Monday, 2 December 2013

Inexpensive low-volume mask found

I have seen this mask on eBay for several months and couldn't pass it up.  Also avail on Amazon:

It's a Mares Star copy and you can get it for like $15 plus shipping.
It's a steal for this price and VERY soft silicone which helps it compress with depth.

There's more volume than my Mystic or a micromask... but a GREAT mask nonetheless for a student, someone on a budget, as a backup or to give to a friend or local while on a vacation at a tropical destination!

They also have another mask called the Blue Isla marketed as low-volume as well.
The same company also sells very inexpensive prescription masks, for those with worse than 20/20!

Look at the softness of the silicone and flexibility / compressibility while I inhale!

Monday, 14 October 2013 'Pure Evolution' 100% carbon fin with Pathos footpockets review

These fins are a 100% pure carbon fin made in the UK in "medium / 25" stiffness and the "standard" Pathos Fireblade footpocket (size 40-42).  Dave who owns the company was extremely responsive to inquiries and will help you determine the best choice for you if you have any questions.

First impressions:
SEXY!  I say that not ONLY because of the letter "I" in their logo... but because they are a no-nonsense, high-performance, super lightweight, purpose built pair of race cars that you slip on your feet.
The carbon fibre (same material used in Formula 1 race cars, amongst other things) is of very high quality with a brilliant sheen and awesome finish.  Too bad I will inevitably scratch them up over time... oh well - that will just mean that I've been having fun!
The overall fin / blade combination is SUPER light weight.  The pair of them is less than one of my plastic Immersion fins.  :D

This footpocket has taken the freediving and spearfishing world by storm...and for a good reason.  It has been around for more than a couple of years, but has really caught on like wildfire recently and rightfully so.  It is by far the lightest footpocket on the market and having said that... it delivers great power transfer!  This isn't hard to do in a heavy rubber footpocket with thick / stiff tendons, but is an engineering feat in one that is lightweight.
The footpocket is made up of a variety of different rubber compounds with different stiffnesses for the different regions of the pocket.  Soft where needed for comfort and firm where needed to ensure good power delivery and ensures a direct connection between your feet and the blades.

The area below the "Fireblade" wording is stiff and fairly shallow to help accommodate this.  People with a high arch may find it quite tight and indeed so are mine initially.  Having tried my friends' when new and then 6-mos later, I can attest that they will loosen up a bit to accommodate your foot shape.  Another way to speed the process up if you are in a hurry, is to (while wearing your intended socks - or a pair of cotton / wool if intending barefoot) heat them up while wearing them with a hair dryer and allowing them to cool back down again and mold to your feet.  It might make sense to keep track of L & R in this instance.

I have fairly wide feet and find these fit my feet great.

- Stiffness:
Typically I would tend towards something stiffer than most "medium" stiffness blades, as I consider myself a strong kicker, I'm 80kg, often dive in a 5mm suit (more buoyancy change than a 3mm) and can dive deeper than many recreational divers and spearfishermen.  I also would rather a fin be slightly too stiff, than not stiff enough as I like to have extra "power" in reserve in case I have to rescue a blacked-out diver while safety'ing.

These Mediums fit my needs perfectly.  They are stiffer than most mediums but not considered a Stiff.  In fact, I would consider them to be about 1/3 of the way between a medium and a stiff blade.
I believe that a 60-70kg diver without particularly strong legs might want to try the soft (20) blades in the 'Pure Evolution' carbon blades, although I have no personal experience with them.

Note: Several friends have the Leaderfins fibreglass fins with Leaderfins footpockets and some of the stronger / more aggressive finners have commented that the mediums are slightly on the soft side.  Just important to keep in mind that all "mediums" are not the same - even when retailed by the same company (as they are manufactured by separate companies, materials and using different methods).

- Flex:
A beautiful, nice progressive flex under load that snaps back to straight quite smartly and provides you with some extra thrust.  You get an energy payback from the the previous input.

Below is a video of a friend using this exact combination in a pool doing a dynamic swim, not under load and at the time he was a new freediver who had previously only swam 75m.  Using less knee bend would highlight the fins progressive flex better, but a good video nonetheless.
- Water rail:
The rail on the side of the fins is tall to help channel the water effectively yet supple enough to bend /flex under load without crinkling or deforming.

In-water impressions:
- Surface swimming:
Compared to all of the other fins that I have ever tried, it doesn't feel like you're wearing anything on your feet due to the super light weight combination of the Pathos footpockets and the light carbon blades!  Less power is spent moving and stopping the mass of the fin so that more of the energy goes towards propulsion.

