Christmas Island Freedive Owner/Operator David Mulheron is a qualified freediving instructor and athlete. He is the current national record holder in CWTB (constant weight bi-fins) and was also named Australian Male Freediving Athlete of The Year in 2019. Here David tells us more about himself and his operation, and why he thinks Christmas Island is one of the best freediving locations in the world…
Hi, I’m David Mulheron. I grew up in Broome in the North West of WA and have been teaching Freediving courses on Christmas Island since January 2020. I spent a lot of my childhood around the coast, but it wasn’t until 2014 I began spearfishing and spending all of my spare time in the ocean. Spearfishing for me wasn’t just about hunting and catching dinner. I loved the silence you could find diving in the ocean and the incredible interactions you could have with marine life.
In 2016 I decided to take a freediving course so I could learn the correct techniques to dive deeper and safer. I completed all my freediving courses from level 1 through to instructor at Freedive Gili in Indonesia. While at Freedive Gili I made my first 60m dive and got to be a safety diver for an unofficial freediving world record attempt that a Chinese TV crew were filming. Over the few months I spent on Gili I really got hooked on freediving. I was living and breathing freediving every day and didn’t want to do anything else. Eventually I had to return to working as an electrician in the West Australian mining industry, but I wanted to make the ocean and freediving a bigger part of my life.
Over the next 2 years I took freediving training pretty seriously, even though I was working massive hours in remote locations. I had limited access to the ocean or even a pool to train in. I began a daily routine of waking up at 4am, perform a yoga and Pranayama breathing routine (normally 1 hour), go to work for a 12 hour shift and when I knocked off perform “dry” freediving training which involved static breath holding sessions (laying on your bed holding your breath) and apnea walking (holding your breath while walking as far as you can). Not having a coach or being around any other freedivers, I was getting all my training ideas and information from the internet, mostly freediving forums. From what I could tell I was making good progress. I could perform repeat 8-minute static breath holds and apnea walks of almost 4 minutes after working a full shift in a humid 40-degree climate.
Any holidays I had I travelled back to the Gili islands to try and progress my depth, but I never had enough time. I would get a week or 2 at most to train but could never pass 60 metres. I realised I had to make a big change if was going to overcome this barrier and see what I was capable of.
In 2018 I quit my job, sold my car and boat and booked a one-way ticket overseas so I could train full time and see how deep I could go, with plans of competing at international events in 2019. I spent 4 months training in the Red Sea in Israel and Egypt, learning from some of the most respected freediving athletes and instructors in the world. I made good progress, even diving to 100 meters deep on a freediving sled in the “No Limits” discipline. I returned home to Australia stoked with what I had achieved and started to plan around competing in 2019.
The idea of Freedive Christmas Island came about as soon as I heard my sister and husband had applied for teaching positions at the high school on the island in late 2018. I was in Egypt training when they told me the news. I thought it would be ideal to be able to live somewhere and train year-round without having to spend thousands of dollars on travelling to train. I spent hours researching the weather, ocean conditions and underwater topography to see if it would be suitable to freedive here. From what I saw it was the perfect freediving location just waiting to be discovered. Once they had moved and settled I arranged dates to visit so I could see if it would be possible to freedive around the island.
I had a very busy schedule in 2019. I had to travel to Mexico and the Caribbean for depth competitions in the first half of the year and then to France and Egypt in the second half. I managed to head over to Christmas island in July 2019 for 2 weeks to check the place out. From the moment I saw the island from the air as the plane came into land I knew big things could happen here.
My first impression of the island was of a jungle paradise. The island was covered in lush green rainforest and the water in the cove looked calm and clear, even though the 15 knot trade winds were in full effect. After my very first snorkel I thought “we’re on here”. There was unlimited depth (it drops off to over 500m only 200m from shore) and plenty of interesting marine life, only a short swim from shore. Over the 2 weeks I got to explore caves, waterfalls and spent a lot of time spearfishing, while testing the water conditions. By the end of the 2 weeks I was in love with the place and didn’t really want to leave. I couldn’t wait to come back.
I found my first year of competitions really tough. Particularly in France, I did not perform as I expected. I only successfully made 1 of 3 dives and it was 25 metres short of what I was capable of in training. I couldn’t seem to achieve the same results I could in training, I understand this is just a part of the learning process and I’m sure as I gain more experience I will improve handling the pressure of competitions.
Reflecting back, I achieved a lot in my first full year of competitions. I competed in events in Brisbane, Mexico, Egypt and the World Championships in France. I won second place in static at the Australian pool nationals with a breath hold of 6.53, I won second place overall in the Egyptian national championship and set my first national record diving to 86 meters in the constant weight bi fins discipline. I also won Australian Male Freediving Athlete Of The Year for 2019. At the end of the year I was exhausted mentally and physically. I took a couple of months off training and prepared for my move to Christmas Island to have a shot at opening a freediving school.
I flew in on New Years’s Eve, got off the plane and drove straight to Flying Fish Cove and jumped in for a snorkel on sunset. The place was just as I remembered. I did a couple of dives off the drop off, free falling down past the coral and fish and thinking to myself – how good is this place!
Teaching others to freedive is something I have really wanted to do since completing my instructor course, but I never really had the time or lived in a place possible to teach year-round. So far this year I have taught over 30 people to freedive, students from 16 to 60 year olds. Freediving is a hobby anyone can take up. Now living here on Christmas Island I’m looking forward to sharing my passion for freediving with others.
What makes Christmas Island one of the best freediving locations in the world?
- Perfect water temperature, 26-30 degrees all year round
- Very little or no current in the dive location, Flying Fish cove is very protected from currents.
- Good surface conditions. No waves and very little swell. The cove is surrounded by high cliffs that protect it from the winds and swell that prevail from the south east most of the year.
- Good visibility, it’s normally 20+ meters and 15 on a bad day…
- Accessible dive location. Our training location is an 80m swim from the jetty for 40m depth. We also have a deeper mooring which is a 150m swim out where it’s possible to dive to 60+ meters.
- Spectacular marine life. On our short swim to our dive location we swim over amazing coral gardens of colourful fish and moray eels.
Another thing that sets it apart from other locations is that there are so many other cool places and things to see and do when you’re not in the water. 63% of Christmas island is National Park and is home to endemic species of sea birds, land crabs and marine life, nicknamed the Galapagos of the Indian Ocean. You can explore the secluded beaches, tropical jungle, caves and waterfalls. All of this is completely free to explore with no fees to go into the national park.
To see how amazing this island is you need to experience this place for yourself.
For more information visit freedivechristmasisland.com