An interview with Harry Chamas
I’ve recently had the opportunity to catch up with Harry Chamas, the holder of the British national free diving record for variable weight and no limits freediving. Here is what he has to say about freediving and how it shaped his outlook on life.
1. What was the drive/motivation for you to pursue the British national records?
Records have never been a source of motivation for me, I enjoy developing my skills and going deeper because it fascinates me. Freediving is so new that there is no set way to get better like there is in most traditional sports. So for me to progress I have to experiment and develop skills over a long period, this pioneer aspect of the sport suits me very well.
Over the years I have built my skills to the point that I knew I could gain these national records, and I was working in the perfect place to set them, alongside the world record holder in one of the disciplines. So I did it.
It’s nice to know that I am the best in my country at something, but in the end I don’t attach any meaning to it, I don’t see these records as my pinnacle, I’m just getting started.
2. What is the difference in the styles of freediving?
In the ocean there are 5 different styles, Constant weight is swimming down and up with fins or a monofin, Constant weight no fins is swimming down and up using a modified breast stroke, free immersion is pulling down and up on a rope, variable weight is being pulled down by a weighted sled and swimming back up, and no limits is being pulled down on a weighted sled and pulled up by a lift bag and compressed air. I hold the records in the last 2 disciplines. Each have their own quality and challenges.
3. How did you get into freediving?
I left England and began travelling in 2009, and took a mask with me. When I made it to Thailand I went snorkelling for the first time and began to dive down, not to impressive depths but the point is it always seemed normal for me to dive. I remember being so curious about what was down there, it was irresistible, I had to go down. Slowly it became a passion and I took some training in Dahab, Egypt where I learned about the sport of freediving, it has been a big part of my life ever since.
4. What did your training schedule look like for the event?
During the build up to my attempts I was working as a freediving coach. This meant the only chance I had to train was to go out early in the morning and do a dive, but due to the intensity of my workload, I could not do this very often or I would become burned out. So the vast majority of my training was done out of the water and I used visualisation and other mental training techniques to prepare my mind and accept the idea of going so deep without actually doing it. This is an advanced form of training that is only possible after years of building up an understanding of your mind and body.
5. Tell me about you support divers.
My support divers were the interns that I had trained over the previous 5 months, they were experienced in the set up and performing rescues, I trusted them and they were my friends, in fact all members of the team were long time friends, it was great to do my attempt around people I know and trust.
6. What is next?
Coaching has always been a passion of mine so I plan on continuing to develop as a coach in Dahab, Egypt. I will continue to train and progress in my diving but I am weary to set goals or attaching too much meaning to my depths, I have seen that the more you make a big deal about a depth, the harder it will become. So not setting goals is a conscious decision to simply explore my capabilities.
7. How has freediving effected your life?
Freediving has been the inspiration to explore deeper into my mind and body. It is the reason I eat healthily, meditate, stretch, hit the gym. It requires an awareness and honesty with yourself that separates it from any other sport that I have ever participated in. It has allowed me to explore myself, meet wonderful people and make a living from my passion in amazing places around the world, I am grateful every day that I found freediving.
8. Tell me about the life style currently developing around the freediving subculture.
Every person who tries freediving will have a hugely rewarding experience. You have to overcome so many natural instincts and fears to take yourself below the water on a single breath. To someone who has never gave freediving a chance this may seem terrifying, and this is why freediving has been labled as an extreme sport. But in reality with a little training, to be underwater gives you peace of mind and freedom of movement, it’s as close as we will ever get to flying.
Everyone who realises this has a profound experience. Some can walk away from that experience. Others can’t.
There is a whole group of people who have given up their “normal” lives and made freediving their life. This is such a beautiful decision because it comes from pure passion, there is no money in freediving, no sponsors, no government help – even for top level guys.
This common passion pulls us all together, the sport is so new that we are all pioneers, exploring new concepts, sharing ideas and experiences and growing together, Freediving as an activity is totally intrinsic but there is no way to do it without people that you trust to support you. Each time you dive you are trusting your safety and life into the hands of your buddy, this builds bonds and lifelong friendships.
Dahab, Egypt is the largest and oldest freediving community in the world, nothing has stopped us coming here, revolutions or terrorist attacks just mean that we get to have the blue hole to ourselves for a few months. This is where I have decided to settle, in the stronghold of freediving, surrounded by my passion and the freediving bums that share that passion.
I understand that most people who love freediving do not have the possibility of dropping their lives and moving to Dahab, and it is sad to me to think that they are missing out on the conversations that will help them to improve in the sport they love, for this reason I have a youtube channel – Freedive Passion – in which I give advice on freediving training.
You can learn more about Harry and freediving on his website: www.freedivepassion.com
*A version of this article first appeared at www.scubadiverlife.com