What kind of rubber is used by arthropods? Why isn't there a prize for a fast heart rate? Are there any lobsters made of plasticine? Why can't you dive with your grandfather's tires and what is nudism in Finnish style?

Lobster

Last year I had a chance to participate in the Freediving World Championship in Belgrade. While I was blowing bubbles, trying to establish Moldovan records, I kept thinking: why do world champions dive with a bike tire around their neck?

Any freediver will say that for a neck weight there is nothing better than a bike tire filled with lead shot. And those who don’t practice freediving may ask: why on earth do freedivers use a neck weight? And here’s the answer.

Freedivers need a collar in the pool in order not to return to the surface because of the air in their lungs. This is necessary so that they wouldn’t waste their energy on doing constant dives, but could move forward underwater.

Ideally, the freediver must hang in the water column, without swimming up or down. For his purpose, the collar is calibrated by adding up to 100 grams of lead. Coming to the conclusion that a modern freediver shouldn’t dive in an old-fashioned way using his grandfather’s tires, I decided to develop a new, comfortable, beautiful and most importantly – functional collar for diving. With this in mind, I returned home and went to the know-how department of our Simpals Garage. I told guys about my idea of a new, hydrodynamic, adjustable freediving collar, and they got down to work.
At first we created sketches.

The main features of our professional freediving collar include adjustable weight and ergonomics. This means that it should be hydrodynamic, comfortable, and the adjustable weight should be evenly distributed over the athlete’s lungs- not only on the neck, because it is full lungs that lift the man to the surface.

And here’s the final concept – an ergonomic “horseshoe” that lies on the shoulders and a “tail” with adjustable length that goes along the spine.

Soooo, the next stage is the creation of a plasticine prototype:

What we do next: study heavy metals, their additives and casting technologies, make a plaster mold, pour the metal and let it cool. Now we have a painted lead ingot and weights with magnets that don’t hold….So we keep searching.

We try to find a way to connect the weights on the backside so they do not fall apart.

And again plasticine, plaster, casting, painting:

And another failure. The weights don’t hold together from behind and we have to change the fixing system. We start searching again. And here is the solution we have found:

A system of weights that allows you to choose any weight between 2.5 and 4.5 kg.

So, after two months of experiments plaster covered the whole third floor of our office, but we managed to create the fifth version of the mount, which turned out to be successful.

However, it’s not pleasant to put a cold, hard ingot on your naked body, so we decided to cover it with rubber. For this purpose, we purchased several types of PlastiDip. The result was not satisfactory, spray rubber was not durable and elastic and quickly cracked.

After that we began to experiment with different types of rubber. We learned about the Shore hardness, brittleness and toughness of rubber. We came across the fact that air bubbles didn’t get out of some models, so we bought a vacuum chamber. And in order to get the desired color, we had to pour another bucket of rubber per 100 kg of lead. As a result, we had a prototype that we could use for diving…

And then there were lots of tests. Everything went perfectly well- the collar fit snugly around the neck and didn’t fall off while turning, the tail didn’t fall apart during transportation and allowed to raise the arms above the head. But there was one problem – it pressed painfully on the collarbone.

After brainstorming, we decided to insert silicone pads under the rubber at the point where it contacted the collarbone.

After making three molds with different types of silicone we obtained optimal stiffness, and our lobster turned from a comfortable tool into an amazingly comfortable one! When we saw it, we understood how it would be called:

Please welcome the Lobster!

And the black Lobster:

The collar was developed by the following monsters: Serghey Logvinenko, Andrey Trifautsan, Iuri Melnik, Andrey Bastrika, Grigory Kostyukov, Evgheny Boyko.

The product is ready. Now it’s time for marketing. In other words, it’s time to promote and sell. While we are making the website lobsterweight.com, I’m getting ready for the World Championship.

Preparation

Unfortunately, I didn’t have a long preparation phase for the championship. On May 29, I ran the Comrades Ultramarathon in South Africa, then I was sick for 2 weeks. There were only 2 weeks left before the official top, when I had my first training in the pool. My only hope was that 2,000 km that I had run since last year’s championship made a positive influence on my heart and capillary network. But my resting heart rate was still high: 63-67. Before the ultramarathon and my illness it was about 55.

