Mark Hayward, Director of Debbie Fortune Estate Agents, an experienced scuba diver, has added a new skill to his diving abilities. He has become the first Free Diver to be trained in the Maldives.
Free Diving is the ability to dive to great depths on one breath, without the use of external breathing apparatus.
When Mark commenced his training he could hold his breath for 40 seconds. After two static training sessions he was amazed to discover that he could hold his breath for almost 3 minutes, which was well beyond the requirements to attain a Level 1 Free Diving Qualification.
His instructor, Fahud Faiz, was so pleased with his progress that on session 3 he trained Mark in the ocean and gradually Mark attained a depth of 20m on one breath. However he was a little surprised when, on the ascent from the depths, Mark came up holding his weight belt in his hand!
Mark explains, “At 20m the pressure on the body is 3 times atmospheric pressure and as my body had therefore been compressed by the extreme pressure, my weight belt became loose so slipping over my hips and legs....luckily I reacted quickly and caught it before it was lost in the depths!”
He adds “Free Diving was an interesting challenge for me. This technique is mind over matter, training the diver to condition their body, so that is does not need to breathe. The diver descends much faster than in scuba diving, so equalising ears against the pressure is a constant problem which I had to overcome.”
“It is a strange sensation”, he said “I descended down a rope and was not allowed to look up or down. I was instructed to simply focus on the rope, it all felt terribly unnatural! The whole experience was tremendous fun and a real challenge, but at 67 years old, I do not think I will be challenging the free diving record!”
That record is 145 metres and is held by William Winran where he was dragged by a weight to that depth. One of the most famous free divers Natalia Molchanova died on a 35m dive in the Balearics in 2015, so it is regarded as an extreme sport.
Mark and his partner Debbie Fortune, although both in their 60’s enjoy a number of extreme sports. These include skiing, scuba diving, vintage and classic car trials and racing. Debbie even added skydiving to her achievements in 2015 where she jumped from 15,000 feet raising over £4,300 for charity as a result.
Debbie said, “I am really proud of Mark. To do this at 67 is awesome...although I do confess that I was really quite nervous for him and found myself holding my breath in sympathy!”