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Herbert Nitsch about his Record Attempts

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cu @ the bottom
Nov 2, 2002
Thanks a lot to everyone!
Vielen Dank an Alle!

The idea behind those record attempts just before the “Heart of Europe” was to try to peak my performance at this one point and to reduce the costs. I was lucky of having the time to do more training as last years, so I had the best basis for successful world record attempts.
Equalization was always the limit for my deep dives. I thought many times before that I have reached my physical equalization limit, but I realized in Cyprus that 2 weeks of training increased that limit very well and even more when training for those WR.

Once the equalization was less of a factor the distance and time seemed to play the major roll. Trying to find the most efficient technique became more essential. What worked best for me is a very slow start of the descent and an early glide phase (~30m) without any movement, trying to be very relaxed, paying less attention to my streamline then on equalization in the beginning and vice versa as I get deeper.

Originally we were planning 3 days for the records before the competition and 1 backup day after the event. Well, then the first 1 ½ days were lost because of different troubles and for the backup day I was already scheduled for my biannual flight simulator test. So all was left was one and a half days for 5 WR attempts. We changed the plan to concentrate on the tough ones before - 100m in Constant Weight and Free Immersion, because we thought these are the most desirable WRs.

1st day: It was late afternoon till everything was ready to dive. First we had to wait for the doctor to arrive from work and then it took us quite some time to fix the bottom camera set-up, which was only built that same morning.

I decided to start with free immersion, having only one mark at 100m. On the descent, going feet first, at around 40m I felt an other line
touching my back, a little later my arm and finally my hand was stuck between them . I changed my grip and continued. I felt my safety line, which was attached to my weight belt and held by my toes getting more and more resistance. I could actually hear the rubbing of the carabiner getting stronger until I came to a complete stop. I let go of the safety line with my toes (still attached to my belt). I came loose and continued with my feet around the line just a bit till something stopped my feet again. At first I thought it might be the tangled rope again so I spread my legs to continue. I only realized this was the end of the line, when I saw the discus right in front of my eyes (since I am going feet first and having to touch the 100m with my hand I had the 100m mark 125cm above the discus). LMC on the surface. Since the depth gauges read even more, the rope was measured again for the next day. For a second attempt right after, we didn’t have any divers.

2. Day FI at noon one mark at 100m only again. I raised my hand, because I couldn't hear the depth alarm and missed the 100m mark by 15cm although my other hand was way below (but not on the rope) - not valid, not even 99m because there was no other mark on the rope. Martin, the safety deep diver (100m) suffered DCS after this dive and was flown to a decompression chamber. He joined the party after the event – so everything is ok with him!

In the afternoon I decided to play it safe and asked to put a mark at 95, 96 and one at 100m. (I made a prerequisite dive to 98m a few days before). The marks I wanted to use didn't work so the judges Luc and Bill fixed some small lights with tape in the last minute. Due to the fact that I was afraid that I might get stuck with my lanyard at those lights (no bottom diver), having 2 invalid attempts already, not having more than 1 or 2 attempts left, I decided to take the first mark. This was my 1st valid WR - CW 95m. We used the counter weight system which allows to pull the rope at more then 2m per second, instead of a bottom diver.

3. Day was actually the first day of the competition and not planned for my records, so we started earlier (not early enough). The first attempt was FI 100m with one additional mark at 99m so I couldn’t miss it again. Since we only had one fixed camera I had to make sure
that one can see my hand on the rope going below the mark even when I happen to face my back to the camera, so I spread my legs and went way down with my hand this time. The surfacing and the video was good this time – 100m FI.

For the afternoon we planned 100m CW with only a 100m tag (light), because I already had the 95m WR and anything in-between was not a desirable goal. All the divers and apneists were already at the pool, while we didn't have safety divers and scuba tanks. We were about to cancel the attempt, but in the very last minute after many phone calls, we could fulfill the requirements for the attempts. I was very stressed but still decided to give it a shot. I got the 100m tag (light) but had a short LMC.
The doctors took the speedboat to the static competition right after. Due to the number of athletes, I had enough time to join the static competition later.

