When I finished my 221 meter dive I knew my next challenge would be writing the story of how I actually got there. There are just so many aspects to breaking a world record not the least of which is facing the fear of death and actually doing the dive. It is only when I look back at who I was and where I came from that I realise how far I had to go and how hard it was for me as in individual to get there. Just a word of warning, this post may fall into the category of (what has been described to me as) ‘fluffy’ (which I interpret as talking about emotions and philosophical concepts)....
A world record is an odd thing! It is yours for only a while and there will always be someone you do not yet know working their way slowly and inexorably toward breaking it. Once you have it, you are no longer invisible to the world and once you lose the protection of invisibility you are wide open to the judgements and criticisms of what can be an uncaring and disrespectful world. Whilst getting my record changed the way the world perceived me, it has taken much longer for it to change the way I see myself. From inside there is no glory, little fame and definitely no fortune!
The final incentive to write my story down was the day Dave (Shaw) died. Well not so much the day Dave died, but the story that unfolded afterwards. I found myself questioning the reason why divers choose to place their lives on the line for something so ephemeral as a world record. It became important for me to understand why I had made the choice to dedicate almost a decade of my life to this one thing. I realized that my perspective was unique – there simply is no other person in the world who has been an active participant in not one, but three world record dives. I was a support diver for Nuno Gomes (and indeed the lessons I learnt diving with Nuno have formed the basis for my technical diving career). I have a world record of my own and I was the person responsible for keeping Dave Shaw’s dive together when it all fell apart.
Love us or hate us, the divers who dare to go deep all hold an elusive attraction to the rest of the world (who choose to remain in the shadows of safety).
Should I have written this book ? I often wonder about that; about the self indulgence of writing down my journey and the permanence of capturing the experience. But I always wished that the divers who went deep and broke records (the true explorers) would write about the experience… and not just the facts and details, but what it felt like, what personal challenges they had to overcome. I wanted to learn from the divers who came before me.
Today the proof arrived which means I can start to sell my story and after almost three years of struggling to get this far, I find that taking the next step is far harder than I thought it would be. The responsibility weighs down on me. What if I have the words wrong ? What if my story has no value ? And then I hear a whisper, just a whisper, and it says, “Who you are is important! Where you came from is important! You have the right to exist! You have the right to your story. You have the right to have it told!”.
Without this book my record has little impact. It affects only me and the people I surround myself with. Perhaps…perhaps this story will connect with some-one else, who is looking for a way out, a way forward and perhaps, just perhaps, they will be the invisible face that breaks my record! I certainly hope so! Perhaps it will inspire you to tell your story, because just like mine, it has value and has a right to exist and be told.
And who knows, maybe now I will focus on book two, the manual to getting deeper that I wish I had had !
If you are interested in finding out more about Fatally Flawed go to www.tekdiver.co.za/Publications/FatallyFlawed.htm. The official launch should be in April