I've used carbon / kevlar blades previously, but when paired with a heavy Omer Stingray foot pocket it really weighed the pair down and made it feel like you had appendages on your appendages.  Not so with the 'Pure Evolutions'.

I find that surface swimming is more tiring than any other type of activity in the water and I often pace myself on the swim out vs. getting to my dive site quicker and tiring my legs out (and increasing my heart rate) before I get to the dive spot.  These 'Pure Evolution' fins make the surface swim significantly easier and is much less tiring on the quads during the swim out, saving them for your depth diving.

This is even more so the case with spearfishing from shore, as fighting the tides and getting beyond the breakers of a reef can really burn out your legs early and limit your abilities while spearing and reduces your 'safety envelope' while out there.  Save the legs for a safer diving experience.

- Down to depth and back again:
During a line-diving outing (to -25m), I found that I wasn't having to "muscle" the blades in both directions on the descent to get a good sine wave going.  The fin was loading up nicely and then returns back to straight with assertive authority, almost a snap, so you end up getting a lot more propulsion per kicking cycle. They are extremely responsive and was requiring fewer kicks to get to the same depth.

On ascent, the same ease of propulsion is again quite evident.  What I noticed however is if I wanted to get back to the surface quickly or did a couple of dolphin kicks, I would really rocket up!

In general, a more gentle / energy efficient kick is preferred for O2 conservation but it is always nice to know that you can lean on them for a bit more thrust if / when needed.  These will certainly shine in the deeper dives to come.

These 'Pure Evolution" 100% carbon fins paired with Pathos footpockets are a fantastic no-compromise pair of fins.  They are super-light, efficient, comfortable and as a bonus, are less $$$ than some other big-name 100% carbon fins and come in a superior foot pocket.  Highly recommended!

Word of warning:
If you buy these fins, you will need to come up with a new excuse!  :D

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Freediving is like...

I saw a video of a guy that strapped a camera onto an eagle and the freedom and silence reminded me somehow of freediving.

I was also recently on an island in Georgian Bay and they had a nesting post built for an Osprey and it just sat there majestically, safe, overseeing and keeping an eye on everything and it made an impact on me.

I put these things together and this is how I can relate and help non-freedivers best understand what it is like to experience the freedom that we do underwater.

This is what it is like sitting on the surface of planet earth at 1G:

This is what it is like to be in the water, floating on the surface and snorkelling - certainly a better view!:

This is what it feels like to freedive:

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Best winter / off-season cross-training possible - UWH and UWR

Underwater Hockey and Underwater Rugby are potentially the best off-season training and conditioning that you can do.  I have traditionally played them year-round, with the exception of a few weeks before a max attempt / competition in freediving.

As an added bonus... it's FUN!

Doing Co2 tables and static holds in your bed can get boring and repetitious.

UWH will condition your legs to repeated sprints (at each faceoff) and condition higher levels of Co2 and lactic acid.  This is GREAT for fighting the surf while spearfishing or for a long ascent after a CWT dive.

Note that if you're lucky enough to score a breakaway / hard-fought battle for the puck or score a goal (like I did in the last 5 goals in the vid below), then you have the "privilege" of swimming all the way back to your side and then racing for the puck in the middle again, as I did in the beginning of the video at centre.  Did I mention that it was good for lactic tolerance and leg conditioning??

UWR will also condition your ability too keep cool while staying under, as you're at -5m often (if the pool is deep enough) and a forward or defence position will test your overall stamina and Co2 conditioning, while a goalie position will help to train your static and ability to stay calm under pressure.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

My top 2 favourite spearfishing videos:

Great music / score (also check out Lindsey Sterling's original music video) and awesome Florida Keys footage.

Insane talent and shot-accuracy by Mohammed in the video below:

Monday, 26 August 2013

Unorthadox No-Limits dive with seemingly poor equalization technique:

Who am I??

Freedivers are often misunderstood by society and this can lead to some tough internal soul-searching to find an identity.

This reality is well portrayed in the documentary below:

Monday, 19 August 2013


In order to achieve neutral buoyancy and a good long glide, we need to compensate for all of the air in our lungs.  The easiest / most common way is with a neckweight.
The most "popular" method is by filling an inner tube with lead shot and is detailed here:

I think this method sucks.

It is not adjustable, is fragile, doesn't allow for good hands-over-head streamlining and is a pain in the butt to construct.  I prefer using 1/2 lb lead "chicklets" and 25mm webbing instead.
They are not always easy to find and sometimes are uncoated as in this picture or come dipped.  The one above was dipped in blue rubber that I peeled away so that you can see the size / shape better.