4. CW competition: My top time was 13:00h, to 94m. I had not done one dive with a regular mask since Cyprus, so it was interesting to see how this would work out. For some reason I felt even better than on my 95m dive with my special mask.?!

At ~ 15:00 (including 30 min delay) I did 50m CW without fins - no time for a second dive to 60m+.

Some numbers – dive times:
For constant weight, it takes me between 2’10” and 2’25” for the descent and a total of 3’20” – 3’40” on a 95 – 100m dive.
For free immersion. I am a little faster on the descent, because of 1 kilo of weigh (and none for CW). 2’05” - 2’17” for the descent, but have a total dive time of 4’06” to 4’20” for a 100m dive.
I don’t have any exact numbers, because I had to borrow depth gauges for my dives from other freedivers, since my Stinger got “lost” in Hawaii and my other depth gauge first didn’t show more than 97m and then it died totally.

Many thanks to: Johannes our constructer, Swobsi the safety and cameramen, Martin the 100m man, the juges Luc and Bill, all the
safety divers, Mares, Immobilien Ertl, Marktgemeinde Millstatt, Region Millstätter See, Raiffeisenbank Millstättersee, Gasthof Brugger, Malerei Schneeweiss, Stefan Wiessmeyer, Harald, my father, Thomas the speedboat driver and all the helping hands. As I had to focus so hard on my attempts, I do not have all the names by hand and will ask Harald to complete the list. (http://www.freediving.at)
thanks for posting the account.
i'm amazed at the assymetry of his dive profiles - for constant at least. around 0.7m/s going down and about 1.3m/s going up! i found it interesting that he wore no weight for constant too. i suppose that partly accounts for his very slow descent.
Thanks for the story and congratulations to Herbert for his records!

Herbert or st3fan, could you explain what Herbert's special mask is like? Fluid filled with contacts, or something else?
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Thanks again!

My "special mask" is simply a sphera without a nose part in which I glued a rivet, where I can plug a small hose on. I use the hose for warm-up and fun dives, but for maximum dives I don't use the hose and let water enter the mask. The advantage is, that I can see for the first 10m and the last 5 meters, opposed to filling the mask before the dive. I use a nose clip, but normally no lenses, although I do have lenses.


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The advantage is, that I can see for the first 10m and the last 5 meters
It’s an honor to have you on the board. When you don't use the hose, is the reason you see in the first 10 meters, because the mask hasn’t filled up yet? Is it noisy when it’s filling up? Why are you able to see in the last 5 meters?
Thanks in advance,
I think he means the last 5 m on the ascent (clear the mask with expanding air over the hose).

I clearly remember when I asked Herbert about his "special" mask. He told me that this is top secret and if I would know what it is all about, he would have to kill me :D

Of course Herbert was just joking. Unlike some other experienced freedivers, Herbert share's his great knowledge with anyone who is interested ;)
Great report, thanks Herbert. It's good to have freedivers on board who are forthcoming with info. Congrats on the record, and good luck in the future.
Erik Y.
Nice report! And congrats again!

Concerning the descent/ascent profile, it is very similar to what I found works best. I use a 0.7-0.8m/s descent, and a 1.4-1.5m/s ascent. I start sinking at 30m. This took years of experimentation to discover, and the fact that Herbert found a similar pattern means we are probably 'zooming in' on the optimal profile for inhale dives.

In 2001 when I did my record attempt I was descending far too fast: 1.00 - 1.05 m/s average, with a 'terminal speed' of 1.2 m/s.

