Author Maxim Tourou / Category Architecture / Published: Apr-05-2018
Watch Lena Balta Break a World Record
Lena Balta Breaks Another Freediving Record
This is Lena. She’s a badass. She is one of those people with whom you joke about the over abundance of wild chickens running around Hawaii and say jokingly, “Hey Lena, we should open a chicken business. It wouldn’t cost us anything. Do you know how to skin a Chicken?”
And her response would be completely serious, “I haven’t, but I am sure I could. It wouldn’t be hard.” (This was a real conversation).
Basically, she’s not scared of much. She is one of our original Wottermen we started working with many years ago and has since become a friend, a neighbor and a world record-breaking deep freediver.
In July, she broke two world records for freediving; one in VWT- Monofin* 116 Meters and one in VWT- FIM* 105 Meters. For those of you who don’t already know, VWT stands for Variable Weight and is one of the more “extreme” versions of the sport. The Diver descends into the water with the help of some kind of weight, usually in the form of a sled. The sled takes the diver down to an agreed upon depth and stops. The diver then lets go of the sled and ascends to the surface using their fins or by climbing the rope using just their arms. These types of dives are so extreme that they are not sanctioned for normal freedive competitions. Therefore, anyone who wants to do these dives has to hire a team of safety divers as well as set up their whole event.
Surf-fur: How long did you train for the event?
Lena: I had been living in Hawaii during covid and was able to train there without a sled. I basically took a kettle bell down with me to get to the bottom and was able to get to 100 meters that way. But, then I went to Egypt almost 2 months before the event and trained with a freediving center called Freediving World. The owner is Andrea Zuccari and he is just the guru of equalization! He has done all types of extreme dives and has gone to 185 meters no limits. So, I felt like I was in really good hands with him and his safety divers.
Surf-fur: What did the training look like?
Lena: During the two months of training, we would dive every other day; one day training in the water and one on land. I would work on techniques Andrea gave me to help with equalization on land which really helped a lot. Every dive brought me closer to my depth goal. I think about it now and it was just the most fun I had ever had diving! The conditions were great and the water was beautiful.
Surf-fur: How did you feel while doing the dive?
Lena: I was feeling really good the whole way down. I was completely relaxed and focused on my equalization. When I got to the bottom, I was like ‘Oh! That’s that?’ And I started to swim up, maybe a little fast at first, but then I started to slow down and I don’t know why. I didn’t notice it during the dive, but watching the video I could see that I was slowing down. If you would have asked me right after the dive, I would have said, 'This was the most amazing dive of all time!’ Overall, I felt that everything went as planned.
Surf-fur: What were theses equalization techniques on land that you spoke of?
Lena: There are different techniques to equalize your ears, your sinuses; all those air spaces. In the past, it was just sort of hit or miss with me and I didn’t do it perfect every time. Andrea would just suggest changes and tune up what I was already doing like change the volume of the mouth fill or work on different pressures. We were trying to get to a point where it was consistent and perfect every time. I also have a tool to use that goes into your nose and you do various exercises. ( like this one pictured below)
[The video that follows is an example of these exercises for those of you who are interested]
Surf-fur: How about everything going on around the diving concerning eating and sleeping?
Lena: I get very strict and just eat the same thing everyday. I figure out what is working for me and just keep eating just that. A simple breakfast, vegetables and chicken for lunch and dinner is about all I do. I didn’t go out or anything and spent most of my time alone, which was really nice.
Surf-fur: Any secrets you want to share?
Lena: There aren’t really any secrets except that you have to learn these techniques with your coach or teacher and just practice all the time. During the training in Egypt, I was able to really focus, for the first time in my career, on improving my equalization which led to working on mouth fill techniques. When you get a contraction, you have to make sure your mouth fill stays there. It’s very intricate and I feel the whole art of deep freediving is how you manage your equalizations; Stay relaxed, don’t get contractions and keep the air in your mouth. If you start to get contractions while you are deep, it will pull the air out of your mouth back into your lungs and your'e done! You can’t get the air back out.
Surf-fur: What’s next for you?
Lena: I just got certified to teach Molchanovs classes and my first Freediving camp is in Croatia July 23-28th. Following that, I will return to Kona, Hawaii and teach a level one and two course on back-to-back weekends September 3,4,5 and September 9,10,11.
October is the world championships in Turkey where all of the best freedivers in the world compete. After that, I will continue to coach and teach free diving classes to anyone who wants to learn. For my classes, it’s not just about teaching freediving, I can also coach people on how to get into competitions and train for these comps, improve diving techniques, plan freediving travel trips, and anything else that has to do with freediving.
The funny thing is, I thought this was going to be it for me; to break this record and then retire, but it has done the opposite and now I just can’t wait to go back. I have so many things to work on to continue to get better. I am really excited about the future!