Cramming in a dive on crammed feet

Friday, 6th October

The day after enjoying the Golden Jubilee Celebrations, I decide to go freediving… yes.  Actually, Sur and I had agreed to go days beforehand as I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it that coming Sunday.  Since I had pre-approved leave to take that Friday off from work, why not slot in a day of freediving?  And Cekli was game so it was only a matter of having to show up.

Although it was a relatively free long weekend for me, I had underestimated how much standing and walking I had done in Bandar the day before.  My legs were spiked up with lactic acid and the exhaustion lingered for days.  In a way I was looking forward to having the dive get cancelled to enjoy some rest but the thought of missing out on diving for another week or two if I copped out on that Friday really bothered me.

Cekli actually wanted a super early start to the day to make it back in time for Friday prayers so I got up quite early to beat traffic (like 5am). But because of the morning thundershowers, we all found ourselves convening at his place first.  It was fascinating watching the dive Guru turn into the Weatherman.  Just by looking at the sky and observing the wind direction from the window, Cekli was able to report on the sea conditions and where would be best to dive that day.

When Cekli said all systems were go, we left to a decent 9am start from Pengkalan Sibabau. It was an intimate crew of 2 freedivers (Sur and I) and 2 new scuba divers (Khalis and Anai), plus Cekli the all-arounder who was to lead the men with their tanks.  Notice the gender division and dive preference there.

Introducing the Cekli Incredibles – Scuba Men and Freedive Women!

The boat ride felt quite long – like an hour out to sea.  I tried to recuperate from the previous day’s excitement by sleeping a good portion of the ride through.  The first choice of dive location was already trying – Dolphin88.  I had been there as a scuba diver before and that last fun dive with Stefano, but that was it.  Dolphin88 is a shipwreck with the top part sitting at 14m.  There was also a bit of a current but Cekli picked the site for its relative calmness compared to elsewhere.  To really enjoy the dive, you gotta at least get down to the mid-section of the ship at about 15-16m.  My legs really were not having it and neither was my mind.  I got down for a good look of the top several times and to say hi to Cekli and the boys, but it was apparent that my bottom time is still far from ideal.

The second site – Bayan Patch – was a completely new introduction even for Sur who had been with many diver operators and Cekli for a while. So in a way Cekli was letting us in on a seacret (seacret… secret…get it?). That one was probably maximum 10m from the top but the sea was getting rough. My legs also started to get agitated.  They crammed up several times so I had to call it quits, especially after several showing signs from the universe that I needed to rest – first the long bathroom break at sea, my mask strap breaking off, and just not being able to enjoy the dive even at the shallow portions of the site. So I waited it out on the boat.

Apparently I had missed amazing sightings of hammerhead fish and all sorts of life down there. The crew wouldn’t let me forget what I had missed (thanks for the encouragement). I agree, Bayan is beautiful, but I know my limits.  In that short time I got to dive around there, I was intrigued with its unique topography of flat sand beds, huge mushroom-like corals and the schools of fish that inhabited the area.  I very much wanted that dive to workout but I also recalled the slight panic from my feet bones folding over one another in the open ocean.  That wasn’t fun trying to fin afloat with shooting pain going up my extremities. I had to talk myself through the swim back to the buoy.

Courtesy of a screenshot from Sur’s video footage of LARGE hammerhead fish at Bayan Patch

If there is a cure for a Brunei freediver’s battered soul, it would be a stop at Pelong.  Cekli read in on our need for some R&R so we had our meals there and swam to our heart’s delight for an hour or two before making our long ride back.  Cekli also commented how he noticed I have no issue equalizing but my breath hold was nowhere close to a minute.  I wasn’t gonna let it get to me or be a baby about it.  I knew what I had been through that day. I’m not one to give up easily otherwise.

The accumulation of exhaustion from the long weekend activities really piled up on me as I’ve had to extend my leave.  There are other factors involved of course, but it also highlights my need to take it easy before I forget why I started this in the first place.  I don’t want to no longer enjoy freediving just because of a couple of setbacks.  So I’ll be taking a very brief hiatus, probably a week or two, to attend other aspects of my life and get myself together again.

Docking at Pelong Rocks – a silent cure for the pained freediver in white mask (Yours Truly)








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