It is wrong to combine Ironman and ultramarathon with freediving as completely opposite systems are involved during these activities. Your metabolism should be different, your diet, training program, and many other things. So you should never do it!

But I’ll try it. Of course, I will not be able to set a world record, but I think I’ll manage to increase my personal best to six and a half minutes. So, I spend the whole two weeks (instead of the whole year) training, meditating, holding my breath in the morning, diving and eating properly. My family accompanies me to the airport. My son Misha gives me a note with his wishes:

Daddy, eat buckwheat. You taught me to ride a bike. You must win!

After crying sweet tears of joy and putting on our shoulders 20 kilograms of rubberized lead with Lobster logo, Serghey Legheyda (my coach) and I set off to Finland.

Turku

We arrived in Turku right during the opening ceremony. Down from a mall, straight to the ball. It was nice to see so many familiar faces!

We met the national team of Russia, Ukraine, Sasha Pangaev, Denis Rilov- a judge from Odessa, who judged at competitions in Moldova together with Olyona Muha, and of course the legends of freediving- Mateusz Malina, Goran Čolak, Alexander Kostyshen, Giorgos Panagiotakis, Sasha Bubenchikov, Alexey Molchanov, Aleix Segura and many other monsters.

Then a briefing was held to remind us of the basic rules.

We gave each other hugs, made some photos and went sightseeing. Turku is a small town with a river crossing its center and a couple of restaurant ships. People say that there is also an old castle to see, but we decided to leave it to the historians.

The next day, the organizers allowed us to set up a makeshift Lobster stand near the registration area. It looked like a seafood shop. Serghey only needed an apron, rubber gloves and a big knife to start catching arthropods.

Instead of this, he handed out leaflets, telling people about our super easy to use, stylish and unique collar and helping them to try it on. Freedivers were more excited than polar explorers who were given fresh cherries. Girls grabbed the red lobster and posed in front of the camera, but tough guys put on the black one and asked us difficult questions.

The presentation was a success – everyone liked the Lobster, although there some comments. BUT we came here to receive feedback, so thank you!

After all, what better place to test a freediving device than at the World Freediving Championship? It is the target audience that you will not be able to find anywhere else.

STA

It’s so nice to sleep in Finland! We were sleeping soundly the whole night through like two ferrets without paying attention to the sun pouring into the room. Yes, it was a polar day when the sun

is shining all day and all night long.
Early in the morning, I crawled out of bed, yawned loudly, slowly stretched my body for ten minutes, spent half an hour sitting in the hero pose, inhaling, holding and exhaling pure Finnish air and then crawled back under the blanket. I checked the pulse-… … …65…Well, it’s still fast which means that I haven’t completely recovered from my disease and the competition is going to be tough.

Serghey collected all our Lobsters and we trudged to the pool (we are not marathon runners to walk briskly to the race). My start time was 10:30 am, so at 9:30 I had to be in front of the judges. If I am late, I will be disqualified. In the shower I pulled on a warm, 5 mm wetsuit, neoprene socks and a cap. Then I checked in and sat on the edge of the pool waiting for the warm-up.

Half an hour before the start Serghey pushed me roughly into the pool and we started the warm-up session. 2:30, rest, 3:30, rest, 4:30.

5 minutes before the start my safety diver (I mean Serghey) pulled me to the starting area, where I was lying on my back thinking about….nothing and just breathing deeply, waiting for the countdown.

5,4,3,2,1, official top – I fill my lungs with air and lie face down in the water.

The first 3 minutes are quite easy. My head is empty and I feel so good that I could lie like that for an hour or two. But my body is against it, and at the 4 minute point I start feeling contractions, which means that I can lie for 2-2.5 minutes.

I am struggling and counting contractions. Usually I am able to stand 110-120 contractions. Five minutes and 50 contractions are behind, I can stand 70-80 more. I am trying to resist.

Six minutes and one hundred contractions – I open my eyes. I feel really bad, but there is a good thing- at the end of the breath hold time flies with triple speed. Maybe, it happens due to the fact that our brain wants to stop this torture as soon as possible and turns on the turbo mode. 

Either finish it or hurry up and die!

– Brain

In an instant I hear Serghey say “6:10!”. I reach the side of the pool and put my legs down. I want to stop this torture right now, but I can’t give up.

