starting to understand that free diving is a sport that carries responsibilities and can be dangerous if not properly practiced. We have been here for 5 years and in the last two years, people have started to understand that is very important to get the proper education before buying very expensive equipment.

I would like Indonesians to practice this sport more and enjoy the amazing set up, big depths and the most beautiful aquatic environment that they have on their doorstep. I would like them to be ambassadors of the sport that promote awareness of the marine environment.

DB: Does Apnea Bali contribute to growing local talent? How?

JMD: I think we do, we have sponsored freedivers for training before and also are training local instructors like Galih and Agus. They have both already reached 50 meters and we would like them to keep on training and taking freediving even deeper. We also trained NR athletes like Nora Lestari and always give special prices to local students.

DB: What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever seen during a comp?

JMD: I think the funniest was when I was talking with a friend of mine (can’t say the name) and after the dive and watching other people dives she tells me: ”Oh I’m gonna go and clean and change myself….always when I relax in my deep diving… I poo myself badly.” Hahahaha!

DB: What advice would you give to athletes to help with nerves on the day?

JMD: I would tell them to switch the focus. Instead of thinking of judges, rules….I would tell them that in the competitions are when they can dive with the best set-up ever. conditions are meant to be the best, maximum safety…and everyone is in the same situation. I would tell them to dive for themselves and not for the social media and think of the competition as the place to share what they love with the other freaks that also love it!=)

I would tell them that is the easiest dive because there are no decisions to be made at the last moment…you just have to breathe, prepare, dive and what you know you can do…only with a better set up.

DB: What makes Tulamben so suited to competitions?

JMD: The big depths are very close to shore, we really know the behavior of the currents and we can predict the best time for deep training or competitions. Being close to shore makes it much easier when creating evacuation plans and divers can go back to shore once they finish.

Also, there is a great variety of hotels for all budgets and there is an awesome support from the Tulamben community toward the activity.

DB: Tell us about Miguel Lozano’s world record attempt. Why did he choose Tulamben? How did you help him prepare? How did you feel during and after the attempt?

JMD: He chose Tulamben because the conditions are great and we have been friends for a long time. He knew that we would take care of him and that we really care for him.

He trusts Apnea Bali a lot, he knows the set-up and our experience with depth and he knows our safety divers well. We supported and organized his record attempt and the training, provided him with safety and the full set up. We organized his safety and evacuation plan.

We felt very confident- Miguel is one of the best freedivers in the world because he knows what he does. We saw him very strong and improving on every dive. It was a shame that he got sick a few days before the WR attempt.

We felt sad because we really wanted him to do it. It takes a great effort for an athlete to organize and train for a WR, it puts a lot of pressure on athletes… so we admire Miguel Lozano even more than before. We are really sure that he will be a World Champion, for us at least…he already is.

DB: Is anyone planning a world record attempt during the Australian Depth National Freediving Championship?

JMD: No.

DB: How do you select and train safety divers?

JMD: The safety divers are normally the instructors working at the school, to be an instructor in Apnea Bali means that you will be able to follow students up to where they set up the line on the firsts courses, so they can all easily arrive at 40 meters. The training we do is actually doing the safeties on the big dives to release the pressure put on them during the attempt.

We made safeties from 30 meters individually and between 2 safeties from 40m. We talk about the dive and safety and what to do in different situations as part of our prep.

DB: What kind of safety and first aid do you have on-site?

JMD: For the WR we were 4 safeties, 1 counter ballast operator, 1 Sonar operator dictating the depths and 1 person counting the time and sending the safety divers.

There is a speed boat with a doctor and a paramedic with O2 and a standby ambulance with AED and intubation equipment 3 minutes from the platform.

The ambulance is prepared for all possible emergency situations.

DeeperBlue would like to wish all athletes the best and safest of dives during this year’s competition. Have fun!