World record free diver in San Pedro

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 12, No. 30            August 8, 2002

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Patrick Musimu with "mono-fin"

Thousands of scuba divers frequent Ambergris Caye on an annual basis, but the island is currently hosting a diver who requires no self-contained underwater breathing apparatus - he is world record holding free diver Patrick Musimu. Patrick broke his third world record April 20th of this year in the Dominican Republic during a "constant weight" free dive to 285 feet in just under three minutes.

    Born in Belgium, the son of a Congolese father and a Belgian mother, Patrick spent most of his childhood and youth (ages 3-17) in Zaire, Africa. Patrick began studying martial arts at the age of 12, not knowing it was merely the beginning of a lifetime of physical and mental challenges. When he was 17, he returned to Belgium to attend university, spending three years studying economics and then five years becoming a licensed physiotherapist. Aside from his studies, Musimu also engaged in a variety of extracurricular activities, competing in kickboxing and working as a Tae kwondo trainer.

    It was not until he was 28 years old that Musimu discovered free diving while reading a dive magazine. He was fascinated by the "dolphin men" able to perform this activity and felt the combined physical and mental challenge of the sport was the perfect complement to his martial arts philosophy. Free diving consists of holding your breath to dive underwater in one of four different disciplines: 1) Free Immersion - descent and ascent using only the force of the arms, following a rope, with no artificial aid. 2) Constant Weight - descent and ascent with fins, following a rope. 3) Variable Weight - descent with a sledge and ascent by the force of the arms and fins. 4) No Limit - descent with a sledge and ascent with a parachute.

    After developing his own personal training program, Patrick learned quickly and made his first descent on the 17th of May, 1999 in the cold waters of a quarry lake in Belgium. A little more than a year later, Musimu broke his first world record in this same lake, on July 30th 2000, during a free immersion dive of 215 feet (65 meters). The very next day, he broke his second world record with a constant weight dive of 208 feet (63 meters). 

    Patrick says unlike scuba diving, where one relaxes by observing the underwater world around them, free diving gives him a feeling of "looking inside himself." Although his physical training is quite vigorous, much attention is paid to mental discipline and relaxation techniques. Musimu explained, "You really don't feel like you're holding your breath; you are saturated with oxygen and you feel it- sometimes I forget about breathing until I realize it is time to surface. Even then, it is not a panicked thought, just a reality that I must surface." When asked how long he can hold his breath, he replied, "seven minutes, three seconds." During his constant weight dives, Patrick prefers using a single fin, or "mono-fin," that both feet fit in, similar to a mermaid's tail.

    Today, Musimu is the titleholder of three world records in free diving and hopes to attempt his fourth right here in Belize. Now, at age 31, he says his goal is to break 100 meters or 333 feet.

    Musimu is currently training at Oscar's Gym, at the Belize Yacht Club pool and in the waters of Ambergris Caye with the aid of Barefoot Watersports.  Much more support is needed, though, for him to achieve his world record-breaking task. Musimu explained that he must announce his intentions, a month in advance, to the Association International for the Development of Apnea (AIDA), the organization responsible for promoting free diving. For Musimu to attempt his free dive record, he must have such things as a buoy with 600 feet of rope, support divers, a medical team recognized by AIDA and underwater cameras to verify his feat. His support divers also require Trimix, a special air mixed for deepwater scuba divers to breathe.

    Unfortunately, it was necessary to postpone the date for this record-breaking event (August 31st) because the support Musimu was promised to receive was not forthcoming. He has been contacted by Fox Sports to perform the event in Curacao, but feels comfortable in Belize, having already spent so much time training here. Musimu and his fiancÈ Isabelle met with Prime Minister Said Musa last week who was reportedly eager to have the event take place in this country and suggested a meeting with the Minister of Tourism, Mark Espat. 

    Hopefully, Patrick Musimu will be lucky enough to not only fulfill his dreams, but accomplish them in the magic waters of "La Isla Bonita".
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