Fluidity, not resistance: A talk with Gus Kreivenas in Dahab
Gus at Vertical Blue 2018

Fluidity, not resistance: A talk with Gus Kreivenas in Dahab

I sat down with Gus Kreivenas one beautiful evening overlooking the Lighthouse in Dahab. We discussed many things, but flow-state, reductionism and “letting go” are the advice he, and I, wish to dispense in this article.

I hope you enjoy it. Reading time is only 10 minutes. Well worth it.

Flow-Sate of Mind

The “flow-state of mind” has been discussed among athletes at the peak of athletic performance. When the mind is entirely focused on one task, and everything else not related [to this task] is not “in attention”.

Some describe this as “being in the zone” and for others flow is when your skill level and the challenge you face are at similar. You can be in a “flow-state” while driving your car, and a road you know well at, say, 100 km/h. The same could not be said about driving a new road, in a new car at 200 km/h. You would not be in a flow-state, but most likely a panic-state.

Similar to “Attention De-concentration” taught in the Molchanovs courses, flow-state is about being in the present moment, with a full focus and awareness of yourself and the surroundings that matter.

I focus on the flow of water over my face as I free-fall. I imagine and visualize this movement of water flowing over the very details of my face and the details that define it. This helps me to “press my reset” button if tension arises.

Gary McGrath, UK Freediver, -112 meters on one breath
Luca sinking into the depths of the Blue Hole, Dahab. Photo: Jacob Lee.

Use the sensorial details

We must acknowledge a most powerful tool to enter a flow-state: sensorial details. What our body smells, feels, tastes, sounds and sees that makes us be entirely in the present moment. This makes us human we could ask?

The five senses could be the only pieces of data (one could argue) that justify our very living. That we are indeed alive and in the present moment.

Using the senses, such as is done in meditation, puts us in the present moment as we undertake an action.

The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times… The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – Flow

Reductionism in freediving

Reductionsim in psychology is the concept of breaking down behaviours (or actions) into different components to understand each one individually and what part it plays in a whole.

In contrast, holism attempts to explains that individual components are not as important at understanding the entire behaviour/action as a whole. The sum of individual elements is not the same as all of them combined together. The context (i.e. environment) it arises within takes on more precedence.

Reductionism in teaching

Reductionism in teaching and athletism: Ruling out what isn’t the problem, to find the problem. Learning what the problem is by identifying what it isn’t first. Understanding the individual components to fix them.

  • Example: your issue isn’t equalization, it’s the tension present in your facial muscles as you pass through a thermocline.
Gus Kreivenas teaching in Dahab, Egypt.

Holism in teaching

Holism in teaching and athletism: A person isn’t simply the aggregation of their behaviours and actions. It’s not about putting together individual elements, but rather how they combine as a whole. What is the overall issue? Rather than dispositional (i.e. one behaviour separated), it might be situational (i.e. the environment is the issue).

  • Example: your issue isn’t lack of relaxation while diving, but rather it could be that a particular dive site or community brings out bad memories. Thus, change the environment.

This is after Gus and I had a conversation about love and freediving (or sex and athletic performances in general):

According to reductionist arguments, complex behaviours and cognitions can be simply explained through a single factor. In this case, biological reductionism: physiological arousal causes anxiety and poor sporting performance. However, holistic arguments suggest that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and therefore, we must consider other factors such as the nature of the sporting task and individual characteristics.

OCR A Level Psychology Essay

Sex and freediving (or sex and athletic performance) is a very interesting topic, one for another article however.

Let go the idea of hitting the target

A Chinese proverb goes as follows:

Lieh-Tzu was studying to become a master archer. He finally, after much practice, hit the target. Seeking advice from his mentor, the mentor asked “Do you know how you hit the target?”

Lieh-Tzu responded with pride, “I’m now an expert both technically and technologically since I’ve hit the target. Since I have reached my goal, I am now a master.”

The master asked, “…but do you know why you hit the target?” Forget the target, and look at the archer. You’ve learned about archery yes, but what about the archer? “

The master continued, “Now you must learn about the archer. And to do so, you must unlearn archery.”

We learn to know about the world, or about how to freedive: from a technical, mechanical, physiological and technological perspective. Perhaps by doing so, we forget to learn about ourselves, ask the hard questions. We’re too focused on hitting the target.

Thibault making bubbles and relaxing after a training session. Photo: Luca Malaguti.

It was Samo Jeranko in an interview that asked me plainly, “Ask yourself the hard questions in freediving. One of which is; are you afraid of diving deep?”

Little tip: Gus is known for having his students try diving without alarms. This approach helps a freediver be more present in the more. It allows the person to have the focus and awareness of the present.

Last two tips for you

Since you’ve read up to here, I’ll part with these last two thoughts:

  1. Equipment is an extension of us, our nervous system understands what we wear and how to use it. Just like the example of driving your car on a road well known, you have to have a keen understand of the tools you use to carry out the necessary tasks. Train the nervous system to be subconsciously comfortable. Example: is that nose clip really comfortable during your free fall?
  2. Trust in the process. Experience, practice and knowledge is the process that leads your nervous system to adaptations and automatization. Without this, any task you perform, the brain could detect it as an “attack”. Trust the process. Create an automized understanding what you do. Example: your equalization steps are precise, present and provide positive sensations. You visualize them beforehand, and you’re not “surprised” when some tension builds up underwater.


  1. Conversation with Gus Kreivenas. April 30, 2021 recording. Dahab, Egypt.
  2. https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/tutor2u-media/resource-samples/07-Sports-Exercise-Psychology-Topic-Essays-SAMPLE.pdf?mtime=20190818142147
  3. https://owlcation.com/social-sciences/Holism-and-Reductionism-in-Psychology
  4. https://www.verywellmind.com/reductionism-definition-and-examples-4583891
  5. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/66354.Flow
  6. https://www.freedivewire.com/stoic-philosophy-in-deep-freediving/

Luca Malaguti

Luca Malaguti is a former engineer turned freediving professional athlete and founded Sea to Sky Freediving. He lives in Vancouver, Canada among other places including Dahab, Dominica and Philippines.

Leave a Reply