Once assembled, you can add / remove 1/2 lb increments if your buoyancy changes over time.

For me, I have several neckweights.  One that works for full inhale, one for full inhale with max packing and one for depth work.

My depth neckweight is a very specific length, so that once inverted it falls over my chin and reminds me to keep my chin tucked in, so as to avoid a trachea squeeze.  It is also of random colours that were available at the time.  I am not trying to make a fashion statement with it:
I have used electrical tape to add 3 more chicklets to the outside of the main row, for added weight.  I did not tape the rest of the neckweight (to hide the colour) because I need to travel with this weight and the flexibility comes in handy, as it will be tossed around in luggage, etc.

My pool neckweight for packing is a thing of beauty.  I love this thing:
Looks a little more badass than the watermelon themed depth one above.

To get the appropriate weight needed, start with say... 4 - 5 lbs and have a friend watch you in the pool (you do have a buddy, right??).  Take a full breath and push off from the wall and hold the glide until you stop.  You will be able to determine if you need more or less weight and where to distribute it based on if you sink or float... and what parts of you rises / falls.

Most men can get away with just a neckweight, while many women may also need a little lead on their hips / belt.  I use the same weight on my neck and adjust what is on my belt to match the suit's buoyancy that I am wearing.  If I am not wearing neoprene or just a skin I will wear just the neckweight and forego anything on the belt.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Cold-waterproofing your fins

And now for something completely jury-rigged - AKA, crude but effective:

I live in the Toronto area.  As such, some of our waters are cold early and late in the season (or under ice).  I have a set of fins that fits 6mm socks, so I am fine, but not all of my dive partners have thought as far ahead... and as a result their feet get cold and they have to get out of the water before me.

This means that I do not have a safety / spotter / buddy and therefore my dive ends prematurely... ARGH!

The traditional way has been to wear "oversocks" which is just a pair of neoprene socks of the desired thickness with the toe cut off, so that you can roll them down over your fins, once they are on.  This helps with the ankle and heel area... but the toe is still exposed and most fins have an opening there that will let the cold water in.

I find that oversocks work best with a monofin, which more often is tight-fitting (no room for thick socks inside), has a closed toe and open heel.

To deal with the toe-opening, I have jury-rigged a patch that can be done easily / cheaply for cold water dives.  Make sure your safety divers / spotters have this done so that your dive isn't cut short by their poor preparation!

Start with a duct tape patch:

Then start wrapping with electrical tape:

Until fully sealed!

It may not look pretty... but it is simple and effective!

Note that electrical tape can also be used to tighten up a loose footpocket on a borrowed fin, etc.around the top of the foot or even in place of finkeepers (if they are forgotten).

Fin fitment tips

Fins - the additional propulsion that we gain from these is significant and they also allow us to achieve greater distances and reach greater depths than we could without them.
Having said that, if they do not fit correctly (most common mistake is too loose), we will have a lack of power transfer (inefficiency) and worst case, a lost fin at depth!  This is a serious safety issue that must be avoided.

Make sure that your fins fit tightly with the desired sock-thickness required for your most common water temps.  As a rule of thumb... if you can get them on dry... they are too loose.  So trying them on in a store is not always the best way, unless they have a bathtub or will hose you down first.

I bought fins that were a size and a half too large, so that I could fit 5-6mm socks inside for single-digit temp cold water diving.

I prefer at minimum to use a thin 2mm bootie, just to avoid chafing / blisters and also allows for diving in cooler waters / cold at depth for shorter periods of time and still retains good power transfer.

Those living in a diving paradise (Egypt, Caribbean, Thailand, etc.) may opt for no socks at all for simplicity and better power transfer.

Here is a very interesting looking sock that I have yet to try, but is on my list:

I find these essential and tremendously helpful in both keeping the fin secure and aiding in power transfer.  It makes the fin both safer and more efficient.

I choose these thick ones which are far superior to the thin ones commonly available.

I found that my UWH fins were softening up over time and many people experience their foot pockets on freedive fins getting tired with age.  A great old UWH trick is to make a "finsert", which is really just a polypropylene orthotic.

I bought a 12"x 24" x 3/32" thick sheet of polypropylene from for $8 (plus $10 shipping to Canada) and this was enough for 6 finserts.

I took the insole out of a pair of shoes and traced it and then cut it out with some tin snips (overkill) and then edged them with electrical tape (freedivers tape) so that the edges didn't abrade the rubber foot pockets.

They stiffen up the footpockets and help with power transfer.  If you don't have much space in your footpockets, you can use 1/16" thick.