The air begins to spontaneously come out of the lungs, which is a bad sign, I need to finish. Serghey signals every 5 seconds. I am waiting for 6:30 and raise my head from the water. Incomplete exhale, inhale, exhale, inhale. Fully conscious, I finish my surface protocol and say: “I am OK!”

6:30. White Card! National record! I did it! Last year I did a 6:02 breath hold. Half a minute per year is not a fast progress, but constant dropping wears away a stone.

DNF

On the same day we have a swimming training underwater without fins — Do Not Fins. But we don’t forget our second mission- the Lobster. We put it on the edge of the pool, and here it began- Wow, what’s that? Can I try it? How much does it weigh? What’s the price? How can I order it?

But we came not to sell, but to test the device, so everyone who wanted to try it put on the collar, adjusted the weight and dived. And we were watching them with satisfaction. We were happy to see that our efforts, time and money weren’t spent in vain and the product turned out to be really cool.

But of course, there were some flaws. We are going to change and fix some of its features, so despite the fact that some freedivers wanted to buy a Lobster right there, we asked to give us one month to make it perfect.

In one of those moments when I was helping Anette Rafen Ottzen from Denmark to change weights, I squatted down low and suddenly heard a cracking sound. I felt cold below my waist and understood why Serghey was laughing. My super duper wetsuit for setting records didn’t last long and came apart.

Well, it’s not funny to walk with such a smiley face on the ass- everyone wants to make fun of you:

– Hey, you should exhale through your mouth!
– This way you can lose not only the air, but also your honor!
– You came to the wrong studio, we are not shooting porn videos here!
– Have you found a new way to speed up?
– Is it a hydro-gas accelerator?
– Don’t worry, you got your second wind:)

This is good freediving humor that doesn’t offend anyone.

But all joking aside, I don’t have a wetsuit to dive tomorrow. No wetsuit- no competition. And taking into account my fast heart rate, tomorrow I don’t have any chances. But we need to show the Lobster in practice, so I decide to swim at least 75 meters wearing my black trunks underneath the wetsuit- seem not to be visible.

Before that, I am trying a new kind of warm-up —I am doing statics before the dynamics without entering the pool in order not to cool down. Is it complicated? Yes. Does it help? No. At least not in my case.

I put on the Lobster, official top, I dive, swim 75 meters, come out and complete the surface protocol.

But I am not the only one who dives with the Moldovan collar. Tomomi Suga Hamazaki, the best Japanese freediver, also used it during the competition, set a new Japanese national record and was very pleased with the result:

I feel my body is stable, not go up or down. Supporting back is more comfortable than supporting neck. In addition, neck is not pressed compare with normal neck weight, so I do not feel tighten neck. And, shape is quite cute!! I have made 160m PB and NR today DNF!! Thank you so much!!

To celebrate our success, we went to eat smoked sausage which Serghey brought from Chisinau and drink local kvass, which was very tasty by the way. Now we can eat and drink all the bad stuff. Finally!

After collecting comments on the collar from the best freedivers, we decided to give two Lobsters to the participants and two Lobsters to the organizers (thank you, Mikki), so that they awarded the prizes to the winners at their discretion.

We didn’t stay for the finals, which was a mistake as we missed two records: World Record DNF Mateusz Malina 244m, World Record DNF Magdalena Solich 185m.

Helsinki

The next day, we left 20 kg of luggage and went to see Helsinki. After wandering around the city, we came to the conclusion that it could definitely enter the top ten most boring, depressive and expensive cities in the world.

Nevertheless, we managed to see some interesting things:

And finally I found my favorite treat- a Nutella sandwich! Mmmmm…Now I’m completely happy :)

How can we leave Finland without relaxing in the Finnish sauna? We found the only public sauna in Helsinki that was heated with wood- Kotiharjun sauna.

As for me, I like public saunas—they give you a sense of unity: people get acquainted with each other, talk, criticize politicians, praise beer and gossip about football and women. Everyone is equal here and it doesn’t matter who you are- a politician, a football player or a woman.
Technically, the Finnish sauna doesn’t differ fundamentally from the Russian bathhouse. Finns don’t wear sauna hats and go naked without sheets or towels.

The main feature of this particular sauna is that people sit naked on the street shocking tourists, which is not what Finns normally do. So why not to smoke a pipe on such a special occasion?