Two minutes with: William Trubridge

by Fiona Rae / 26 December, 2013
The son of furniture designer David Trubridge holds the world record for freediving without fins: 101m. He is the subject of National Geographic documentary Breathe.
William Trubridge. Photo/Paolo Valenti


Q: When you got the world record, did you know you’d be able to go down that far?

You never know what it’s going to be like in an actual record attempt because of the stress around it and all the cameras and everything, but I try to arrive at the depth that I’m going to attempt in training beforehand if I can.

Q: Is freediving more mentally challenging than other sports?

There is a very strong mental component required, and to a certain extent that’s what attracted me. I used to row and do other kinds of very physical sports, but I found they didn’t engage my mind as much as I would have liked. Maybe the fact that in freediving negative thoughts or any kind of excitement or adrenalin response are counterproductive.

Descending during the freediving world cup in the Bahamas in 2012. Photo/Getty Images


Q: So, you’re psyching yourself down, rather than up, before a dive?

Yeah, and that’s very difficult to do when you’re going for a world record attempt when your nerves are racing and you know you have to try to do a maximal dive at this specific time. It helps to forget about what you’re about to do in the future or what happened in the past and just focus on the breathing and the preparation.

Q: Have you been in danger from marine life?

When we’re doing the freedives, not so much. Dean’s Blue Hole [in the Bahamas] has reef fish and occasionally rays, but there’s nothing that is dangerous to you. In general, as long as you’re not shooting fish or diving in really murky conditions next to a seal colony, you’re not really in any danger from sharks.

Q: Has your physiology changed as a result of the training? Would it be markedly different from that of a competitive swimmer?

I hope so, because the training I do is targeted at creating a physiology that conserves oxygen as much as possible. Whereas someone who is extremely fit would be able to supply a high amount of oxygen to their muscles very quickly, I need to shut down that oxygen flow to the muscles so they can work anaerobically and that conserves the oxygen for the heart and the brain. Physiology for freediving is such a different set of effects to what is found in any other sport that we’re still discovering exactly what they consist of.

Q: Is freediving something people can do for a reasonable amount of time?

It is, yeah. The female world record holder, who is head and shoulders above every other female athlete, is 53. She’s incredible.

Q: The greatest risk, of course, is dying. In the documentary you appear to be unable to answer the question “Why risk it?”

My immediate response was, “I don’t think it’s that great a risk, and for me the risk is at an acceptable level”, and they weren’t happy with that and asked me to think again and that’s when I couldn’t come up with anything decent. But there is definitely a risk there, like in any activity that we engage in. As my father says in the movie, it’s a far greater risk not to do the things you love and are passionate about and then be unfulfilled in your life. I’m comfortable with that choice and I think the people around me are as well.

BREATHE, National Geographic, Sky 072, January 6, 7.30pm.

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