The advantage with these is that you can double the thickness with a second pair if you want to use a thinner sock with your fins.

Something like this is now commercially available from Mares and available at and as well, but I have no experience with them.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

9th Coupe d'Apnee - Montreal freedive competition

After placing 3rd at Nationals, I had 1 month before the Montreal pool competition to continue training before getting a chance to set new personal bests and give it my all.

Everything stayed on track and I knew I was prepared and essentially had no excuses - all I had to do was perform when the moment came.

I was looking forward to this competition, as it was to take place in a 50m pool that was a constant 3m deep, which would make it perfect for freediving for DYN.  I had wanted to try a 50m pool for 2 yrs, since I first started the sport.

Oh yeah - one potential hiccup - the pool was outside and on May 25th in Montreal... that's a coin toss at best.

As it turns out - we lost the coin toss!  8* and windy / rainy on Saturday and 12* and rain on Sunday.  At least the pool was 27*.

For static, people were staying warm in 5mm suits, but for DNF 1/2 of people mis-managed their temperature and were shivering before their official top.  I got into the water much later than normal and still started to feel a chill coming on.  I dropped to the bottom of the pool for a minute where the water was warm and away from the chilling air on my face / head / neck / shoulders to warm up.

I surfaced with 2 mins remaining and did 1/3 of my planned breathe-up and managed a personal best 112m and won gold for the event!  Lots of room for improvement and conditions were far from ideal as well.  Quite encouraging.

For DYN with my monofin, I again got into the pool quite late and risked a chill, but managed things well and swam a personal best 169m.  My previous PB was at Nationals a month earlier with a 136m swim and I KNEW that I could have made 150m... so the game plan was to swim 150m and see how far I could go beyond that.  Turned out to be the right game plan and was executed well.

I was surprised at the distance and did not expect to swim so far, considering that a year ago (and 2 max attempts ago) I had just managed 101m, which was a real benchmark for me after my first year of training / diving.  

Both of my DYN and DNF performances re-set new Provincial records from the ones that I established at Nationals a month earlier.

As it turns out, in DYN only one other diver in Canada has swum further (a professional freediver and one of the top 10 in the world) and only 3 others have swum further in the USA - making my swim the 5th longest DYN swim in North America!

Take a look here:

That performance was enough for me to solidly secure the overall win for the competition - my first!  Here is the overall final podium:

A sample of the beautiful medals handed out by CASM.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

My aquatic background

While born in Canada, I lived in Atlanta and Texas from the ages of 2-7yo.  Of note is that in San Antonio, each neighbourhood has a public pool, due to the extreme summer heat.

While I think I took an introductory swim lesson on how to tread water in Atlanta, I stopped them early on and found it was much better / easier / more efficient and natural and faster for me to simply swim underwater, breast stroke style.  Instructors kept trying to correct me on how this was wrong.

Before DVD's, iPads and video games my parents would keep me busy by throwing handful of coins into the pool and tell me to fetch.  I would try to get them all on one breath... and this was a challenge at 8' deep with no weight belt to keep me down.  I don't even recall using a mask!

A scuba diver showed up once at a pool when I was in Florida on vacation when I was about 12 and invited me to try it, although I was reluctant.  After about :10 mins, it was obvious that I was not interested and didn't like all of the equipment and buoyancy issues.  I've had no desire to scuba dive since.  I've since realized that over 50% of freedivers start in scuba and many continue doing so in parallel.

Back in Canada, I did nothing aquatic for 10 yrs, when my parents put in a pool.  I just screwed around with the diving board, cannon balls / jack knives etc.  All swimming was done underwater, as it was the natural way for me.  It was really just something to relax in on hot summer afternoons and have a BBQ around.

I do remember my first mask - it was a giant 3-window squared-off mask with huge volume and made of natural rubber.  It never fit well and as it aged and the sun ate it, it got more and more leaks until it was useless.

I remember taking a piece of retaining wall stone onto my lap and sitting at the bottom of the pool, but bailing at approx the 1 min mark.  I only recall doing it a few times and then getting yelled at as the pool had a vinyl liner and the stone would rip it.  I was also doing it alone... so that was a potential disaster waiting to happen.

All grown up:
I did nothing aquatic again for 10 yrs, when I discovered Freediving and Freedive Toronto, 2 years ago!
I've been hooked on all things apnea ever since.

Monday, 3 June 2013


Below are some freeze-frame video grabs from Canadian Nationals a month ago, where I took home the Bronze as 3rd overall in Canada.  I have since made some slight changes to further improve my "slipperiness" through the water.