Connect with us


The Mental – Part 2



I want to approach this subject indirectly. I want to walk around it before we get to the center, because I am not sure there is a center. We all know that the ideal attitude, to have before a dive, is relaxed confidence. Without relaxation and confidence little can be achieved.

In order to set up the ideal conditions for these vital prerequisites for a deep dive or competition several things have to be in place; if any of these pieces are not in place the dive is already compromised.

Lets list them , and deal with their relative importance in the overall picture.



Confidence comes in a large part from correct training then believing in your training.

Depth or distance should be approached systematically in small realisable increments. This is very important. If you can go down to 39mts and equalise on the bottom , then you are ready for 40/41 mts. This means you had the mental composure to check at 39 mts that you still had air in your cheeks and could equalise at that depth. Let’s look at the reverse side of the coin: if your last equalisation was at 37 mts or some unknown point and you rode it to 39 mts, how do you know you have the technique for 40/41 ?

Confidence comes from having all the elements in place. It is easy to exhaust our reserves of mental energy/courage by constantly in every practice trying to exceed our last personal best. Confidence comes from knowing we have mastered all the techniques necessary for the dive: equalisation, style, pacing, tactics – when to fill the cheeks, when to go into the glide, and memorisation of competition protocols.

If anything is missing in this equation the result is anxiety / stress. We have all noticed that some days nothing works and others that everything goes effortlessly well, like a well oiled clock, seemingly without any unusual effort on our part. Have you noticed that this tends to happen more often on days where we are without ambition, with a degree of the experimental in our attitude?


A lot of mental strength comes from avoiding the obvious training pitfalls and growing confidence coming from continuous small successes. One of the pitfalls is the “spoilt diver”. The spoilt diver is easy to spot – he takes forever ventilating on the line, he needs just a few more breaths, he needs total silence around him. There is confusion here amongst beginners; interval between deep dives should not be confused with dive preparation. The interval between deep dives is to allow time for the system to reset itself – to out gas CO2, and for the heart beat to return to an acceptable level. A very small part of the pre-dive preparation is actually O2 saturating, a very few breaths and packing will suffice. The rest is how long it takes you to get into the “Zone”, and this is largely habit. If you are interrupted you should be able to snap back into the Zone instantly. Train this, have somebody interrupt you and deal with it without postponing the descent.

During the countdown you should be thinking “when is he going to get this nonsense over with and let me get on with it? I am ready and have been ready for some time”. It should NOT be “the count has reached 7 but I need more air”.

Lets think for a moment of my personal dive hero Haggi Georgos Statti and all those great divers who dived breathold for a living – they dived or their families didn’t eat! They were the epitome of the Unspoilt diver.



The objective of good organisation is to avoid testing, as far as possible our mental reserves. It allows us to “let go” and helps to eliminate the unexpected. Detachment is very difficult to achieve in a state of chaos.

Organisation begins for the competitive diver with the selection of competitions he will attend this year. First he must consider his budget. A good General chooses his battle ground. Water temperature wind and wave and current play a part in the selection. The level of competition and dates  – “where will I be in my training at this point?”. Time of travel and jet lag. In short is this my best battle ground?

Then there is organisation of my personal equipment and my time, also careful consideration of training and the all important rest days prior to the competition.

Organisation of our time is critical at the event to allow time for our predive routines, visualisation , stretching etc.


This question is not well enough understood. I mean here sleep as distinct from rest. Our records which go back as far as 1992 clearly show a strong relationship between sleep and breathold performance and performance in competition. The benefits of sleep are not clearly understood, we all know that; for instance weight training causes micro tears in the muscle which repair themselves in rest, and thus rest is the essential growth phase.

Sleep revitalises, but more than this for the freediver. When we sleep the brain cycles through 3phases- ? (alpha), ? (theta) and ? (delta). Each cycle lasts about 90 minutes. In the very low alpha /theta phase we get REM sleep , the dreaming sleep associated with the sub conscious mind. This is followed by the delta phase, the unconscious phase associated with the unconscious mind. During the first cycle of sleep we usually have a very brief period of REM measured in seconds and in the last cycle of sleep after 8 hrs and before waking we may experience many minutes of REM.

If you will pardon the metaphor this REM sleep could be seen as the “Evacuation of the mental bowel”. My understanding that in a state of mental constipation, an over loaded sub conscious, we experience stress and a lack of mental vitality an inability to cope. With sufficient sleep the opposite occurs, empowerment, vitality and relaxed confidence.

And here let me venture into the realm of conjecture. Another very important process is at work in diving – we experience Ischemia and Reperfusion (blood shift). This process produces a flooding of the system with ROS (free radicals), which causes post dive exhaustion. Our main defense is NO (nitric oxide), the most powerful anti oxidant known. My belief is that our reserves of NO are mainly replenished during sleep; all observations points to this.



