SWB: One Step Forward and Two Steps Back

Just when the major water safety agencies (ARC, YMCA, NSPF and others) come together to ban excessive and prolonged underwater swimming and breath-holding to combat unconsciousness and drowning, the media kicks it up a notch by glorifying this deadly practice.  The movie Chasing Mavericks is a must see for anyone in water safety. This story about a young boy who trains to become a world class big wave surfer, repeatedly shows his breath-holding antics, in the classroom, in his bathtub, in the swimming pool and in the ocean. Without ruining the movie, it is not a real happy ending. Then when Tiger Woods loses his endorsement deal with Breitling Watches, who do they replace him with?  Herbert Nitsch, Pilot, Deep Sea Diver, Extreme Free Diving Record Breaker. Not surprisingly, Herbert Nitsch was in the hospital for months after a breath-holding event went awry. He suffered multiple strokes and is now is left with the aftermath of any stroke victim – long-term neurological disorders, difficulty speaking and writing, memory loss, and he just recently started learning to walk again. In his first interview since the dive (April 2013), Nitsch says, “If I’d known that this is how it would turn out, I wouldn’t have done it. Ever.” Additionally, Tim Ferris, author of popular books the 4-hour Chef, The 4-hour Body, and the 4-hour Workweek taught himself how to hold his breath longer on land and wrote about it in his book (with no implications for water). As a result of what he wrote in his book, readers shared with Ferris how they tried his breath-holding techniques in swimming pools, passed out underwater and nearly drowned. With no knowledge of Shallow Water Blackout or an Aquatics background, Ferris was surprised when people took his breath-holding ideas to the pool. Once he realized this, he yanked it from the book because he says there was no benefit, but people would be killing themselves trying this activity. He added a disclaimer on his blog “DISCLAIMER: THIS IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. DO NOT ATTEMPT IN WATER OR WITHOUT PROPER SUPERVISION.” My point here is that we still have an uphill battle in our swimming pools across the nation even with the most recent aggressive warnings against this deadly dangerous activity, particularly in backyard pools and during recreational swims at commercial pools. Those that truly wish to become free divers should take a free diving course, obtain the necessary education and have the desire to risk their lives for this extreme sport. For all others – recreational swimmers, competitive swimmers, and the general public, we must stress not to attempt or practice these activities, rather than encouraging them. We need to promote conscious breath control, not excessive, prolonged breath-holding for time and/or distance. Competitive and repetitive breath-holding games and contests must be stopped before it’s too late. 


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Comment by Dave Allen on April 25, 2013 at 1:29pm

Here is the story from Santa Cruz about a 10 year old swim team member that had to be revived with CPR.  The coaches are going to continue to do the same hypoxic training but do a "better job" of educating their swimmers.


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