Yesterday, I went out with Mark Glendinning from Supersaturated to attempt a little underwater rock running shoot in the Newquay Bay. It was sunny, but the swell from the day before and residual waves were kicking up a bit of sand and although it was sunny up top, 2-3m down it was pretty gloomy.
The idea of weighting yourself down to the sea bed might seem reckless, but rock running is so good for preparing for wipeouts in heavier surf because of a couple of reasons:
1. Dynamic apnea: apnea means holding your breath, dynamic means your body is moving and burning up loads of oxygen, just the sort of thing that happens when you’re underwater getting thrown around like an empty tracksuit, so rock running helps physically prepare you for this.
2. Psychological: standing around on the sea floor with no breathing apparatus is a weird feeling at first, but you start to get used to it. Once you’ve done your run, you drop the rock and come up to the surface, as you’d expect, quite out of breath, just like you would after a hold down. Simulating the wipeout scenario in more controlled conditions helps you remain calm when you are getting worked in real life.
I was first shown rock running a couple of years ago in Hawaii with head Maui lifeguard Archie Kalepa. Archie explained you don’t need surf to train for big waves and I soon discovered he was right. Since then I took an apnea for surfers course with Ian from Freedive UK which I would recommend to any surfer. So I’ve had a couple of experts introducing the concepts of apnea and freedive type stuff to me, it wasn’t like I just jumped off the harbour wall with a rock and went for it. If you have it in your mind that you want to run rock, don’t even consider it without getting training first, I’m not going to write a rock running ‘how to’ here!
Anyway this shoot was hard as hell. We ended up paddling the rock out on a huge foam surfboard to a set of submerged rocks in an area known as Bothwicks. I know how high the rocks are at low tide, so knew what the drop would be. I must say it was fun to breathe up, grab the rock, roll off the board and enjoy the decent to the bottom. I did a run, Mark got some shots, and then we surfaced. Instantly, the rock was lost. We searched for it for about ten minutes before I found it tucked under the Bothwicks rock stack. I swam to the surface with it and perched it on top of the rock stack so that it was sat waiting for us in 2ft of water.
That would have been ideal but the top of the Bothwicks rocks stack is basically a load of pinnacles that was being washed with swell and covered in seaweed and mussel shells. Not ideal terrain for bare feet when you’re trying to hold 25 odd kg above your head. Still, when the camera’s there you try anything. Kodak Courage they used to call it.
We did a few more drop offs of the rocks, into the ‘abyss’, and got a few more runs in. Being on the sea floor holding your breath is something I think you know before even trying it whether you’ll enjoy it or not, it’s not like when you refuse to taste a nasty looking chutney and someone’s telling you ‘how do you know if you’ve never tried it?’. When it comes to the sea you either want it or you don’t.
I’ve been training quite hard the last couple of weeks but today I am indoors, recharging and drinking lots of water; yesterday’s water an-aerobics were something else, but as ‘they’ also say, it’s another bean in the jellybean jar