Weeks of intensive training pay off for dad of three, writes Siyamtanda Capa
Weeks of intensive training paid off for a Port Elizabeth man when he set a new South African free-diving record near Sharm el Sheikh in the Red Sea in Egypt this week.
A somewhat surprising candidate for bettering the national mark in extreme sport, Bruce Mills, 38, a full-time stockbroker and married father of three, set a new record by freediving 57m on Tuesday.
Free-diving is a sport where participants swim as far, or dive as deep, as possible on a single breath.
MJ Kuhn held the previous record when he dived 56m in Indonesia last year.
The sport is considered to be the most physically demanding free-diving discipline, known as “constant weight no fins”, where the athlete utilises breaststroke only, without the assistance of any equipment.
“I was extremely nervous, but as soon as I entered the water everything changed,” Mills said.
“When you are down there you think as little as possible as you want to enter a state of flow so you can remain 100% relaxed.
“I believe that free-diving has redefined my life for the better in a psychological way.
“I used to only focus on endurance, but that is now a thing of the past.”
In preparation for the two minutes and 23 seconds he spent underwater, Mills attended high-intensity anaerobic sessions twice a week and took up daily carbon dioxide tolerance and breathing exercises. “Free-diving is predominantly mental,” he said.
“You need to remain relaxed at depth in order to equalise and not injure yourself.
“As a working father of three, my time is limited. Nevertheless I would dive every weekend with Gletwyn Rubidge if Port Elizabeth whenever weather conditions permitted it.”
He said Egypt was considered among the best places in the world to free-dive.
Ideal conditions are warm water and endless visibility.
Leading up to the moment where he broke the record, Mills said, he had been very nervous.
But the former cyclist said he had officially replaced his running shoes with fins and his bicycle with a boat.
And although he wants to dive deeper, he said he had promised his wife, Janice, he would no longer pursue records.
“The sport requires absolute discipline. Many people enter it only to lose interest because they are chasing numbers – depth, distance or time,” Mills said.
“However, if they simply follow the process, not only will the sport be more enjoyable, but life will be better too.”
He discovered free-diving after his brother, Geordie, asked him to join him on a course in Egypt in 2012.
“I was immediately intrigued and had to go and explore more,” Mills said.
In 2014, the brothers returned to Egypt and qualified as instructors alongside Peter Buchan, who introduced them to the sport, and have since been assisting small groups of students to pursue their own records.
Mills is in Egypt with his brother, Buchan and seven other students.
The record attempt was ratified by the International Association for the Development of Apnea (Aida).
Mills’s next free-diving adventure will be in November when he free-dives with orcas and humpback whales in Norway.