Just a look back at my final 12 months in Mexico. The Freedivers originally came to Mexico to Baja California in 2001 freediving was virtually unknown in Mexico except for a handful of spearos.

At first our students came from Europe and the UK, then from everywhere but Mexico but after a few months the word began to spread and 2 guys got in touch with us from Mexico city Armando Torres, a very talented surgeon and internationally known composer, we share a love of classical music and Luis Turrent a lawyer and perhaps Mexico’s top spear fisherman. They did a course with us and in the following weeks we began to grow them, and they became close friends, with our help they founded AIDA Mexico. With further training they began to establish Mexican records and before long there was a Mexican national team that took part in the international competition in Cyprus. Armando and Luis were part of that team.

In 2005 we organised the first national competition probably one of the first triple depth competitions. It was the first competition for Manuel Gonzalez who became one of our permanent students and in 2007 he made a Mexican DNF record of 75 mts and in the same year did an easy 47mts Constant No Fins.

Teaching and coaching in Mexico had its own challenges, nearly all our students were also university students and had no money. So for the fanatics we recommended their first purchase be a good (Elios) wet suit, we can teach Constant No Fins and Free Immersion without fins or mask or even snorkel but we cannot teach anything worth while to a student shaking with cold. We had in La Paz also a 50mt Olympic pool with a 4 mt dive pit at our disposition and usually a suit was unnecessary in the pool but a mask or goggles were.

Due to our isolation and our reputation the people who came to us were a mixture of spearos and advanced freedivers, people who would commit for at the very least 5 days and often for weeks or months most of the freedivers were interested in competition, a high percentage were those with ambitions to be in national teams or with their eyes on national or world records.

One day it might make an interesting story, our trials and tribulations in trying to organise competitions with no money, our total commitment to our Mexican students that we were growing, our struggles to find the time to train ourselves for competition and the never ending struggle to keep our heads above water financially and to raise a kid . The first year and a half we spent in our camp in El Coyote and only went into La Paz once a week to pick up emails and re –provision. The camp was100k from the nearest shop, telephone or any civilisation. The road to the city was an appalling dirt road the worry was our 7 year old Zeevi “No Zeevi that is not a rattle –it’s a rattle snake”, Zeevi would go “walk about’ he could at any given time be found in any fish camp within a 10 k radius. A compound fracture or other disaster was a worry at first but the fishermen’s kids grew up there and most of them survived childhood!

But on to my last year in Mexico, really the year began after I just finished training a very talented and committed Japanese girl Ai F utaki who came for 2 months to train for the Japanese CNF record. Alina Tsivkin had just come out from Israel this was her 2nd visit, her first visit was 2 months before this. When she arrived she had literally no experience with freediving but showed tremendous determination and courage plus a cheerfulness and friendliness that captivated everyone. She had excellent flexibility so I began to train her with the monofin, it turned out she was a natural, this is rare even among butterfly swimmers. Equalisation was never a problem for her she picked up the Frenzel immediately. And breathold is actually 10% science and 90% application and she had the application.

At this time I was approached by Manolo who asked me to take a look at his girlfriend and evaluate her for training. Estrella had been last year’s Miss Baja California and a runner up Miss Mexico she was a tall girl and needless to say looked fit. More importantly she had been a competitive swimmer. I agreed, in the pool she showed good style in breast stroke, and quickly learned what she need to do to adapt this to the underwater world. We spent the first weeks working technique, at first getting the initial push off from the end of the pool and getting her balance absolutely right with a constant no of packs .This of course is critical to optimise the glide. Here the play was between neck weights and weight belt to find a perfectly horizontal position, this of course alters with speed of movement. She showed a swimmers understanding of the importance of minimising drag this is more important than increasing propulsion in many cases. The idea is to take up the minimum width in the water column and achieve a perfectly straight line. Her progress in the pool was rapid she quickly achieved 75 mts DYNF and improved her static from 3mins to 4:30.

On 7th –13th May 2010 we decided to organise a competition for our students to give them a first experience of competition and a chance to break national records. In the pool Estrella who had been told by Aharon to limit her dive to 100mts DNF attempted 106 mts and suffered a black out thereby forfeiting a national record in DYNF that was a mere 40mts. Alina was thea next to go and as it was her first view of a blackout was visibly shaken by it and limited her dive to 68 mts DYN which was white carded and earned her an Israeli female record. The next day in the sea the 2 ladies produced the best results, Estrella Did a very easy 26 mt CNF followed by a 31mt FIM, she had a hard lesson the day before and now decided on more cautious declarations and so finished with a good feeling that “I could have done more“, and 2 national records to her credit. Alina did an easy 38.4 mt CWT and followed with a 30mt Fim and so took 1st place in the competition and 2 more Israeli records!