Do not create unnecessary expectations by ourselves or others.

Don’t have rituals or mental crutches; don’t have lucky pieces of equipment.

In competition avoid careless social contact – it’s a waste of energy, and a chance remark runs the risk of striking the wrong chord.

Never compare yourself to others; this is your journey, and yours alone.

If all that we have discussed is in place, everything happens in a state of effortless, detachment and confidence – it is obviously a contradiction to concentrate on concentrating!!

Aharon was involved in military, research, commercial and sports diving education for more than 35 years prior to adopting freediving as his passion. At 73, he is not only one of the most experienced freedive instructors in the world, but is also the oldest continuing ‘masters’ level freediver. He operates from the website His freedive accomplishments began in the mid 70′s


Alonissos: The complete diving destination (Part 1)



In June we were incredibly fortunate to be invited to dive in Alonissos, a small Greek Island in the Sporades island chain located in the North Aegean Sea.  While I have long been a big fan of the Greek Islands as a great holiday destination, I had not had the opportunity to do any diving on previous visits and Mike and I were extremely excited to see what Alonissos had to offer both above and below the surface!

The Sporades are easily accessible via the airport in Skiathos (the first island in the chain), which is served by Jet2 flights from all major UK airports from May through October.  Numerous ferries and charter boats make island hopping from Skiathos Town a breeze.  After an hour boat ride, the picturesque port of Patitiri was a wonderful introduction to Alonissos, where we were met by our gracious hosts Kostas of Albedo Travel and Dias of Alonissos Triton Dive Center.  Mike and I were delighted to be staying at the Paradise Hotel, aptly named for its stunning views over the sea and great location for walking to the waterfront.

Alonissos is beautifully situated in the National Marine Park of Alonissos and the Northern Sporades, the largest marine protected area in Europe.  The surrounding seas offer fabulous marine life, including incredibly rare species such as the Mediterranean monk seal.  They boast deep walls covered in gorgonians and sponges, stunning topography with caverns, swimthroughs and pinnacles, and the first accessible ancient shipwreck from 500BC!

In locations where historical sites have been reported, the waters are largely restricted, but with collaboration between government, underwater archeologists and dive centres, incredible underwater museums are being created for a truly unique diving experience.  Alonissos is home to the first of these, the Ancient Shipwreck of Peristera Accessible Underwater Archeological Site.  The chance to dive into history (along with reports of healthy reef life and amazing underwater topography) meant Mike and I were keen to get in the water.

Our introduction to the diving around Alonissos was at the Agios Georgios Pinnacles, in the channel between Alonissos and Skopelos.  This fantastic site was named “The Chimney,’ and proved to have a huge amount to see.  We got to a decent depth here (over 25m), and marvelled at a colourful reef wall with a wonderful swim through whose rocky walls were absolutely covered with life.  As well as brilliant topography there was no shortage of macro life here.  We saw numerous nudibranchs, five different species in total.  The second dive at Mourtias reef nearby was a shallower dive along a nice wall with lots of crevices. Several moray eels and grouper called this site home.  We enjoyed looking in the crevices for lobster and smaller benthic life, such as cup corals and tunicates.

Our itinerary allowed us two dives a day with afternoons left to explore the island with our hire car and evenings to enjoy the famous Greek hospitality.  This proved to be a lovely mix of in-water and land based diversions.  

The next days diving to the Gorgonian Gardens and Triton’s Cave was to be even better!  These two stunning sites are nothing short of fabulous.  The Gorgonian Gardens was a deep wall near to the Agios Georgios islands.  The ever-present currents in this deep channel meant that the sea life was amazing … the namesake Gorgonian sea fans dotted the wall at a depth of 30 to 50 meters, getting ever larger the deeper we went.  Above 30m was by no means less beautiful, with sponges, corals, scorpionfish, moray eels and some rare and colourful nudibranchs.

The second shallower dive of the day was to Triton’s Cave or the Cavern of Skopelos, on the east side of that island. The spectacular rock formations had wild striations both above and below the water making a truly epic topography.  The cavern entrance was at 14m, and big enough for a buddy pair, winding up to 6m and passing two beautiful windows out into the blue.  Emerging from the cavern, the light at the shallower depths and the incredible rock formations made for a fantastic gentle swimming safety stop and we all surfaced by the boat with massive grins. 

Check out our next blog :Alonissos: The complete diving destination (Part 2)” to hear about our amazing dive on the 2500 year old Peristera Wreck!

