World Record Dive | A Q&A With Ahmed Gabr
On 18 September, Ahmed Gabr will be attempting to break the Guinness World Record for the deepest scuba dive by going to 350m below sea level. We spoke to Ahmed about his motives, fears and hopes for the future
Ahmed, tell us, why are you attempting this record?
It is the usual question I have been asked for quite a long time now. I am trying to break the record as an experiment. I would like to do something for my country, which is very important, specially in these days. Someone has to open the door. If you keep doing the same things, you will end up with the same people, that’s why I am trying to break this record. It is like an exploration for the human body.
I saw long ago I had the discipline, the physical and mental ability to do this. I have a self harmony and I trust my judgement. I don’t have an ego when I technical dive. I don’t want to compare how deep I dive, how long I can hold my breath for, how much air I consume or how long I was in the water for. You are completely drifting away from your objective.
I just asked myself, how can I make this dream happen, how can I fulfil the targets? I asked myself how deep can a human being dive? Anyone can dive to 350m if they have the right physical and mental preparation. Remember the first person who dived to 50m , or to 100m. Now a lot of people can do that. It’s all a matter of procedures you follow.
What training are you doing to get ready for this dive?
The world record attempt is a lifestyle for me. It has two parts, a mental and a physical one. First of all you have to believe in what you are doing, you have to be completely grounded and not have an inflated ego. You have to know exactly what you need to do and what you have to do. This is the secret, the password to do what you want to do.
At the beginning of my physical training, it was a hardcore workout, mainly going to the gym, cardiovascular training, cycling, running, swimming. Now that I'm not training anymore because, I'm gaining weight again. I need to relax my muscles and my joints so I don't experience pain and suffer after the dive.
Doing yoga has played an important part of my mental preparation, but I have stopped doing everything now. I am in my bubble, trying to visualize the procedure as much as I can, getting myself as completely away as I can from emotions, family stresses, life stresses. It takes a lot of mental training to detach myself from all the questions.
What about your diet?
I follow a healthy pescatarian diet which means I do not eat any meat or chicken and I try to avoid junkfood. I would like to become a vegan as well, but it is quite difficult, especially here.
What’s driving you throughout this training?
Again it is exploration, trying to open the door and do something different. That’s my motive.
You’re doing this as, not just the first man going down to 350m, but you will also be the first Egyptian to dive this deep. How does it feel to represent your country in this way?
Well, I am not doing this to gain any recognition. Of course I want to make my people proud, but I am not doing this only as an Egyptian. I also want to make my team proud, and do something for humanity.
All Arabs need something like this, to change their image. People don’t know Arabs and Egyptians very well. The idea is that we are a third world country, but we can do a lot, and we can do more than that. This is just the start. Opening the door.
Talking about family, how does your son feel about you doing this?
Well, he only wants to be in the picture in the Book of Guinness World Records. I'm trying not be affected by any pressure my family may put on me now. They will be in Dahab during the record dive, but I will stay in my bubble before the dive. The only people that will be with me will be two of my support divers, Jaimie and Sam.
Let’s talk about the diving itself. How do you prepare yourself before a very long dive?
Before I dive, I consider things closely. There are two things that would stop me from doing a dive: first if I am overconfident, then I won’t do it; second I am concerned, then I postpone it. Mental preparation is important, if you are super confident and start to brag about what you’re doing, that means you are trying to show people something you actually don’t have. There is a big difference between who you are and who you think you are. You have to have a very clear picture and visualisation of what you expect and ask yourself the right questions: do I need to do that? During the dive itself, when do I have to turn around and say no?
How does it feel like just before you go underwater?
This is why you need a meditation part in your mental preparation. It helps me to visualise and create my system. Once you have a system, you just enter the system, be part of it. You do not need to feel anything, you just need to be away from anything not important.
What do you expect it to be like at 350m?
Well, I will try to meet the sea monster!
I think it is unexpected, meaning that I do not need to expect anything. It happens, and I do not need to feel anything.
You’re going to spend around 15 hours in the water, what do you think about on your long decompression stops? Do you get bored? How do you stop that?
The record will be completely different from the training. After you’re done, you have something very exciting to tell. You achieved your target, so I think that when you come out of the water, you’re a completely different person than when you entered the water. It’s an unique experience, so it’s worth staying there for 15 hours. Plus, I don’t mind being alone, I am a loner, so 15 hours are actually nice. But of course my support will be around me!
Talking about the support team, you’ve developed a lot of trust, how did that come about?
At the beginning – I’ve been preparing for this record for four years, before the political unrest in Egypt happened and my job in the army took me away from my objective – I started with the wrong people. It happened so many times. People trying to take advantage of you or trying to put you down. People did not believe in me.
Around a year ago we had a very humble start, with two or three of my support divers, Sam, Jaimie and Jenny. Sam is my friend and he tried to convince me to come to Dahab. So I decided to give it a try and I came to Dahab. It was impressive. To do something like what I’m doing, you need to trust your team. I found what I wanted to have and I didn’t expect any better from the H2O team. At first we started just the four of us, Jaimie, Sam, Jenny. Today the team is big: 19 people or even more, with all the technicians, drivers, etc.
So apart from the team, what’s special about Dahab?
I've tried to break the record before in Safaga and Hurghada, in the south of the Red Sea. It’s beautiful there but the currents and the circumstances are more difficult. I had to hire a boat every time I want to train out. Dahab is more convenient and the most important thing is the team. I don’t have to worry about anything because the H2O team works all week long to prepare for me to come on the weekends to train. It helps me because I trust them and I do not want to see the logistics. I just want to do the dives.
What is the first thing you do after going out of the water after a deep dive?
Rehydrate and take fluids. Get out of my drysuit...
What is you dream after the record? What’s next?
My friend Jenny wants me to break the world freediving record next! I don’t know yet if I can put up with that after the record. And so far I am just focused with the world record. Let’s see again after that is done! I have no expectations, I just want to do the job, the mission done. We do and then we see what’s going to happen afterwards.
Was there a specific moment where you thought, I am going to break the record? Is there something that you can remember about that moment?
I will keep that for myself for now. I’ll tell you one day, after I break the record!
For more information vistitwww.h2odiversdahab.com/world-record
To support Ahmed and his team please go to http://gogetfunding.com/project/the-worlds-deepest-dive-350m