Breathe and relax, because in two minutes you’re going to dive deeper than you ever have before. Being nervous will make you speed up your breathing and any hyperventilation could cause a blackout. Now the Competition Judge tells you that you have 30 seconds to start your dive. You get ready to take your final breath trying to keep your body loose, your heart rate slow, your thoughts positive and not thinking about all the things that could go wrong.
Fear and overcoming fear is so integral to freediving. Each time I’ve attempted a PB dive I was nervous and sometimes I was genuinely afraid. I see that same fear in the faces of almost everyone that does a course with me as they breathe and get ready for their first dive to twenty metres.
For me the process of mastering my fear has really been a process of building up my self-belief. I may still be afraid before a big dive but I know I’m capable and that the fear will not stop me. I’m not certain that I will ever lose that fear completely and perhaps it is healthy to hang onto it.
Building self-belief is something that comes slowly, usually with consecutive successful dives. With every PB and every new depth we will believe in our abilities more and more. It’s one of these things that takes a while to build but can be destroyed very quickly- sometimes in just one dive. That’s also why it’s important to increase our depths slowly, bit by bit. Constant success breeds more success.
I have seen people break against their own desire to keep diving deeper, rushing and getting caught up in numbers. Eventually one too many unpleasant dives will diminish their will power, their self-belief and those two things are the fuel we use to overcome our fear and reassure ourselves in the moments before we take our final breath.
Looking at it like this we really shouldn’t speak about mastering fear but rather managing it. I manage my own dives carefully so that they all roll on from each other and progress in such a way that is digestible for my mind. The fear will always be there. But as long as I make sure all my dives are comfortable, fun and within my limit my self-believe will always be stronger than my fear.