Participants 2005
Mads Isberg (Denmark)
Alun George (UK)
Stig Severinsen (Denmark)
Ulf Lindberg (Sweden)
Kostas Kalamaras (Greece)
Spiros Papanikolaou (Greece)
Geir Torgersen (Norway)
Rik Rösken (Netherlands)
Takis Batavanis (Greece)
David Dahlgren (SWE)
Kurt (DK)
Henning Larsen (Denmark)
Sebastian Näslund
Klara Hansson
A leap of faith - Part 1 / Part 2
Freediving Murat Style

A small gust of chilly morning wind meets his bare skin. His monofin and feet are already in the18 degrees cold scandinavian water. Henning Larsen from Denmark is sitting on a low pontoon by the sea. Sebastian Murat is waiting in the water. Henning is barely breathing. All of a sudden he breathes out gently and falls into the sea. His dry skin slightly shocked by the first touch of water this day. He sinks towards the sand and mud three meters down – seemingly lifeless.

How does his body react?

For nearly 50 seconds he lies there motionless. His first contraction comes and he starts adjusting his position and swimming at first slowly out into the bay in the green cold waters. Sebastien Murat following him above.

We can assume that this will not be the most pleasant dive he has done.

I could have called this article; ”contrary to common belief”. But when I see Henning fall into the water I see nothing but a leap of faith.
12 freedivers from all over europe has gathered to take Sebastien Murats Clinic. Among them; Spiros, an experienced spearfisher from Greece - Alun, the welsh deepdiver – Stig, the former world champion.

Sebastien advices us to leave our egos outside. ”Don´t compare – look at yourself”. Sebastien has come to Sweden to ask us to exhale before leaving the surface – to actually leave with less oxygen. Ulf from Sweden and Takis has already started experimenting with the new techniques at home. Takis does 27 meters on an exhale and Ulf 80 meters in the pool. Its called FRC diving – the amount is about what is left when you relax and let your breath escape.
Sebastien bombards us with a very scientific powerpoint presentation. Although I can get through scientific texts he is asking a lot of me and the others. He has spent many years experimenting with different techniques that would maximize his dives. And his focus has been on one thing. How much oxygen does the brain have at the end of the dive – that is the only thing that counts. And it is the dive response that saves oxygene!

Try yourself – check your pulse - Hold your breath – when does your pulse drop. It´s not until you´ve seen it drop until you are in DR mode – before that you are wasting oxygene. When you have a 50% drop of heart rate from the outset – then you have a diving response worth the name.

He is not asking us to take his word for it. He puts an oxygen gas analyzer on the table and a heap of syringes. We try different ventilations and also walking apnea. Where do we save the most oxygen?

You have to ask yourself do you want to do apnea or do excercise. In Apnea you should strive for holding your breath as long time as possible without using your muscles. In an FRC dive you start of sinking without having to pull four litres of extra air down. No excercise.
Bear in mind that there is no benefit in itself to start on half lung capacity. It is the sideeffects that are beneficial. 1) You lose bouyancy and half the dive is a static. 2) you don´t have to carry led up from depth. 3) you get faster and deeper into dive response.

I would actually not call the Murat style for FRC-diving – the correct term would be DR diving. We thought we were diving in DR-mode – but we are not.
A developing sport
New training techniques take us deeper all the time - and new equipment. Some said that the monofin was just another style and that packing just stresses you up - they were wrong. Some people didn´t bother to know why Herbert Nietsch was gulping air when he came up from his 86 meter dive on Ibiza (hook breathing). Others have not bothered to learn the mouth fill equalization. Yet others claimed that negative dives was a waste of time (why not have many deep warm up dives instead). Ask yourself what you are you training for? To go up and down like a spearo, or to be able to do one maximum dive. If its the latter – well then save yourself for this one maximum dive.

All these people have in most cases been left behind. Now there are new methods to explore. Some of them will not be compatible with the old style. I would say that Tom is an example of some of these new techniques.
Advanced freediving has reached a stage when beginner, intermediate and elite cannot train in the same way. There are methods that only apply when you have reached a certain level. You might need the experiences from the first steps in order to grasp more finer techniques.

"Its all about the diving response"
There are so many factors involved in extreeme freediving that they never can be controlled all of them. Just by standing up or entering water hundreds of parameters changes in your body. If you learn to control one for the benefit of performance, you probably loose control of another factor that will start working against you.

Sebastien focuses on one main factor – the dive response. Now listen carefully – it is not how much oxygen you take with you under the surface – it is about how much you consume. And Sebastien has over the years been training on a technique that saves loads of oxygen – so much that even if you start with 2/3 of your normal reserve you still will come up with more oxygen after a maximum dive.

Stig Severinsen getting ready to go, but first wait for the DR to kick in.

In the DR-diving mode your body will be mistreated anaerobicly – but your brain will be further away from hypoxemia (low oxygen). On the course we are not asked to take Murats word for it – we do several dives with different warmups – and are able to meausure the 02 content of our lungs after each dive. A murat course is a experimental lab.

Even though the freediver Klara Hansson from Sweden is on the course to cook she listens with one ear. The next day she changes her style slightly to enhance the DR and she does a personal best (89DNF)

So – the question arisses – how do we trigger the dive response. The usuall answer is: we do multiple warm up dives and tell the body to adjust to breathholding (and pressure). Sebastien would say – yes, train your diveresponse in on a long term basis – but remember – the dive response is a shock response – it will only be thorughly triggered when the body feels it NEEDS to save oxygen. Warm up dives actually slowly reduces the DR. Yes read it again. The body gets accustomed and feels there is less need for alarm – less need to conserve oxygen.

It is quite simple. These are some factors that increases the DR:
- Stop breathing (obviously)
- Get your face cold and wet (the more the better).
- Cool down your limbs (help vasokonstriction).
- Be stressed (feelings of panic will save oxygene!)
- Don`t hyperventilate (do not even "ventilate").

The last two are intresting. Hyperventilation will increase your oxygen stores (actually dramaticly – thats why we do it apart from pushing the breathing reflexes forward) but low CO2 will also tell your brain that you have lots of oxygen (thats the conclusion the brain does) and there is no need for alarm or to save oxygen. The brain will even vasoconstrict and recieve less oxygen.

Secondly: stress will drive you instantly into deeper DR. This is why Sebastien prefers to fall into the water and start his max dive directly in this feeling of stress.
But wait – you are not stressed enough. One thing that mainly induces the DR is hypoxia. You must tell your brain that there is a lack of oxygen. How do we do this? We raise the levels of C02! You wait to start your dive until breathing reflexes occur and your DR is established. Pulse is the main meter of the DR happening. Don´t start your dive before your pulse has dropped!

The spleen contraction is essential. It releases blood (hemoglobin which can carry oxygen) into the blood and it buffers CO2 (traps CO2) which an FRC diver will have lots of. And remember you will have only ONE good release of red blood cells (in a certain amount of time) – why waste it in the warm up. PART 2