We first took the Powerbreather with us to a beach in Santander. Our only other proper beach visits previously were in Dinard and on Île de Ré, but as we’d cycled on both occasions, the Powerbreather unfortunately hadn’t made the cut in our rucksacks. Santander was the first time we’d parked Benny on the coast near the beach, so we carried the Powerbreather down the winding stone path to the inviting blue of the Cantabrian Sea, for its first outing.
After a quick review of the instructions we headed into the surf. First impressions were mixed as the membranes in the blue horn attachments that protect the user from ever breathing water also provide some level of resistance to the passage of air, thus making the experience of breathing in an effort beyond the norm. Similar to using a regulator when scuba diving, the discipline of breathing in and out only using the mouth also takes a little concentration and practice at first. In choppy surf and strong pulling currents, this proved a little too difficult as there were too many variables to overcome to allow a smooth first testing of the device. Plus, there was a level of anxiety associated with breathing; a hesitant feeling that, although the previous breath had been just fine, this unnecessarily existent but constantly nagging doubt that the next breath wouldn’t be so easily available was always there. Bizarre, but that was the psychological reality of the first outing.
After deciding a vibrant, Cantabrian Sea was probably not the ideal place for a first test for unfamiliar apparatus, we awaited a more suitable time to try again. As it turned out, our next campsite, La Viorna in the Picos de Europa, had a very nice 25m (or maybe 25 yards – never thought to ask) swimming pool. As only we and perhaps six other guests in the campsite used the pool during our entire three day visit, this proved a much more suitable location for our product test to proceed.
With the water surface much calmer and the swimming simpler, we were allowed a greater level of control in both stroke and breathing, and thus much more confidence in the use of the device, considering it was firmly strapped to our head. A few easy lengths of the pool brought familiarity and understanding of how best to regulate breathing levels and how to integrate this into our front crawl stroke without the need to turn our head. It’s slightly unnatural, swimming straight without deliberately turning to breathe, and the psychological aspect leads one to not breathe when required by the stroke. There is still a strange and unnecessary fear that no air will be available, even though it is and it will be easily on each reoccurring breath. It’s a simple trust issue, and took many lengths and many more breaths to finally overcome and accept that the Powerbreather works exactly as it should. It was only then that we could both settle in and breathe naturally, in time with our strokes as normal.
Much more than a mere snorkel, being able to tumble-turn, breathe and exhale without concern of water ingress is a big advantage, as is the opportunity to concentrate solely on small tweaks to one’s stroke, removing one level of complication until the expected change becomes second nature.
Many, many thanks to MarkP (AKA MP and MtP on comments here) and his wife Sophie for a very thoughtful leaving gift; it may take a while for us to get fully to grips with the best way to utilise the Powerbreather and reap the rewards in our training swims, but we’re both very glad we have the opportunity to practice with it (even if we do look a tad silly with it on). It certainly raised a few inquisitive eyebrows and queries from other pool users curious in what it was we had, sparking a few interesting conversations at poolside; all good.