Thanks to:

Alonissos Triton Dive Center

Albedo Travel

Paradise Hotel

Alonissos Municipality

Continue Reading


Mamma Mia! Diving Skopelos (Part 2)



Our second days dive itinerary was to the famous Christoforos wreck! This is arguably the best dive in Skopelos and though only open to divers with deep diving experience, this 83m long wreck is well worth the visit.  

The Christoforos sits in 43 meters of water with the deck at 32 to 35 meters.  A 30m dive can give an impressive view of the wreck, though such a large wreck needs a few dives to truly do it justice.  Given its ideal location just a 2 minute boat ride from the dive centre dock it is an excellent first dive of the day.  The sheltered site is also diveable in all but the absolute worst weather so although deep, the water is usually clear with little to no current making it a very pleasant dive.  The site is superb for technical diving and a great training site for the Tec 40 and 45 programs, offered by Skopelos Dive Center.  

The Christoforos wreck was originally a collier ship built in 1950 at Grangemouth shipyard under the name “Thomas Hardie”.  In 1976 she joined the Greek merchant fleet as “Christoforos”.  On the 2nd of October 1983 the Christoforos was carrying 2600 tonnes of cement from Volos to Piraeus Port. During the voyage the weather turned, resulting in the ship developing a 7 degree list, whereby she changed course for safe anchorage at Panormos, Skopelos.  The ship reached Panormos at 16:00 with a list of 17 degrees and water ingress to No. 1 hull.  Though attempts were made to right the vessel, the crew were ordered to abandon ship at 22:00.  The captain, lieutenant and the quartermaster remained to try and save the ship, but had to abandon the attempt themselves and the Christoforos finally sank at 05:30 on 3rd October 1983.  She now sits upright in 43 meters of water less than 200m from shore in Panormos.

Diving has only been allowed here since 2018, so the wreck is very well preserved and a real treat to dive.  Permission to dive here was granted by the authorities after lots of incredibly hard work by the Skopelos Dive Center staff.  Having a fantastic wreck in such an amazing location and in excellent condition is a real privilege.

Of all the sites in Skopelos this was the site Mike and I were most keen to experience.  Having kitted up and zipped across the bay to the mooring, we left the surface and followed the descent line until the wreck emerged spectacularly from the blue at 15m.  She is a big and beautiful wreck, sitting as though calmly continuing her journey along the seabed.  With most of her original features still intact there were points of interest everywhere, including the anchors, winches, ships telegraphs, the wheel and RDF antenna.  

We found that aquatic life had colonised the ship, with schools of fish, electric blue nudibranchs, a large moray eel and the resident scorpionfish lurking inside the bridge.  The Christoforos was truly a stunning wreck and despite maximising our time at depth we eventually had to say our goodbyes and begin the slow and steady return to the surface. 

After a superb morning dive we had the afternoon to do a little sightseeing of the island, with a trip to the church of Agios Ioannis Kastri made famous by the blockbuster movie “Mamma Mia!”. Mike and I spent a happy afternoon pootling around in our little hire car before meeting up with Lina from Skopelos Dive Center.  An underwater archeologist as well as a dive professional, Lina had offered to show us a rather special attraction, the Christoforos shipwreck Digital Spot public information and awareness centre.

A fantastic initiative made possible from the collaboration of the government and hard work of the staff at Skopelos Dive Center is the “Digital Spot” in Agnontas port.  This information center has a number of displays on the history of the Christoforos wreck, the process by which the wreck was allowed to be opened to the public for diving tourism, other sites of historical interest in the area, a video of the wreck and the best bit, a virtual reality dry dive experience!  The beauty of the VR system is that non diving members of the family can see what you have seen on the wreck, or you can see areas that you may not have explored during the dive due to time or depth limitations.  It was a truly immersive experience and a great addition to the dive itself.

After a wonderful day we celebrated our last evening on the island with an exquisite meal in Skopelos Town with fabulous views over the town and bay, washed down with the excellent local wine.  The lamb with lemon and potatoes was a meal which I could happily eat every day for the rest of my life! 

Skopelos is an island that truly has it all.  The diving is excellent, the landscape is beautiful with plenty of non diving activities, the locals friendly and the food and drink superb.  Given how accessible it is as a holiday destination it has avoided becoming overcrowded and even in peak season offers a fun yet relaxing atmosphere.  We highly recommend giving Skopelos a visit.  We will certainly be back again!

Thanks to:

Municipality of Skopelos (

Skopelos Dive Center  (

Ionia Hotel (

Dolphin of Skopelos (

Ta Kymata restaurant (@takymata)

The Muses restaurant (

Aktaiov resturant (

Continue Reading

E-Newsletter Sign up!

Instagram Feed