Initially, it seemed difficult to justify an entire article on this subject, but it turned out to be so relaxing and there was so much great feedback that I had to write it. This start is unique, I think, or at least rare. I have never seen or heard of anyone trying it. I came up with it because during a normal start, my knees are up toward my chest. This is not very relaxing, and it makes getting a full breath problematic.
There are some issues to consider when doing this start:
- Will it fit into the available lane width?
- Will the fin interfere with a diver in an adjacent lane?
- Will the 1.5 meter rope, if there is one, get in the way?
- Is the water deep enough?
- Will the motion cause injury when done on a full breath or fully packed?
- Will the noodles end up in another lane and interfere with another diver?
I did this start once so far in competition, at the Pan Pacific Freediving Championship 2015 in Brisbane, Australia. I had practiced it only a little, so I was really not ready, but I did it anyway. The start was effective, in that I started, but was not pretty. I have since done much more practice. It has evolved a bit and is better now.
To address the concerns:
- Lane width was not a problem in a regulation 2.5 meter FINA lane.
- The fin never gets over to the adjacent lane, so interference is not an issue. In fact, if you watch the videos, particularly the first one, the motion gets narrower as it progresses.
- The 1.5 meter rope could be a problem. In the competition, the event staff kept the rope out of my way. The motion I am training now should better address that. I don't worry about it much. It is up to the judges and event staff to minimize the impact of their setup on the athletes. They did a fine job with it in Brisbane. Also, there are other ways to judge this than using a rope. If enough people were using this start, judges would respond appropriately. In any case, with a normal monofin, I think this would never be an issue, as the fin would just slide over the rope.
- I have since practiced this in water as shallow as 1.2 meters and had little problem with it. The main impact is that the fin could more easily come out of the water. That did not present any difficulty during practice though.
- I will only say that a number of freedivers are doing this kind of turn motion with no difficulty. It is not done at depth as when turning at the bottom plate, so there is not that to worry about. I have felt no stress at all from doing it, but I do not pack normally either, so I have less stress to start with.
- This was not a problem in Brisbane. As you can see, they really do not go very far, both ending up well within the lane. Neither would be in the way of someone else. In Brisbane, the event staff collected them after my start.
When doing this start, the first thing you need to do as you arch your back and rotate into it is to immediately get as much depth as you can, consistent with whatever pool depth is. I have quite a bit of weight on my neck, so this is easy. Once you do that, use your hand to continue the motion. Make sure you touch the wall during this start, or you will be penalized. Be patient before stroking off the wall until you are lined up properly. Then execute the stroke.
This start mirrors the motion Katarina (Turčinović) Zubčić uses during her turns, or at least is my best attempt at it.
At PanPacs, I also used this start for my DNF. I truly hate standing up for DYN/DNF starts. It worked well. None of the issues above really apply for DNF starts, as there is no fin to get tangled up or whack other athletes. The only issue maybe is that you get enough depth to do a proper push-off.
Good luck with this if you try it.