Eric Fattah
BC, Canada
my profiles have recently been shifting in this direction also!...

throughout most of the summer i was weighted quite heavily and reached a (streamlined) terminal speed of 1.1m/s and ascended at around 1.1-1.2m/s. now i have trimmed back a little on weight and my descents have slowed down to around 0.85 and my ascents are up to about 1.4m/s - arms down of course. i still sink early though - from around 16-20m max. sometimes i like to do super-fast ascents from a reasonably comfortable depth (say 70% max), at around 1.6m/s - all the way to the surface - great fun! :D

my profiles aren't quite as assymmetrical as Herbert's and Eric's but they do seem to be heading in that direction now... one clear benefit is that it makes equalisation a little easier during the descent.

i have also started to do away with my usual 40m warm-up and just do a series of statics and negatives then go for it. one benefit is that my legs are that much fresher, but there may be down sides too...
Thanks so much for that post! It is great to able to read about WR dives from the divers themselves. Congrats Herbert!
Herbert's mask is a simple pipe mask. There are a few threads on how to build one in the archives. http://forums.deeperblue.net/showthread.php?s=&threadid=22196&highlight=pipe+mask
I built one and for the most part they are a pain in the butt to eq. because when the lungs are packed it is very difficult to just let a "puff" of air into the mask. Much more air wants to escape. Wearing a nose clip is really nice though. I would imagine fluid goggles are the best way to go.
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One of the things that strikes me about this sport is that 1, it is difficult if not sometimes impossible to watch it, as a spectator or even video footage (due to zero vis as in Herbert's lake) and 2, that we need the competitor's report to truly understand what happened during the performance. The reason for that is that so much of what happens during the attempt is only observable internally, by the performer. We cannot "see" what happens unless the performer describes to the best of his/her ability what has occured!
Makes sense?
It really is exciting to read the first hand accounts, and we gain knowledge as a by-product.......or vice-versa :)
I remember the first time I read such an account. It was Eric Fattah describing in detail a morning leading up to and including a very deep (67Metres?) dive at a competition. I learned tons of techniques and was entertained at the same time. It drove me to try harder and experiment. Same with Herbert's account here.
By contrast there are many attempts and records that we hear "nada" about, unfortunately.
We are lucky to have these people here on board.
Erik Y.
It’s very nice to see so many who are interested in my dives, however I think it is a lot easier to get the whole picture when talking from person to person.

St3fan, thank you for assisting with your answers!

Don, ...yes the first 10m I can see because of enough air left in the mask; one can not hear anything from the water entering; the last 5m – I mean before reaching the surface, I can see because the air which is still trapped in the mask is expanding, although some air is lost, especially when going head down. I never use the pipe (hose) when going for a maximum dive.

Jim, to control the air to equalize the mask is a bit tricky in the very beginning only, but I guess it also depends on the mask used- the smaller the mask or goggles are and the less flexible, the harder it is to control the equalization. It is so easy and comfortable to use (once you get comfortable not seeing very much). I found it very irritating that water is entering my tear channel when flooding a mask before the dive.
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Eric, I guess some freedivers are just a little lazy on the web, definitely including me. Also it is very hard to find a middle coarse between short readable and very detailed reports.
Originally posted by Herbert
Eric, I guess some freedivers are just a little lazy on the web,

Yeah, no problems. I don't mean to say that a diver must tell his story, only that we are lucky when they do!
Erik Y.
....At ~80m I heard a hissing sound from high to medium pitch. Only a split of a second I thought, “Shit I burst my eardrum!”, but then I thought: no pain do dizziness, so it could not have been my eardrum. Shortly after I found myself grabbing the tag. Just as I turned everything started to spin around me. It appeared to me that I was swimming up, spiralling around the rope. First I thought, “What am I doing wrong?”, before I realized that it was impossible to spiral that quickly around the rope. I tried to ignore the spinning as much as possible and made the rope touching by belly in order not to make too much extra distance by swimming around the rope. (I was told later that I had been going up straight)....

I really like this paragraph :duh
Herbert- is it fun to dive to 100 meters or do you really have to psych yourself up for it? How much deeper do you think you will go in the future?
I’m not sure if I understand the expression “psych up for”.
I would rather call it a kick. The deeper I go, the longer the freefall, the better the kick.
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