Carolina Schrappe is a world-class athlete. She is also an indefatigable mother of three. She is a devoted sister. And she is an astute business owner. In her myriad roles Carol is a wonderful role model for her adoring fans, young and old, around the world. Amidst all of her awe-inducing underwater achievements, what may prove to be her most inspiring quality is her ability to find resiliency through vulnerability. While the Brazilian powerhouse (of Lebanese & German descent) is unparalleled in her country as the most innovative & experienced water woman — Schrappe has numerous national records and multi-disciplinary freediving titles under her belt; she is the only person in all South America (let alone female) who teaches both technical diving and directs the instruction of all Performance Freediving International courses, and she is a trusted coach to other record-setting Brazilians — what makes her even more appealing than all of her accolades is her spirit of “stick-to-it-tiveness”. Despite any physical or mental challenges she may face, it would seem that short-term failures actually fuel Carol’s desire to succeed in the long run.
Schrappe’s most recent accomplishment was an incredible dive to 101 meters under variable weight (VWT) at the Bonaire DeepSea Challenge. (You can watch a video of her white-card dive below). The doe-eyed, golden-haired, bronzed-limbed beauty from Curitiba, Brazil was kind enough to share the inner-workings of the days before and the attempts leading up to her eventual record-setting performance. What many people don’t know is that Carol tried and failed her first two-times this year, before finding that the third time was a charm in her quest for a new continental record.
Carolina’s first attempt ended up as an aborted-dive at a -68m. Call it a case of pre-performance jitters, Schrappe was only more determined to see it through the next day. However, on the very next day, Neptune decided to stir the pot and the attempt had to be cancelled due to safety issues, as the current was too strong to proceed. These types of hiccups can sometimes make or break the focus of a high-performance athlete. In her second official attempt on the third day, Carol made the 101m depth in a dive time of two minutes and :26 seconds flat. Unfortunately for Schrappe she received a red card for that valiant attempt as she inadvertently forgot to remove her nose clip during the technically critical surface protocol.
“I was so happy to have performed my dive without any big difficulties, so when I arrived at the surface I made the protocol and was already eagerly smiling when I realized that I had forgotten to remove the nose clip. An unforgivable failure for someone like me who has not missed this element in many, many years of competition.”
On the fourth day and her official third attempt, Carol’s warm-up dives felt great, but the safety team was concerned as they noticed that another current was steadily increasing. (While current is not typical in Bonaire, hurricanes Irma and Maria were still playing havoc on land and at sea.) Intrepid in the face of this uncertainty, Carol and the organizers decided to forge ahead, as the current did not feel too overwhelming for the team’s liking, the dive was on! A 10-minute countdown started, and at the eight minute mark a sentinel rebreather safety-diver, Paul Kirby, began his descent to the established depth of 101 meters (if and when Carol reached the bottom she would not be alone.) With about 5 minutes to go before official top, Carol tuned out everything from the external world and began her routine of breathing & relaxation. As the last :30 seconds were counted down Schrappe packed her lungs full of air in final preparation for the dive. She released the brake and began a destined descent.
“The equalization was surprisingly good! (this aspect has been my biggest difficulty so far) In fact, it felt to me as if it were the easiest equalization of the entire training season, and everything that was supposed to happen … happened. I got to 101 m with enough air to equalize and even more to spare!”
Carol was pleasantly surprised by the ease in which she performed a technique that can otherwise be vexing to someone of her athletic prowess. No matter how much conditioning in strength, athleticism & mental focus a freediver may have, sometimes all it takes is an uncooperative inner ear or mouth-fill spill to foil a dive.
Conditions beyond her control did not deter Schrappe from her goal. It is in the moments of “uh oh” something has gone wrong, that an athlete’s mettle, preparation and focus shine through. Carol was luminescent.
“Despite the fact that this dive took longer than anticipated, because there was so much current pushing the cable, which slowed my descent, I felt the rest of the dive was super smooth. Swimming under my own propulsion on the way up, the first half of the ascent was very calm, but as I neared the half-way mark up (around -50m) I could really feel the current getting stronger and so my fin-kicks were getting harder and harder! Ultimately, I arrived back at the platform to cleanly perform the surface protocol for which I received a white card after 30 seconds. It was a huge relief and a personal sense of duty fulfilled. Seeing my final dive time of 2’58, I noticed that it was an additional :33 seconds longer than the previous one. I was very surprised and at the same time I was happy. Happy to have won another challenge! I now know that equalization is no longer a problem and I am convinced that I can do deeper dives given the extra time. I look forward to training more, to learning how to better adapt my body to the depth. And yes I already have the next challenge in my focus.”
All photos courtesy of Den GC