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Team Deptherapy gives back in latest Red Sea success

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Five new PADI Open Water Divers, three new PADI Advanced Open Water and Deep Divers, seven new Coral Conservation Divers and four new Deptherapy Education Professionals… that’s the tally of success from Team Deptherapy’s latest Red Sea expedition.

At the end of May 2018, UK scuba diving rehabilitation charity Deptherapy held it’s largest ever expedition to the Egyptian Red Sea. A team of 25, including 17 wounded in service veterans, all suffering from life changing physical and / or mental injuries, travelled to Roots Dive Camp in El Quseir as part of Team Deptherapy.

The expedition also marked the beginning of Deptherapy’s ‘Protecting Our Oceans’ project – an ongoing campaign to raise awareness of the fragility of the world’s oceans, ensuring that each Deptherapy Programme Member ‘gives back’ to the marine environment that has so helped in their rehabilitation.

During the expedition, all Programme Members took part in a ‘Dive Against Debris’ underwater and beach clean up, successfully removing over 1 kilometre of entangled fishing line.

Deptherapy Programme Members Andy Searle and Jon Beever take part in the coral reef surveying and conservation course. Photo – Dmitry Knyazev for Deptherapy

Seven of the Programme Members also undertook a coral reef surveying and conservation course, led by Tom Dallison, Head of Science at Coral Cay Conservation. The aim of the five-day course was to develop skills in underwater environmental survey techniques and species identification, in order to prepare the divers for an expedition to Truk Lagoon this August.

Tom Dallison said:

“Deptherapy’s Protecting Our Oceans project now has seven passionate and knowledgeable ambassadors. In times where the future of our coral reefs and Oceans can look bleak, the efforts taken by environmental stewards, and the wider public, to actively protect these systems are critical. With an increased affinity to the marine world and a new perspective on the complexity and beauty of coral reefs, those heading to Truk are in good hands. I am truly grateful for the week spent with the Deptherapy team. I wish them all the best for the future and have no doubt that they will triumph in Truk Lagoon.”

Team Deptherapy was led by Deptherapy Ambassador and newly appointed Trustee, former Royal Engineer Ben Lee. Double-amputee Ben is currently training to be a Divemaster and recently won the Royal Foundation’s Endeavour Fund ‘Recognising Achievement’ Award.

Deptherapy Programme Members Andy Searle and Ben Lee on the Dive Against Debris. Photo – Dmitry Knyazev for Deptherapy

The charity is now focusing on the build up to the Truk Lagoon expedition, which will take place from 3rd to 17th August 2018. This major expedition is funded by the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s 2016 Libor Fund.

Ben Lee is already working with other expedition members to formulate the plan for mapping the wreck of the former Naval Tanker, the Shinkoku Maru, in what will be a key environmental exercise and the next stage in the Protecting Our Oceans project.

With applications for places on the Deptherapy Programme at an unprecedented high, the charity also intends to undertake a further expedition to the Red Sea in October 2018.

Do you know… it costs £1500 to fund a wounded in service veteran on a PADI Open Water course on the Deptherapy Programme. Deptherapy’s life changing work can only continue if they raise enough funds. The charity receives at least two applications every week from British Armed Forces veterans who would benefit from their Programme. Please help Deptherapy continue to make a difference to their lives. Pledge your support and find out more about Deptherapy & Deptherapy Education at www.deptherapy.co.uk.

Freediving Blogs

British freediver sets new national record with 112m dive

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British freediver Gary McGrath has set a new national record at the prestigious Vertical Blue freediving competition in the Bahamas.

Using only a monofin for propulsion, Gary swam down a measured rope to a depth of 112m (367ft), returning to the surface to receive a white card from the AIDA International judges to validate his dive.

Gary, 41, held his breath for three minutes and 13 seconds to complete the dive.

Freedivers descend underwater on a single breath of air and the atmospheric pressure on their bodies increases as they go deeper.

At 112m deep the pressure is 12 times greater than the surface, meaning the air in Gary’s lungs would have shrunk to less than a twelfth of its original volume – around the size of a golf ball.

Freedivers train to cope with the physiological strains placed on their bodies by their sport, and Gary uses his background of yoga and meditation to help his physical and mental preparation for deep dives.

He has also had to overcome physical challenges after contracting Covid last year during preparations for a previous national record attempt.

Gary said: ‘Diving below 100m is a totally unique environment, it’s my therapy. 

‘This year has been extremely challenging for my mental health and freediving has helped me overcome that for sure. 

‘At depth I have complete isolation from the everyday world we live in. Down there it’s just me and nature. It’s that escape that all freedivers crave. 

‘There are moments of extreme mental clarity and purity that I can only achieve when underwater. The flow state that a deep dive allows me to experience is unique and addictive.

Gary, originally from Twickenham, began freediving in 2006 and has been competing since 2008.

A former tree surgeon, he became a professional freedive instructor in 2014, and he and his partner Lynne Paddon run Yoga and Freedive Retreats in Ibiza.

Remarkably, he completed his 112m national record dive on Tuesday (August 9) despite being forced to compete wearing a borrowed monofin which was a size too small for his feet.

His entire kit bag containing his monofin, bifins and two wetsuits was lost by an airline as he travelled to the competition.

Despite his careful preparation, Gary said he suffered nerves on the morning of his national record dive, and relied on a phone call to his partner Lynne, who helped him focus on breathing techniques and visualisation to calm his nerves.

Speaking immediately after his dive, he said: ‘That was all for Lynne – this whole week has been about her. I could not do it without her. I hope that everyone finds someone they can click with, it’s the most magical thing in the world.’

Gary also thanked supporters who helped him to crowdfund to raise the money needed for him to travel to the Bahamas and compete.

Vertical Blue is considered one of the most elite events on the freediving calendar and has been dubbed the ‘Wimbledon of Freediving’.

Owned and run by world record freediver William Trubridge, the event takes place in a 202m (663ft) deep sinkhole known as Dean’s Blue Hole, off the coast of Long Island.

The previous British national record of 111m was set by Michael Board in 2018, also at a Vertical Blue competition.


All Photographs courtesy of Daan Verhoeven (www.daanverhoeven.com)

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Miscellaneous Blogs

Film Review: Thirteen Lives

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Ron Howard’s recreation of the 2018 rescue of a Thai junior football team is impressive. Even though we know what happens in the end the tension and drama played out is palpable.

On 23 June 2018, 12 members of a Thai junior football team, the Wild Boars, and their coach became trapped deep in the Tham Luang cave system by rising flood water. The film details the incredible international rescue efforts that ensue. And Ron Howard has judged the tone perfectly. There is no Hollywood glitz and glamour and the two leading actors: Colin Farrell and Viggo Mortensen, who play John Volanthen and Rick Stanton respectively, capture the intensity of the situation perfectly.

The diving scenes are claustrophobic in the extreme. Although I suspect that the visibility was even worse than the film depicts as you have to be able to see something in the dramatization! All the way through the film I found myself shaking my head in disbelief at the extraordinary feat these divers pulled off. The skill and bravery required still impresses after watching films, hearing them speak in public and reading about the rescue.

I loved that, whilst the divers took centre stage in the film, the heroic rescue efforts of the water engineer and his team was also given the attention they deserve, as well as the incredible Thai Navy Seals and the thousands of people that flocked to the region to help.

Thirteen Lives is a must watch movie about an incredible cave rescue. It’s sober tone hits the mark. The cinematography is skilled and creates an impressively tense experience. It is available on Amazon Prime right now.

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