Mullingar man secures spot in the record books for free diving

Mullingar man Dave McGowan has secured his spot in the record books and become the most successful freediver in Irish history.

At the end of September, in the city of Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, Dave attended the AIDA Freediving World Depth Competition, hosted by World Record holder Andrea Zuccari.

Already on day one of the competition McGowan had his sights set on the Irish record, however with this being McGowan’s first depth competition, held in unfamiliar surroundings and the unknown effect of how competition nerves would impact his performance, McGowan announced a relatively conservative dive to 65 meters in the newly recognised Bi-Fins discipline.

In order to be the first to set a record in this discipline McGowan needed to reach a depth of 61 meters (this corresponds to 75% of the Monofin depth record). McGowan completed the 65m dive with ease, in a time of 2 minutes and 2 seconds.

On day two of the competition conditions seemed to worsen, with strong swell and currents felt down to depths in excess of 40 meters.

However, with freediving competitions, each diver must announce his dive the night before and cannot change the discipline or the depth without penalty or disqualification.

A depth of 71 meters was McGowans target, his personal best depth during training. Nerves were building in the morning with a long wait before his predefined dive time, however once the wetsuit was on and McGowan hit the water it was business as usual.

The ‘official top’ was set for 3pm and even though during the warm up dives, there seemed to be a lot of commotion with other divers having trouble with the conditions, some even blacking out and needing to be rescued by the safety crew.

McGowan kept his composure and at exactly 3pm he started his dive to 71 meters. Returning to the surface in a time of 2 minutes and 16 seconds, looking strong and fresh, even a depth of this magnitude seemed almost just a formality for the new Irish Champion, who had once again broken the record initially set on Day 1.

The plan for the final two days of the competition was to continue with the Bi-fins discipline, increasing the record depth even further. However with the challenging and changeable sea conditions, McGowan consulted with his Coach and training buddies and having already achieved far more than he set out to do in his very first depth competition, the decision was taken that it would be sensible to finish the competition with four successful dives and so the final 2 days would be conservative dives in other disciplines.

The last two days saw McGowan complete a 66 meter dive in the Monofin discipline and a 70m dive in the Free Immersion discipline, both of these just happened to be personal best performances for McGowan but because his training was focussed on the Bi-fin discipline, these were indeed both easy dives for him.

Having only competed in three out of the four disciplines, McGowan was not holding out for a podium position, however to his surprise, due to the strength of his dives and not receiving any penalties, he narrowly missed out on 3rd place, finishing a respectable 4th overall.

With four strong dives logged in this competition, two new national records added to McGowans previous Irish record in Static Apnea, secures him the top spot as the most successful Irish freediver of all time.

McGowan had been training hard during the COVID lockdown in Dahab, Egypt and in order to raise the funds to attend this competition, had organised a GoFundMe.

“Without the help of all of the contributors to this fundraiser, these record attempts would just not have been possible and even though Freediving is an individual sport, this has very much been a collaborative effort,” he said.

“There is no way I could have achieved this without the help and support from everybody - friends, family, dive buddies, mentors and everyone that was rooting for me over the last week and for that I am eternally grateful.”

As a gesture of thanks, McGowan added the names of each and every contributor to the fins he used to break the Irish record.

McGowan’s next big target is to continue his training over the winter, with the ultimate goal of representing Ireland at the Freediving Depth World Championships next autumn, and potentially setting some more Irish records along the way. He is hoping to get some Irish industry backing to help him with this colossal undertaking.

For more, follow ‘Dave McGowan Freediver’ or @davemacgoo,,

Photo by Andrea Zuccari