Interview with Christina “Ina” Dimitrova recorded on the 18th of March 2018
A nicely looking mermaid (yes, yes, mentioned “freelance mermaid”) , high-level diving instructor available also for beginners, technical diver managing a company for underwater installations but also world record holder for female deepest scuba diving in salt water (-201m) … And she is training stars, even often appearing on TV for Survivors, or news! Even if Ina was born in 1985!
Soul artist and motorcycle lover, she responds to the invitation of Brice Masi for a Click-Dive interview (finally done and organized after events beyond our control that led to a delay in publication, enough in fact to talk about the new actions of Ina!):
Brice Masi (BM):
“So, easier for me, I start the record…”
Ina Dimitrova (ID):
“Thank you for the understanding to have it in English, as I am more fluent in using English rather than in French (but I may use some words from time to time).”
“No problem! So, thank you for your availability at first. I understand you are really busy nowadays… (check hereafter to understand why)
Could you please present yourself to our -mostly French- audience?“
“OK. My name is Christina Dimitrova. I have been diving instructor for more than 8-9 years now and have been into diving matters since about to 12 years ago…
It all started in Marseille actually. And I dove there with the dive section of Légion étrangère!
About to my first cover of dive sites was actually in the Mediterranean Sea…There I fell in love with (SCUBA) diving…
In fact, this took place while I was studying architecture in Marseille. I met there my soon-to-be husband Rossen who is a professional diver (former husband now in fact, Rossen Jeliazkov, known for his many extreme activities such as a -218m lately). He has been trained at INPP (Institut National de la Plongée Professionnelle, pro. diving school for technical and commercial divers in France). He was at this time working in Marseille, on le Vieux Port (harbour in the centre of the city).
Rossen was then making interesting explorations, or better is said underwater expeditions, as one of the 3 initial members of the newly settled foundation Black Sea Technical Diving (BSTD http://www.bstd.com/ based on discovering, exploring and valuing Black Sea wrecks and natural environment).
Interestingly, by this time they just have had discovered a shipwreck name Christina! It launched discussions! (story told by Michael Zaimov from the sinking in 1962 to the discovery in 2004, http://michaelzaimov.com/bg/articles/christina )
The following Summer, I took my initial courses in Bulgaria. You know, 3-4 days… It had not been challenging enough, thus I did not really pay attention to every page of the students book !”
“Oh? But it did not stop you from improving…“
“So when I came back in Marseille in September for the studies, I followed the instructors from the Légion I had kept in touch with (Danilo and Simona Pagliaro). We were diving on every week-end! For months! It even snowed some times, and I was there, ready to dive.
And halfway through my studies, I took the decision to come back in Bulgaria and become an instructor. With my husband then, we used to have a plan, a list with the things we would have wanted to make, and to open our diving school in Bulgaria was part of it. We have passed by many schools… He was a really experienced diver at the moment and I was just at the start of it. For many years, we never really have had dives together for real.
So I continued into diving. I started Instructor courses with the famous Course Director Eveline Verdier, who was then working in Saint-Raphaël (France). They really were professional, with her ex-husband. She is now driving her own institute in the Caraibean Sea, in Grenada.
I followed her courses, did my first courses with her, I passed the exams in Cannes and this is actually where I became Dive Instructor. Since then, I am still teaching for recreational diving.
We opened on diving school in Bulgaria, this is not the same we have now… We used to have 3 schools in the beginning and then it became one. We have now our facility in Sozopol, which is one of the oldest towns (and really well preserved for historical remains) on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. And, from there, we are exploring the Black Sea.
I know there are not many things people know about the Black Sea… But this sea is famous for its wrecks. And, because of its very difficult conditions, it needs some parts to be reserved for divers that are experienced!” The specific anoxic conditions sometimes preserve well the wrecks.
