Eight minutes underwater with the man who pushes the limits of human possibility

Eight minutes underwater with the man who pushes the limits of human possibility

Dive beneath the surface with freediver David Vencl and explore a mysterious underwater world where time is the only limit to total freedom.

Imagine being trapped underwater and unable to breathe for several minutes. Scary thought? Not for David Vencl, one of the Czech Republic's best freedivers, who can stay underwater for over eight minutes on a single breath. "But even a person with no experience who does a little sport can get close to four minutes underwater after two or three hours of training," says David Vencl.

The fascinating underwater world of silence and freedom opened up to him ten years ago. He had already been diving 20 meters underwater occasionally for several years. Still, as he realized that he knew nothing about proper diving and that it was possibly dangerous, he took his first freediving course in 2012.

Since then, he has completely fallen for this beautiful but dangerous sport. "I love the freedom of movement. I run in the mountains and climb rocks where I feel free. But I only found that total freedom in the water. Diving taught me that there are no limits. Only one - time," smiles David.

He can do incredible things underwater. He has dived to a depth of 84 meters, a depth that would have been virtually impossible with an oxygen tank on his back. Last year, he swam 81 meters below the frozen surface wearing only a swimsuit and no weights to help him, it is officially a world record.

"Diving taught me that there are no limits. Only one - time"

That is why he wears a SeaQuest Dive watch underwater, which, with its extreme water resistance to 300 meters, durability, and accuracy guaranteed by COSC certification, gives him the confidence that he will always have perfect time keeping. "Three years ago, I lasted 8 minutes 2 seconds underwater, and now I believe I have what it takes to get up to 8:30. But I try not to keep it in my head because it affects my performance," he says.

If he wants to last that long underwater, he needs to prepare his body for months - without training, he might be able to hold his breath for six minutes, but certainly not eight. So Vencl's series of exercises and breath-holding sessions on dry land and in the pool prepare his body for the reduced oxygen levels and the carbon dioxide build-up in his blood, which is ironically a bigger problem.

"When it rises above a certain level, my diaphragm starts contracting, trying to force me to breathe. It's uncomfortable, so I need those sensations to come as late as possible. For a normal person, it comes after a minute. For me, after five minutes, but from then on, the contractions don't stop. On the contrary, they increase, and I can't even rest for five seconds," says the Chronotechna ambassador, describing what he experiences underwater.

Watching him underwater is a fascinating experience that makes it seem like he was born underwater. But David Vencl doesn't think his body has an innate predisposition for an extended stay underwater. 

"When I was young, doctors found that my chest didn't develop symmetrically, and I had to do various breathing exercises. If they had told the doctor that I would have the world record for breath-hold diving one day, I'm sure he would have laughed and said that this little boy definitely wouldn't," Vencl smiles.

He admits that freediving is a potentially deadly sport, and his body is exposed to extreme conditions that are not at all pleasant. So why is he doing it? "Sometimes, I ask myself the same thing underwater. I do it for the joy of the exercise, of course, to outdo myself. It's associated with euphoric feelings. Hormones are flushed out that satisfy me. The more it hurts, the greater the euphoria," he says.

He will enjoy both pleasant and unpleasant sensations underwater in a few days - on 14 June. He will represent the Czech Republic at the World Championships in Belgrade in the discipline of static apnea. The world record in this discipline is 11 minutes 35 seconds, but this is an extreme performance that nobody shows in competitions - at the World Championships, the best times will be around nine minutes, so Vencl has a chance for success. 

But he's even more tempted to return to the frozen surface, where, ironically, he feels best despite the icy water. Therefore, he is preparing another record for next year, this time in the dive depth under the frozen surface. "Nobody does this and knowing that I could be the first in something is very tempting," Vencl dreams.

How deep it will be this time remains to be seen, but one thing is already sure. Chronotechna will be there.

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