Alina returned to Israel, and Estrella continued to train and was joined by her brother Linton and they in turn were joined by Esteban. Linton was one of Mexico’s top competition swimmers, Esteban on the other hand was not a strong swimmer so I suggested he work with Linton on his swimming untill he was ready for freedive training. They were all training for the next competition in November.

Both Esteban and Estrella reached 5:30 static, our base line, and dynamic training resumed. Estrella had purchased a monofin so her objectives now were DYN and DNF in the pool and CWT and CNF in the sea. We were not planning to include static in the next competition and Estrella wanted to drop FIM to specialise in the other 2 disciplines.

Looking back at Estrella’s development her first attempts in the sea were not distinguished for an hour and a half she fought equalisation difficulties with all the frustration that comes with knowing that she had all the other tools to go deep. The “tea bag syndrome“ up and down to 5 mts and at the end of the session the disappointment, frustration and the questioning. At this point I knew I was dealing with a potential champion! All the self doubting only went to reinforce her determination.

We then spent a day in the 4 mt dive pit doing the our specific series of exercises to convert valsalva into frenzel, combined with our dry exercises these exercises have proved extremely effective. After the session we had a talk about diet and I discovered she was drinking more than 5 liters of milk per day! A lot of people have an undiscovered milk or wheat allergy this usually produces an over production of mucus which greatly complicates equalisation issues. Estrella promised to stay away from milk for the immediate future.

The next sea session produced the expected results first dive to 30mts easily.

In the meantime Esteban had joined us, due to his committed work with Linton his swimming had greatly improved and his DNF was leaping ahead .We were still plagued by lack of essential equipment, suits monofins etc. Estrella was negotiating with her employers, a hotel chain, for sponsorship for suits.

In November we went for another AIDA competition this took place 10th-15th Nov. Here we witnessed 6 new Mexican Records, just to correct any impression that we were the only group in Mexico that was active in Mexico. All the men’s records had been broken since our last competition a few short months ago.

The new competition began in the pool, Maria Teresa Solomons and Ben Weis were the judges.

The first discipline was DYNF, Esteban our total new commer did a very respectable 78 mts and a new National Record, the other high light of the day was Estrella’s very clean 100mts DYNF and also a national record.

The following day Esteban’s record of the previous day was broken by his swimming coach, Linton, Estrella’s brother who increased the national record to 84 mts in DYNF still well short of his sister’s 100mts, some fierce rivalry here!! Estrella followed this with a 128mt DYN record.

2 Days later in the sea Estrella, in perfect sea conditions from the luxury platform of the Costa Baja catamaran, did a 40mt CNF national record and Esteban a 30mt FIM National record.

The next day concluded with Estrella doing a 50mt CWT record.

Tribute also has to be paid to Mario and Edna, the Mexican women’s master’s swimming champion and above all Gonzalo Mata, they all did PBs and without their help we would not have had a competition.

Altogether a resounding success for the team! 7 new national records!!

My final project before leaving Baja was beginning the development of a young American Woman Delainya Kazarian she was a surfer and had been a competitive synchronised swimmer, she had no experience in freediving, but never the less a good pedigree. Her initial training in the pool followed much the same pattern as Estrella’s and it was inevitable to draw comparisons. Funnily enough on our first sea outing she had exactly the same experience as Estrella, tea bag up and down to 5 mts. then the next day back to the dive pit and our “miracle“ exercises at the end of the session she thought she had got it.

The next day in the sea produced a “blond moment“ and a miracle. Delainya is a blond, we carefully explained about warm up procedures, she said she understood then promptly pulled down slowly to 30mts. We had to ask which part of warm up procedures did she not understand? However first problem solved and perhaps a new star was launched.

I think perhaps we have have not heard the last of this wonderfull group. In the middle of writing this I just heard Estrella Increased her records in CWT 55mts and CNF 45 mts in a competition in Chetumal.

Also I just heard that Manolo had revived the defunct AIDA Mexico, we had worked on this for months I cannot think of anyone better suited to guide the future of freediving in Mexico, he is a wonderfull friend and person liked by everyone and a man of unimpeachable integrity.

I was sad to leave all my Mexican friends and wish them success and every happiness.

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  1. Wonderful, this was an amazing experience back in 2004, regards to Aharon and MT from Peter in Ireland

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