& taking 4th place at World Famous Suunto Vertical Blue Competition
Wednesday 9th December 2014; — On the 2nd December, at the prestigious Suunto Vertical Blue competition, Michael Board pushed his national record in Constant Weight deeper still, from 102m to 103m; at this kind of depth, each meter is like a milestone. Michael lives in Indonesia, on the island of Gili Trawangan, where he teaches freediving courses and training at his, and partner Kate Middleton’s school Freedive Gili (www.freedivegili.com).
This latest national record is number 8 for Board and it seems that even at the top of their game, experienced freedivers face challenges, set backs and even knocks in confidence. A former Royal Marine, it is not surprising that Board did not allow any obstacles to stand in his way for long and was gracious enough to talk with us at BFA, at the end of the competition on Long Island (the location of VB2014) to share his experience, not only of the competition but of his year training and diving at depth:
‘I am very happy I dived to 103m and set a new British record in Constant Weight as it has been a challenging year for me in depth diving in general and also a difficult competition here in the Bahamas as well. I struggled to match my performances from last year in both the AIDA Euro Cup in Kalamata and the 2014 AIDA Team World Championships in Sardinia earlier this year, some of this was due to being unaccustomed to the water conditions but I also discovered that it can just be hard work getting back down to these deep depths again.’
Board had done several 100m dives in training before arriving in the Bahamas, and had pushed this up to 103m in training on Long Island just before the competition started. However he suffered a big setback on his first attempt at 103m in the competition:
‘The weather changed drastically with strong winds and cooler water catching a lot of us unprepared on that day in our thin tropical wetsuits. I was shivering 15 minutes before my dive and could not relax properly, but chose to dive anyway, perhaps the wrong decision in hindsight. I managed to reach the bottom but had a lot of narcosis, was slow on the ascent and then suffered a black out just short of the surface after being assisted up by the safety divers.’
His confidence bruised but not broken, Board announced the same depth 3 days later, sensibly giving himself a chance to recover and recuperate for a second attempt, for which he was well rewarded:
‘I knew I could do the dive, I just needed to stay warm so I delayed getting in the water this time until the last moment. The dive went well, I reached the bottom plate relaxed and the narcosis did not hit me too strong this time so I managed to think clearly and tell myself to ascend from depth faster, as it happened maybe a little too fast. A good dive to finish the season with, only 1 meter up on last year, but happy to end the year on a high and moving in the right direction.’
Board came an impressive 4th at the end of the competition, with a Free Immersion (FIM) dive to 95m and a Constant No Fins (CNF) dive to 56m. Also at the competition were top British Freedivers with some impressive results: Chris Crawshaw, also of Freedive Gili who placed 8th (75m CWT, 70m FIM, 68m CNF) and John Moorcroft of Apneists UK who placed 10th (71m CWT, 63m CNF).