Our Goal: 125 meters Variable Ballast


People keep asking us, what is the target depth and category for your attempt in December? We have kept this information confidential until now, for reasons that I will explain below, but the time has come to let it out. So, come December 27th, Yasemin will attempt to dive to 125 meters/410 feet, bu descending with the use of a weighted sled and ascending under her own power, the definition of this category.

Variable Ballast is probably Yasemin’s favorite category. As an old school freediver, she (and me too) feels that the Constant Ballast categories, either with fins or totally unassisted, are the most athletic ones of all, but in terms of preference, she loves Variable. Going down with the sled is a lot of fun for a freediver and although most would prefer to ascend with a liftbag or balloon in No Limits fashion, Yasemin prefers the demands of ascending on her own means. I guess Variable is the best compromise between both types of diving, where you get help one way but not on the other, and where you are ascending from such depths, that it is impossible to do it with a single technique, so a combination of techniques must be used, something which is very interesting, and challenging, to both Yasemin and I.

Back in 2000, Yasemin became the first woman to reach the 100 meter/328 ft barrier on this category. Just days earlier, Deborah Andollo of Cuba had dived to 95 meters and the following day Yasemin dove to 96 meters and then four days later to 100 meters. That Deborah’s record lasted so little is a shame, underlining one of the many political problems affecting freediving then and now, and the need for communication and civilized unity among freedivers. Our original plan was to dive to 95 meters and we had announced our record plans three months prior to the attempt, but then Deborah decided to do the same depth at the same time, basically forcing us to dive deeper than her, which of course, we did. And that’s the main reason we had kept our intended goal and category so “secrete” until now. It is totally senseless to spend months training for a category, and then have another diver, who for either lack of communication or respect, destroy your plans by diving to similar depths and category and forcing you to redo everything. Especially with how easy it has become nowadays to attempt a record through AIDA, we were concerned there were a number of divers who could have done a new AIDA record in the category and force us to change our carefully planned schedule. But wait, you might say, hasn’t Yasemin always done her records under F.R.E.E. (Freediving Regulations & Education Entity) and had a very public disagreement with AIDA, so what does she care about an AIDA record anyway? Well, for more on the politics side of things, read my upcoming article: “FREE, AIDA, CMAS and the Politics of Freediving” but for now, let me finish this post by talking a bit more about the technical aspects and training considerations of this dive.

Back in 2000, all Variable records done until then, called my attention as a trainer in how uncoordinated, erratic and ultimately inefficient the ascent techniques used were. Andollo, the lone female practitioner of the category, although undeniably a great diver, had a very disorganized ascent protocol whereby she would alternate periods of kicking with her fins, then pulling on the line, and then floating to the surface on the last 15-20 meters. She would even loose the line several times during her kicking periods and force herself to add horizontal swims to her ascent. This seemed wasteful to me, and doable only because the depths reached until then were in the 80-90 meter range, but I reasoned that anything approaching the 100 meter mark and below would require far more thought and protocol than that. Likewise, when looking at the men, including the great master Umberto Pelizzari, he would actually pull himself all the way to the surface without ever using his fins. Imagine how much deeper he could have gone had he used that excellent kicking style of his in addition to his arms! Gianluca Genoni and Pipin Ferreras, the other two divers to have done records in the category had a similar style, disorganized and unpredictable, and their ascent times were so long, at close to 1 meter/second speed and even less, as to clearly show their techniques to be inneffective. Sol, given the fact that Yasemin is only 1.62 meters/5’4″ tall, and that either her pulls or kicks would cover little space, that she has chronic anemia which requires her to spend as little time underwater as possible, I set out to design an ascent protocol that would maximize her speed, effectiveness while decreasing apnea time to an absolute minimum. So, we came up with a hybrid technique in which she combined arm pulls and fin kicks all the way from the bottom to the surface, doing a monofin kick and then adding an arm pull at the end of the kick when she started to loose momentum. That way, she was always “moving” never loosing time or impulse, while at the same time, constantly giving both her arms and legs a little rest time thanks to the alternation of styles. The technique worked very well, giving her as ascent speed of around 1.25 meters/second, keeping her always “attached” to the line thus decreasing lateral movements, and helping her pace herself, since by counting strokes, she always knew how deep she was, how much longer she had to reach the surface, and whether to slow down or speed up according to how she felt. This way, Yasemin reached 96 and 100 meters in 2000, both in considerably less time than it had taken Andollo to reach 95 meters, and then 105 meters a year later, still in less time than the shallower dives that preceded her records. And on top of that, she had used a monofin kick but she actually used bi-fins instead of a mono, and not even carbon fiber blades, since there was a big chance they would break inside the sled’s fin box, so we used regular plastic blades. Therefore, it was very encouraging that she did those depths with a good technique but with inferior equipment. We always had great confidence that she could reach far deeper depths with a good monofin instead of regular fins. So after the 105 meter record, we were ready to keep pushing the envelope, but then of course, life intervened, a lot of things happened, and we were never again able to dive in the Variable category, until now, almost 6 years later. And surprise, surprise, we have a new ascent protocol designed for the 125 meter attempt, so if you are interested on these training specifics, stay tuned for the article “VARIABLE BALLAST TECHNIQUE CONSIDERATIONS” which I will publish very soon.

