PFD Cayman 2004: March 26 Update

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Today is a day off from record setting, but not exactly a day off. There is a lot of business and personal overhead associated with a project like this. The PFD Team was up and out quite a bit earlier than usual this morning, headed for a dramatic photo shoot with freedivers making rendezvous with a deep submersible coming up from a  244 m/ 800 feet dive. Support crew and media are licking their wounds, writing, editing, posting, laundering, scrounging around for internet access and waging unending war against the giant cockroaches and leaping lizards that infest our humble digs.

Situation normal, freediving lifestyle-wise. It has struck me that no matter how the sport may grow and prosper in the future ( and this event does, it must be said, reflect a marked inprovement in resources) there may be an underlying law of physics that cannot and will not be overcome: Grunge expands to fill the available budget. Someday we may all be guests at the Ritz Carlton for Martin’s 120m Constant Ballast attempt, but I am confident the floors of every suite will be covered with sleeping bags and redolent of 3-day stubble and B.O. .

One of the underwater videographers complained of tingling in his arm last night, not long after we got back to camp from the day’s diving. Team PFD dropped everything and focussed 100% of its attention on this suspected DCS incident. Qualified oxygen providers had a mask on the guy’s face within minutes, another Team member was already on the phone consulting with the ER and giving them a heads-up on the imminent arrival of a suspected DCS hit. We are reminded that what we are doing is not without certain risks, and that the in-water support people are no less at risk than the athletes. We have to watch out for one another. The instant this videographer became a suspected DCS hit, the PFD athletes and trainers became his support crew and were totally dedicated to  him until, hours later, the ER doctor released him. No prima donnas here.

Tomorrow, then, is the last Game Day. The 800-pound gorilla sitting in the corner of the salon is Martin Stepanek’s final go, this event, at the 100m/328 feet Constant Ballast barrier. The fact is, event fatigue has set in. It is palpable. The Team is now 26 days into this thing. I think little bugs are circulating in the crowded living quarters – Mandy’s got tonsillitis, Kirk’s voice sounds gravely, Bill Stromberg is coughing, Martin has complained of wedged ears, and has lost quite a bit of weight, all of it muscle. Not good.  I myself have definitely caught something – by the end of the day in the water yesterday, both my ears were locked up tight. Must be the bloody air conditioning. I’m camped here in the Boys Dormitory with  a Swiss, a Swede and  a Canadian. They seem to like to keep the place cold enough to hang beef. I’m from Florida, people. They’re killing me !

So, it may work out, it may not. Forecasts call for offshore winds continuing in the 20 knot range, with rough seas. “ As long as I don’t get cold, I don’t mind” said Martin. “If the skies are clear and the sun warms me while I breathe up, it’s okay.” . Did I mention he’s doing all these dives with a mask ? As if  the depths themselves weren’t amazing enough, the boy is getting down there with a mask, and is keeping it puffed enough so he’s not getting squeezed. I asked Martin whether he’d measured his lung capacity lately.

“No,” he said. “ But I can tell you this: when I did the 102 meter Free Immersion dive the other day, I packed 28 times. I could still equalize at 100 meters, and I had no mask squeeze. I know I can comfortably do 35 packs, and so I’ve calculated this means I can get down to 110 meters with a mask.”

Fine, as far as the physics goes, but life is a bit more complicated than Boyle’s Law, though, isn’t it ?  First there is this matter of the 100 meter /328 foot Constant Ballast dive.

Tomorrow.

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Paul Kotik has been a Staff Writer and Freediving Editor for DeeperBlue.com. He lives in Florida, USA with his family.

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