Dave McGowan.

Local freediver’s gold in Egypt

Mullingar’s Dave McGowan, known for his recent achievements in the sport of freediving, has taken his place on the podium once more.

Last week, at the Aida International Blue Ocean Freedivers Pool Competition in Dahab, Egypt, McGowan took the male honours in both disciplines he participated in, and also took the overall gold.

Day one of the competition did not necessarily go to plan, with a malfunctioning dive computer contributing to McGowan overshooting his target. He came very close to losing consciousness on the surface and ultimately received a red card and disqualification of his dive of 162m, which took approximately 2 minutes and 45 seconds.

“This dive of 162m was huge for me. I had built up to a distance of 135m in training and was confident that I could do 10-15 metres more on the day of the competition but certainly not almost 30m extra,” said McGowan.

“I had been relying on the computer to give me a good idea of when I could surface and when it didn’t work it had me questioning the distance that I had already covered, trying to work this kind of thing out at the end of such a long swim on one breath is not an easy thing. The mind becomes foggy and basic tasks rely on an element of subconscious to get you through it.

“I essentially got it wrong and ended up swimming almost another complete length of the pool. I was surprised to be told that I had covered 160m+ when in my head I had barely made 135m.”

Unfortunately at the end of the dive, McGowan was not able to complete the ‘Surface Protocol’ which signals to the judges that he is ok, and he was subsequently shown a red card.

McGowan returned on Day 2 determined to set the record straight. He completed his dive of 150m (equivalent to six lengths of a standard 25m pool) in the DYNb discipline (distance swam in pool on one breath using freediving fins) in a time of 2 minutes and 35 seconds. This time he made a clean surface protocol, receiving a white card from the judges, legitimising his performance and confirming this dive as his fourth Irish National Record.

“I wasn’t really nervous leading into day one of this competition as I had approached my training in a conservative way, and knew what I was capable of,” McGowan reflected. “However, arriving here on day two after what had happened on the first day I was feeling the nerves creep into the pit of my stomach.

“This sport is so psychological. It takes such mental strength, you really need to be able to control your thoughts and feelings and at times like these, in the moments before a record dive you have to be able to focus and get rid of any thoughts of negativity or doubts in your abilities.

“I feel like I handled it quite well and managed to complete what I had set as an upper limit for myself. I would have walked away satisfied with my performance and also with the record in anything above 132m, so to have been able to do 150m I really am over the moon – it was a difficult dive for me and for sure it will be difficult for anyone to beat in the future.”

Day 3 saw McGowan return to finish off the competition with a ‘fun’ dive in the DNF or ‘No-fins’ discipline, (distance swam underwater on one breath in a style similar to the breast-stroke). In both depth and pool, this discipline is usually considered the most pure, and most original of all of the freediving disciplines, it is graceful to watch and more-so with the right training and technique, enjoyable to compete in. McGowan’s swim of 116m in 2 mins 19 secs places him third of all time in the Irish rankings for this discipline.

These latest performances from McGowan move him from fifth to first overall in the Freediving Pool-Discipline Irish Rankings. Added to McGowan’s previous record dives, this completes his monopoly of Pool and Depth Disciplines and confirms his position as the most successful Irish freediver of all time.

McGowan has been training for this pool competition while also sharing his knowledge and passion for freediving with others, sometimes spending in excess of six hours a day in the water.

“I have been trying something new with this idea of training while teaching to such a high workload. This time I have made it work and achieved what I set out to do but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t without its difficulties,” he said.

“Teaching freediving is such a physical job and it really does take its toll on the body, and so trying to manage a training program as an athlete simultaneously is extremely draining.

“I want to also mention that I am blown away by the support I have received both in person and online, it’s been really heart-warming reading all the messages I have been getting both during and after the competition.

“Looking forward to what’s next for me, this summer I hope to be able to take some time off from teaching and focus my efforts once again on training for the depth dDisciplines, perhaps with the goal of breaking some of the records I set last year or indeed breaking some other ones.”

In 2020 the Freediving Depth World Championships were cancelled due to the Covid crisis, and this year they are re-scheduled to take place in Cyprus in September. However, as with any events of this nature there is a lot of uncertainty around whether they will go ahead or not.

“I had hoped to represent Ireland at the World Championships in 2019, but due to the lack of Sports Funding I had to pull out of the entry list,” stated McGowan.

“Perhaps in the future, with the help of some Sports Funding or Irish Industry backing, I will be able to realise my dream of representing Ireland on the world stage, if not this September then perhaps at the next one.”