Victor Legros's post

Our defining moment The morning is chilly but sunny, a bright ball of white trying to warm us up as my buddy and I put on our 10 mm wetsuits. Water temperature is reporting to be just below three degrees, it’s going to be a cold one. Warm lub, one leg, the other leg, cold already. Warm lub, one arm, the other arm, breathe in, breathe out. But we get ready, we’re not talking much. There isn’t much to say after having dived together for ten years, we are synced. Mask, fins, nose-clip, mask … ah yes around my neck, weight belt, computer: we both grab one handle of our float each, our dry bag, put on a thick Gore-Tex lined marine coat and head out down the rocky ledge and onto the white beach. I feel the slushy sand and snow squeaking and crunching under our footsteps as we walk towards the water. There isn’t much left, and whatever there will probably be gone soon. Breathe in, breathe out. We reach the water and you feel it, not like a shock though. It’s subtler, it creeps into your boots and turns all your toes to icicles. It threatens to take your foot, which is already getting numb. Used to it and still it’s the worst moment of every freediving session. Make light of scuba divers all you want, but they have brains and dry-suits, maybe the pressure does something to our common sense. Walk in, breathe in, breathe out. One foot in the boat, throw the float in, second leg in, sit and keep warm while Ingvar starts the boat engine. It moans and screeches as it’s painfully woken up from its mechanical hibernation. But as usual, after copious amounts of cursing from my Icelandic friend, it comes to life in a metallic concerto of pistons and exhaust rumbles. Our little tin boat makes it way to our dive site, less than three nautical miles off the coast of Siglufjörður. Enjoy the view, breathe in, breathe out. Depth training day today, I’m feeling slightly nauseous from the exhaust fumes of the engine despite an almost flat sea. It’s a rare sight and it’ll be good for training, I’ll finally be able to practice breath-ups on my back without the threat of a two-degree Celsius wave crashing the party. A smile comes to my face and I take a slow breath in facing the ocean, enjoying the last meagre feelings of warmth I’ll get until later today, when I hit the firepl… “F***ing old shitty rusty piece of shit” is the immediate next thought that comes to mind, as I erupt into a series of raspy coughs and Ingvar nearly falls off the boat laughing. Easy for him, he’s named after an ancient Norse god so his karma pretty much shields him from anything but a tsunami or an underwater eruption! I’m still grumbling as we get to the site and anchor to a buoy, set up the float and stretch our lungs and upper body. We look at each other: despite our unconditional deep love for these icy Icelandic waters, a sense of dread and anticipation born from cold experience grabs us both by the gut and wrenches it a bit, just because. Hood on, mask rinse, mask on, nose clip around the neck, fins on. Breathe in, breathe out. Ingvar rolls back off the boat without any further ado after giving me an ok signal and I reluctantly shed my heavy coat to get it over with. I sit on the side of the boat, glance at the blue sky above and address a quick prayer to whoever is watching over my freezing self and roll backwards. Every cell of my face erupts into violent rioting and sends back the information to my brain that it is about to be forever numb. That split second is enough to trigger a strong mammalian dive reflex and I stifle a near gasp as I surface and breathe in. As usual, I like to have first dive and I’m doing a max today, thirty-eight meters. I look at Ingvar who gives me an ok signal. I lie on my back, grab on to the float and start breathing. I don’t try to focus just yet, the cold water slowly seeping in my suit and settling would disrupt any attempt to ignore the cold. I get a feel for the surge, the current, the swell as the water forces me to acclimatize to this ungodly temperature. And then slowly, I just wander off, my mind drifting from body part to body part as I let my breathing settle into a natural cycle. I hear in the distance some bird screech and Ingvar taps my wrist, our signal that he’ll tap again in two minutes. Breathe in, breathe out. Time stops, and accelerates at the same time, and I stop feeling the cold, or the swell, or the icy wind on my face. My body feels like one long, flowing blade and I feel the second tap on my wrist like a crack of thunder. I take my final breath, feeling the air fill my lungs from the bottom to the top; I gently equalize as I let myself fall backward into darkness. For a briefest moment as my face sinks in, all I can see in the deep black and blue abyssal depths, the rays of light that despite their best efforts cannot reach any deeper than a dozen metres. And then there is the rope and I feel my legs slowly pumping, without any conscious effort. The marks appear almost randomly as I progress, and I focus solely on equalizing. Free fall, equalize, fifteen meters, free fall, equalize, alarm, mouthful, twenty-five meters, equalize, alarm, thirty meters … chest stir, damn it! My brain kicks back in as I feel a light but regular kick in my diaphragm. I know I am at thirty-five and I feel comfortable, so I go down and hang off the plate. It feels wonderful and my breath catches … yes I know … as I stare in awe at the immensity of everything I can see. And I understand, in split second, and everything I thought I knew comes crashing around me. This is absolute freedom, an undeniable unalienable feeling of being. This is what I am, this is my defining moment, my everything and my nothing. As quickly as it came, it goes, and my body reminds me it is starving for oxygen. I make my way up, enjoying the warmths that spreads in my chest as pressure disappears. I surface, and get into recovery breathing. Everything is so bright, so sweet, each breath full of sensation and I smile. Ingvar looks at me as I give my ok signal, and I see understanding in his eyes. He knows. Because we are freedivers.

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