Molchanovs Athlete Interview: Aidan Buckle from Canada

Molchanovs Athlete Interview: Aidan Buckle from Canada
By Kristina Zvaritch
Aidan Buckle was always fascinated with swimming beneath the water rather than above it. After a chance encounter on a scuba dive with a humpback whale mother and calf up close at age 13, a seed was planted that would change his entire life.

With two scuba diving fanatics for parents, Aidan was able to explore what life was like beneath the water’s surface from a young age. Later, when he joined the military at 18 years old, it was this love for being underwater that inspired him to specialize in Combat Diving. With a rigorous selection process involving repeated breath-holds without any relaxation or breathing phases, Aidan often outlasted his fellow coursemates and witnessed some blackouts. This led him to become even more curious about breath-hold diving.

So when military life ended for Aidan, he packed his bags and moved to Thailand to become a scuba instructor. Luckily, he completed his first freediving course on Koh Tao right before the COVID-19 pandemic took over the world. The little island was quiet and still during COVID, and Aidan spent his days swimming to a 30m (98ft) mooring line with Tony Myshlyaev and doing hundreds of CNF dives, occasionally hiring a boat to go to 40m (131ft).

His gradual approach to depth gave him a solid foundation - one which he used to his advantage at Freedive Superhome’s Asian Freediving Cup 2024 in Panglao, Bohol, Philippines. There, he set a new Canadian AIDA National Record with an incredible 92m (302ft) in CWTB, an 80m (262ft) dive in FIM, and a 66m (217ft) dive in CNF.

I sat down with Aidan to hear more about his experience at the Asian Freediving Cup, his mental preparation for dives, underwater moments that moved him, temporary setbacks that he learned from, and how he documents his underwater life in photos and videos.
Kristina Zvaritch: Hi, Aidan, it’s great to chat with you! To get started, can you tell me about your strategy for the Asian Freediving Cup 2024? That was a large competition - 70 athletes from 23 countries! What was it like for you?

Aidan Buckle: My primary goal for this competition was to set the AIDA National Record for bifins. This was particularly important to me as it would be my first national record, and I felt it was within my reach. I was so determined that I was prepared to repeat the dive four times if necessary.

Participating in such a large competition was a bit intimidating, especially since it was only my second competition ever. My first competition had a very relaxed atmosphere, but the AFC this year was incredibly competitive. The day before the competition, I felt relaxed and confident. However, when it was time to go to bed, my nerves kicked in—my heart started racing, and I couldn't stop thinking about the next day. According to my Garmin, I only got two hours of sleep that night. On the first day, I had to dive immediately after Alexey, which added to the pressure.

Despite these challenges, I ended up placing 8th overall for the men, which I am quite pleased with. My main focus was on securing the national record, and I hadn't trained much in FIM this year. My teammate Mitch and I had created a spreadsheet with all the athletes' scores, and we calculated that an 80m (262ft) FIM dive would secure me 8th place.

Overall, it was a great competition. I had a lot of fun and enjoyed some really memorable dives!

KZ: Really impressive results! Now describe to me the mental preparation required for your competition dives in Panglao - how do you manage competition nerves or other emotions and stay focused underwater?

AB: I practice daily meditation, ideally first thing when I wake up and last thing before bed, and sometimes during the day, as well. This routine helps me center myself and manage stress. However, despite these tactics, they didn’t quite work for me on the first day of the competition. Once I got past that initial hurdle, I found myself much calmer for the rest of the event.

Underwater, my primary focus is on executing the dive exactly as I trained it. I concentrate on staying in the moment, which means not letting my mind drift to thoughts about the outcome or any potential challenges. By keeping my attention on each phase of the dive and maintaining a steady rhythm, I can stay calm and focused, managing any nerves or emotions that arise.

KZ: Excellent tips! So what's the most challenging aspect of freediving training for you, both physically and mentally? What's the most enjoyable?

AB: The most challenging aspect of training for freediving is definitely the mental part. Staying focused on long-term goals and trusting the process requires a lot of discipline and patience. Physically, I enjoy the actual dives and the training sessions, but the recovery can be tough. After deep dives, especially in CNF, I often find myself needing afternoon naps to recuperate. Despite these challenges, the enjoyment I get from the dives themselves and the sense of achievement makes it all worthwhile.

KZ: I hear you on afternoon naps! Now let’s switch gears - have you ever had a freediving "fail" or moment that didn't go as planned? How did you handle it, and what did you learn from the experience?

AB: During my first dive in this competition, things didn't go as planned. I made a mistake with the surface protocol due to a combination of nerves and hypoxia. However, I didn't let it get to me. I just took it in stride, learned from the experience, and tried again. It was a valuable lesson in staying focused and persistent, no matter the setbacks.
KZ: And then you got the National Record - amazing! So tell me, what are some MUST-HAVE Molchanovs pieces in your competition gear bag?

AB: For my recent competition and my 92m (302ft) bifin dive, the PRO Hyper Bifins were absolutely essential. Their power and efficiency made a huge difference, and I don't think I could have achieved that depth without them.

KZ: Fabulous, now I want to get into CWTB! Okay, enough about competition - what's your favorite underwater location or dive spot that you've explored, and why does it stand out to you?

AB: One of my favorite underwater locations is Coron in the Philippines, particularly for its shipwrecks. The combination of historical intrigue and underwater exploration is truly captivating. Diving through these sunken WWII relics, now teeming with marine life, creates a unique and unforgettable experience.
KZ: I completely agree, Coron is amazing! Can you share with me a memorable or unique experience you've had while diving?

AB: One of my most memorable dives was swimming with turtles in Koh Tao. Watching these graceful creatures gliding effortlessly through the clear waters, holding their breath with such natural ease, was truly inspiring. It reminded me of the beauty of breath-hold diving and has motivated me to improve my own technique and relaxation.

KZ: If only we could all be like the turtles. Now to wrap up, I see you’re also an underwater photographer and videographer. For freedivers looking to capture their underwater experiences, what advice would you give on underwater photography or videography while freediving?

AB: I primarily focus on videography rather than photography because I feel it allows me to tell a more complete story and capture the dynamic movement underwater. For those interested in underwater photography or videography while freediving, my advice is to be patient. It takes time to master, but it's well worth the effort. Utilize all available resources to learn—there's no need to reinvent the wheel. Learn from the experiences and techniques of others who came before you and build on their knowledge.

Check out Aidan on social media to follow his competitive journey and see his underwater photography/videography!

Instagram: @diver.aidan

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