Mateusz ‘Matt’ Malina is a 34-year-old Polish freediver. He has been freediving for 12 years now but was aware of the sport of freediving since he was about 15 years old. In terms of achievements in freediving, he is becoming a legend.
He has set seven World Records and has achieved five World Championship titles. He can hold his breath for more than 10 minutes, dived more than 310 meters in Dynamic (DYN) with a monofin, and dived below 110m of depth. More recently he is doing Dynamic No Fins (DNF) to beyond 200m.
His motto is “Limits are only in our heads” – indeed!
Initially, his diving career started with scuba tanks on his back, but as many freedivers find, the heavy cumbersome equipment and slow speeds did not suit him. It was here though he found his love for being underwater, the freedom, and the silence. Holidays in Corfu, Greece, are where he first started to try snorkeling, realizing this was more like what he wanted, silence, gliding, weightless and free. Freediving soon followed.
More than all this success, anyone who has ever met him on the competition circuit, or a course knows he is just a genuinely good guy, helpful and approachable and is happy to share his knowledge. Given his scientific, thorough, and meticulous approach to developing his knowledge and freediving skills, it makes for the perfect person to teach the advanced level of freediving. He is an AIDA Freediving Instructor and an EFR First aid Instructor so now is ideally placed to run high-end coaching courses so let us see what he has to say:
DeeperBlue.com: What motivates you to be so successful at what you do?
Matt Malina: I think the inner curiousness. For me, it is a never-ending journey deep inside my body. I never listen to naysayers and I very often do things how I feel while mixing with science. Over many years of freediving, I have developed an exceptionally good ability to follow my own hunch. Freediving is a very psychological sport and cannot be approached only from an athletic point of view. A lot of training that I do targets both physical and mental aspects, with even more emphasis on a mental part. You can train hard all year long but when the competition comes, nerves may not let you do your best. Over the years I also realized that becoming mentally tough from freediving training, opened my mind and made me tough in other aspects of life. I treat freediving as a general body and mind training, and I have no reason to stop as I grow both as an athlete and as a person practicing it.
I also believe that the human body is the most perfect and complex machine created in the universe. As I said I am a very curious person and freediving allows me to fulfill that feeling. I am a mechanical engineer by education but I was always fascinated by how our body works – which is in a way a machine, biomechanical one to be precise – and reacts to different situations and stimuli once exposed.
DB: You are releasing a new coaching service, could you let us know a bit about that?
MM: Sure. Together with Samo Jeranko, we have created a series of training programs for all levels of freediving. We have programs for recreational, advanced, performance, elite, spearfishing oriented freedivers together with consultations and 1:1 coaching. There are so many people that want to train but they do not know how to start, how to progress, or do it efficiently while achieving our peak performance at the desired time of the season. We have learned it the hard way, so others do not have to repeat our mistakes. We can all agree that it would be awesome to have a coach who would tell us what to do. It is extremely hard to think about perfect training, execute it, and have confidence that it is the right thing to do, especially when competition doesn’t go according to our plan. We doubt us and the coach inside us. You will be able to skip that few years of experimenting, what works, what not, pick a plan suitable to your level, time availability, and just train, following the plan designed by us. I think it is a unique opportunity to train like a champion and be coached by one. We know that not everyone has time to train five or six times a week to be a champion. Do not worry, when we started, we trained as little as two or three times a week. That is why in lower tiers of difficulty levels, we carefully selected exercises that will give the most benefits, towards maximizing your performance, while you are able to train only two or three times a week.
DB: Which discipline do you think we will still see the biggest improvements in apnea?
MM: It is an awfully hard question. I think dynamic pool performances offer bigger room for improvement, especially dynamic with bi-fins since it is a new one and records are not as high as they could be. I think the hardest record to break from depth disciplines is a Constant Weight No-Fins (CNF) one. William ascended to the pinnacle of human performance to achieve that and he optimized every little aspect required for depth diving. I think it will take another few years to break it, maybe even a decade while other disciplines will be improving on a yearly or bi-yearly basis.
DB: Where is the most beautiful place you have dived?
MM: A bit cliché but for me, the two most beautiful places I have ever dived are both Blue Holes. One in Dahab and the other one in the Bahamas. However, I would love to dive in Dominica as it looks very pretty but I just have not had a chance.
DB: For success in Freediving competitions and records, what do you think are the most important things for an aspiring diver to do to be successful?
MM: In my opinion the key to success is being consistent, patient, disciplined, relentless, and have good training ethics. Motivation is not especially important as it comes and goes. It can help start some process, but you will not be able to stay equally motivated for years ahead of you. If I would train only when I am motivated, if I would push hard only when I am motivated, I would achieve a fraction of what I did. In today’s times, we are seeking instant gratification and we are not patient nor motivated enough or at least this is something we tell ourselves or how we justify our shortcomings. I always value characteristics mentioned in the beginning as the most important. You must imprint them into your DNA, work hard, be patient, consistent, disciplined, relentless and the results will come! Sometimes you just must shut up your mind and keep pushing.
DB: How did you feel each time you break a new world record?
MM: We have many “first times” in our life and they feel very special for us. Breaking world records is not different. The first one was special and made me extremely happy. To be honest, I will never forget the feeling after my first world record. Huge internal transformation and that is the moment I started to trust myself and my methods. All the others felt different than the first one. I think breaking the first world record in a depth discipline will bring similar feelings as the first pool one. I hope it will happen one day!
DB: Do you have much time for diving for enjoyment these days?
MM: Not really, now I am during lockdown due to COVID-19 and I hope to be able to freedive at least in the pool in not so distant future. Next few months I would love to travel to the Philippines or Dahab.
DB: What is your next goal?
MM: I never have any goal in mind. I try not to focus on certain numbers. I rather enjoy the training process in general. Now I hope to return to the pool as soon as they re-open after COVID-19. In the next few years, I hope to change my focus more into depth diving and I hope to have more opportunities to dive deep and explore this part of freediving as well as I discovered pool part.
You can find out more about Matt Malina at www.mattmalina.com