Freediving With Helena Bourdillon
Photo by Daan Verhoeven
Helena Bourdillon is a competitive freediver and SurfEars Ambassador. With big passion for the sport, she has managed to achieve some impressive results in a relatively short amount of time. Recently she participated in AIDA Individual Depth World Championships in Roatan, Honduras where she accomplished a fifth place overall despite an injured shoulder.
How did you get into freediving and when was it?
I started freediving just over 4 years ago in Thailand. I used to scuba but was looking for a new way to explore the underwater world and freediving grabbed my attention, especially after having seen the film The Big Blue.
Photo by Alex St Jean
What are the best things about freediving?
The peace and quiet as soon as you put your head under the surface as well as being able to interact with marine life far more easily than you can do wearing scuba gear.
You recently participated in the world championships, congrats on the good results! Please tell us more about the event?
It was my 2nd World Championships and I am thrilled with my results. This year they were held on Roatan, in the Caribbean, where we had amazing conditions with great visibility, no current or waves. The organisation was fantastic, the safety team were amazing and all of that allowed me to exceed mine and my coach’s expectations.
Photo by Alex St Jean
How do you prepare for an event like that?
I spend around 8 months of the year doing depth training, mostly based in Dahab, Egypt. As well as all the water training I do, I do dry training which includes a lot of mediation, visualizations, yoga and mobility work. For the remaining 4 months of the year where I let my body recover from the depth work, I focus on cardio and muscle building as well as continued dry training exercies.
Tell us about your shoulder. How was it diving with the injury?
I damaged my shoulder/arm when I slipped on the platform the day after my first dive. While it wasn’t a serious injury, it did mean that I wasn’t able to use my arms fully in the final 2 dives. Although I had never tried it before without arms, my Constant Weight dive with monofin went well. On the descent I usually lower my arms to my sides around 23m so it wasn’t a huge change. The ascent however, did feel different. I usually put my arms up straight to help wish streamlining but this time I wasn’t able to so my legs had to work harder!My final dive was Constant Weight No Fins which uses a modified breaststroke. My shoulder was a little better but I was aware of it on the dive and so didn’t pull as strongly with my left arm as I would have usually done. Happy it didn’t affect the result and I got my 3rd white card (successful dive) of the World Championships.
When surfing we unintentionally get held down under the surface sometimes. The trick to holding your breath is to stay calm and don’t waste oxygen. What is your best advice in order to do so?
My advice would be to work on your relaxation during breathholds. Practice letting go of all tension in your body so you don’t waste any oxygen. Try and focus on the sensations (inside the body or outside like the movement of water against your face) and relax into them #1 Rule – NEVER practice breathholds near water when you are alone, always have a buddy taking care of you!
How is your experience using SurfEars while diving and did you have any ear issues in the past?
All my life I have suffered with ear infections and before I started using SurfEars on average I was using ear drops to prevent infections up to 4 times a week. Now, thanks to SurfEars, I might have to use them once a month. Added to which, I can now hear the official countdown to the start of my dive!