Masimu breaks World Record for Free Diving - 120 meters!

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 12, No. 47            December 5, 2002

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A joyous Patrick after setting new world record

After my third world record, set in the Constant Ballast class at 87 meters/287 feet, in the Dominican Republic waters in April 2002, I spent five months on Ambergris Caye, Belize. After my preparation in the shallow waters of Belize, I was put in contact, through Subaquatic Safety Systems (SSS) Hyperbaric Chamber owner Mauricio Moreno, with the Director of TDI/SDI Central America. He arranged everything to set the next world record attempt in Mexico. Bah"a Divers, located in Akumal, became our dive operator and we were hosted by Bah"a Principe Resorts.     

    After setting three records in the physical disciplines of free diving, I decided to explore the darkness of the abyss and compete in the sled disciplines. Therefore, I chose the Variable Weight Class where the athlete uses a sled (weighted device) to go down, but has to come up physically by pulling or fining only, without the help of an inflatable balloon. During the training, I had already approached 90 meters/300 feet just by fining up and down, without help from any weights, so I knew I was ready to make this next step - proving to myself that I could go stronger and deeper.  

    This discipline was totally new to me, as I did not have much experience in riding the sled. The training was supposed to last for one month and I had planned my progression really slowly. As a Physical Therapist, I am aware of the necessary time required for the human body to adapt to this kind of stress. 

    I had no real target - only going beyond the actual world record of 117 meters. While waiting for the construction of the sled, we started the training with a weight attached to my ankle, gliding along the main rope. I knew I was physically strong but the questions were: Can I cope with the stress? Can I equalize that deep? How much will the narcosis affect my dive? Will my mono-fin be a handicap for this dive?      

    I had only 24 days to figure that out when I started the in-water training. As we were in the middle of the hurricane season, we were taking a lot of risks. The law of Murphy struck us twice with Hurricanes Isidore and Lily reaching the Yucatan Peninsula. We encountered many problems: weather, mooring, equalization and flu, forcing us to postpone the event until November 10th, 2002. The easy and slow progression was just another old Utopic dream. We were already behind schedule; I have to admit that at that point Isabelle was a great moral support, and I had a fantastic crew that kept supporting me. Above everything, Audrey's tragic accident hit us tremendously and a cold wave of fear and incertitude struck the whole team. This tragic accident reminded us of the necessity of a good and efficient safety system. The training went on and it bonded our team even more.

    To reach the targeted depth, I had to work on my equalization and after a month of data and calculations, I was finally able to predict the depth I could easily reach without breaking or slowing the descent. As for my constant ballast dives, everything cleared up when I found the solution and the dive became just a sportive performance with a stress factor to cope with, nothing mythical.      

    The day of the record dive was delayed by unstable weather conditions; the Association International for the Development of Apnea (AIDA) judges were present for only four days and the weather forecast was even worse. It was now or never. Doctor Brian Lapointe, the famous Senior Marine Biologist from Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution, was honoring me with his presence and National Geographic, NBC, Televisa and other local television and newspaper crews followed the event. As usual, I began my preparation with a static and some negative dives to squeeze my lungs, followed by a warm-up dive to 50 meters. We were ready for the final countdown when the wind picked up. For security reasons we decided to wait and after 40 torturing minutes, I received the green light from the crew to enter the water.

     The final 10-minute countdown: The divers are all around me now. A last glance at Tim, Eugenio, Octavio, Mauricio, Dana and the rest of the divers. We don't need to talk; I can feel their tension but they have that big smile on their face saying, "You're going to do it!" Minus four minutes: The divers submerge to position themselves all along the rope. Tim and Eugenio will be the bottom divers and the others will all be in a range of 20 meters from each other. Minus 30 seconds: I am about to take my final breath when, amazingly, one of the judges next to me starts asking irrelevant questions to a safety free diver about the camera. Out of the corner of my eye I see Isabelle gesturing and ordering silence. It is with this last picture in my mind that I close my eyes, thinking of her having to protect me and my concentration until the very last seconds. At that moment, nothing can stop me; the tight time frame has to be respected for the mixed gasses divers. A final breathe, followed by the lung packing technique, which helps me to store up to 10 liters of air in my lungs. With a hand gesture I signal Isabelle to let me go- after the shock of the sled penetrating the water, I start relaxing my muscles to reduce my oxygen consumption to the minimum. At that point, I lose all track of time, as if somebody has stopped the universal clock. I completely forget that, as a human being, I am supposed to breathe, and instead I start living from equalization to equalization. Three times during my descent, divers will signal my progression to the targeted depth, where an ambient pressure of 13 kilos per square centimeter will surround me.       

    As I relax, I hear the friction of the sled against the rope, dropping faster and faster in the blue. Last signal at 95 meters: I prepare myself for the final impact and open the break.

    TOUCHDOWN - 120 meters: I open my eyes and express a sign of victory to the camera. I close my eyes again and start my ascent; I concentrate on every muscle required to extract me from the aspiration of gravity. I keep repeating to myself: "You've done it." As I progress, I hear the divers banging on their tanks and screaming in their regulators. I answer them with a big smile showing them that everything is okay. As if I was pulling myself out of another dimension, my lungs, squeezed to the extreme, start deploying again.        Last signal: I open my eyes to see Isabelle escorting me for the last 20 meters. I break the surface screaming, expressing my joy. According to the federation's rules, nobody can touch me for the next 60 seconds, to prove the depth was mastered.

    The dive was completed in three minutes - ten seconds; for a one-minute, ten-second descent and a two-minute ascent. A fully-equipped staff of seven doctors and paramedics from SSS Hyperbaric Chambers were present to supervise the safety of the event and waited with us for the last diver to come up after 135 minutes of decompression time.        

    I would like to thank my partners, SSS Hyperbaric Chambers, Bah"a Divers, Bah"a Principe, TDI/SDI Mexico, Placid SA, Poseidon Mexico, Barefoot Watersports and SunBreeze Hotel in Ambergris Caye, Fundacion Ecological and Xel-Ha, who all contributed to the realization and safety of this world record attempt. 

    I want to dedicate this dive, in person, to all the friends we made during this event.

See you down there!     

/s/ Patrick Musimu

Editor's Note: Patrick Musimu was featured in the August 8th edition of The San Pedro Sun regarding his attempt to break the world record here, in Belize. Due to a less than enthusiastic response from central government and a lack of private sector assistance, he was forced to attempt the feat in Mexico where his needs were met with an abundance of support. How unfortunate for Belize to neglect this opportunity to be recognized in the world diving circuit as a prime dive destination.
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