An occasional meeting with Gerardo Canta (freedive instructor of Apnea Academy) and Roberto Landi (friend and freediver as well), put under my attention the incoming freediving workshop held by Umberto Pelizzari together with Gerardo himself. Location of the workshop: Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Dubai.
I cannot deny the idea of meeting so a famous athlete and to becoming media partner of such an event made me immediately honored; and when I’ve been asked to join other participants, I also accepted the invitation.
So, I attended the course. I was fascinated by the professionalism of the team, by the commitment required for this physical discipline (although doing triathlons I found these days very tiring) despite the mental component is crucial, and by a discipline so different from the one I usually practice, albeit in the same environment.
One of the things mostly impressed me, it was the approach you must have when freediving. The preparation phase is much more important than the act itself of staying without breathing. Apnea is a voluntary suspension of your breath, so to learn how to practice apnea you have to learn how to breathe properly first.
The ability to hold your breath for a long period of time is a much sought-after skill. Breathing is a natural thing for every living being: breathing well is something we need to learn and train. It is also vital you relax completely and release any tension from your body as you hold your breath, with proper relaxation techniques (designed to increase our underwater resistance without breathing); not only when practicing the static apnea, but also during the dynamic freediving: any movement or displacement must be carried out in order to minimize the consumption of oxygen, and so extending the time / depth reached.
At the workshop we also got chance to spend some time with Umberto, for a small interview:
• Nico: Why Umberto Pelizzari became a freediver?
Umberto: It happened by chance. I started since I was a child, in the swimming pool. Playing with other kids and practicing “breath-holding games”. Than the games become challenges; how long you can stay underwater; how far you can go underwater.. and so on. I remember at that time I was not counting how many “pools”, but how many tiles.. I think the idea of becoming a freediver started in those situations, adding to the passion also the study of the correct techniques to improve day by day.
• N: What’s your feeling when you reach an important depth?
U: In order to feel some sensation, you don’t need to go so deep. You can feel something special also when you are much less deeper than record depths. One of the sensation I remember is when training in the swimming pool with the ballast, feeling my body lighter and lighter, up to feeling only my mind in the water. Or when you are in the open sea, and you imagine yourself as just a spot in the deep blue.
• N: Any suggestion to an aspirant freediver?
U: Choose a good instructor; holding your breath is an un-natural behaviour, so it’s important to have some one avoiding some natural mistakes when performing apnea.
You can read the full interview on the current issue of OutdoorUAE