Thanks for reading and safe dives,

Rudi Castineyra

5 Responses to “Our Goal: 125 meters Variable Ballast”

  1. [...] of Tanya Streeter (122m), and want to do 125m. Have a look at the article, it is worth of reading: Our Goal: 125 meters Variable Ballast Yasemin Dalkilic __________________ Freediving Media Base Apnea Training [...]

  2. Ivo says:

    Thank you very much for the information! Very interesting reading. I am also looking forward to your article about the FREE / CMAS /AIDA politics. Just one question remained unaswered – will the record be sanctioned by AIDA-International judges?

  3. Kars says:

    Great article! And of-cause great record target depth! A very need and impressive comeback indeed!
    I just wonder how deep she can go in the other categories?
    Also will there be AIDA judges present to validate it as an AIDA record too? (not that I’m so attached to AIDA mind you, I would still post your record as the WR VWT on my site, provided the important basics are ok.)

    Love, Courage and Water,


  4. Wishbone says:

    Merhaba komsu!
    I am jumping with joy to see that Yasemin is coming back! That’s really a great news! I believe I am speaking for all Bulgarian freedivers! Good luck!

    Best fishes, Yasemin and Rudi!

  5. Rudi Castineyra says:

    Hello guys,

    FREE will be called to verify the record, as has been the case with all of Yasemin’s records, but not AIDA. Most likely, CMAS will send observers to the event, but will not attend it officially. CMAS has been considering the inclusion of the Variable Ballast category as one of their events, and we had been in contact with members of their board discussing their proposed set of rules, but the commission itself could not agree on the rules, so the category remains as of now, still unofficial. But they might come to observe and get a better idea for what factors must be considered in this category. We have decided not to invite AIDA because the phylosophical differences that existed between them and us 10 years ago, are still there 10 years later, so it would be hypocritical and wrong of us to call AIDA when we don’t believe in them.

    This does not mean that we don’t respect the many talented and had working officials that work for AIDA or the outstanding athletes that do records under their auspices. This is why, personally, we are accepting Tanya Streeter’s record as our goal and that’s what we’re aiming for, even if the FREE record is much shallower. I will talk more about this later, but for those who are not interested in politics, this is basically the easy version.

    Ah, and before I forget, I’ve heard comments that FREE “doesn’t exist” anymore :-) Believe me, FREE is pretty much alive and we are not “reviving” it just for this record. As the name inplies, FREE stands for Freediving Regulations and Education Entity, so we do record verification and freediving courses. Now, the last record we were called to verify was in 2004, but we never stopped teaching students around the world. In fact, of the 1342 students we have verified since the creation of FREE in 1998, 480 of those have been certified after 2004, when we verified the last record. We have many active instructors in several countries, all of whom have not only official but also personal contact information for me and other FREE officials, so whenever they need to contact me, if they really want to, they can do it very, very easily.

    Safe dives,

    Rudi Castineyra