“Ah! This was your path towards recreational diving instructor on wrecks…”
“Yes, and that is interesting because with this foundation, BSTD, in 2008 we decided to make an artificial reef in the Black Sea! It is now one of the most famous wrecks we have here. It’s called “Pioneer” among divers. (https://www.wannadive.net/spot/Europe/Bulgaria/Pioner_Wreck/index.html http://deep-dive-systems.com/artificial-reef/ ). It is a fisherman’s boat… but one of the big ones! First of all, it’s symbolic: Pioneer is also a pioneer among the artificial reefs. It’s the first artificial shipwreck in Bulgaria, and it was used by very famous guys during the Communistic period… Like Todor Zhivkov (“communist president” from 1954 to 1989 !) used this ship for fishing!
There is another artificial wreck that had been installed, but it’s a plane, from this president also (in 2011 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAShXC5Ye_w ). It has been sunk and installed by another organization, on a very muddy place called the Saints… And thusthe wreck is not really visible, while the shipwreck of Pioneer is nearby an island and only by -18m. This is very good for training, for the first level underwater, One-Star CMAS divers! We can enter it and inside parts are very clean, very interesting. It was an artificial reef and it is now home for many species!“
“Recreational diving is your thing, OK! And what about Technical diving?“
“Yes! I did my IDC (Instructor Diving Course), when I was still with Eveline Verdier. I obtained the highest level she provided that was Advanced Trimix with TDI (Technical Diving Institute)… Then I continued on diving with Rossen and our partners of the BSTD foundation. We were diving on shipwrecks below 40-50m deep and were often going at 60-70-80m deep or even more, in order to discover the shipwrecks of the Black Sea that are sometimes close to the Bulgarian coast.
This is how I fell in love with Technical diving…
Actually, I always have been passionate about the DIR configuration, with the GUE (Do It Right DIR configuration put forward by the Global Underwater Eplorers GUE).
So, I came in contact with Bartek Cyperling and Dorota Czerny… who is renown as a very good instructor trainer for GUE. We invited her often to come to Bulgaria for courses and workshops. I really felt more love towards technical diving because she has such an inspirational personality and a great professionalism.
I did my first GUE course Fundamentals of Better diving in Egypt, then I took others in Sardinia and Portofino in Italy… I turned into DIR configuration: it was not clearly done since the beginning, because obviously I needed basis in swimming and respecting the rules of GUE. Up until I followed courses to become GUE Instructor also.
But I did not continue towards this path. Because it takes time to become a GUE Instructor… Many exams, many courses, very long procedure. And I was working for other companies and being involved with projects related to the water activities as well. I didn’t have time enough to really finish it. This year, I decided to take TDI Advanced Nitrox and Deco procedures Instructor level in Cyprus with a great man and an awesome technical diver, Chris Kyprou.”
“So, meanwhile, expeditions were going on and me and Rossen we keep on being a team. A perfect team if I may say that. So we continued on diving together, as I maybe have reached a higher level.
So we decided to go into the Extreme Deep Diving. And we started to train a lot. We were going in Egypt, for the so-called training camps.
The last training camp took place in Dahab, Egypt (2015) where we surpassed (=to go beyond) -200m. He was following me to shoot the video. This is how I became the 2nd woman in the world to surpass the -200m limit in salty waters, in the open sea.
It was part of a program that we used to have, to go towards the World Record… (and she achieved it! 200m http://www2.padi.com/blog/2017/10/16/underwater-world-records/ PADI OWSI Ina Dimitrova set the female world record for deepest saltwater scuba dive in 2015. She descended to 659 feet (201 meters) in five minutes and forty seconds. Her return trip took approximately five hours.)
But I stopped there, because we had a very big project going on with the world famous artist Christo. Christo and Jeanne-Claude, you know them…”
“Christo and Jeanne-Claude??”
“Yes, they are very very famous artists. Although Jeanne-Claude (13 June 1935-18 Nov. 2009) is not alive anymore. Christo (13 June 1935-…) is 82 years old now (83 now, with publication delays…) and he is Bulgarian. During the communism he ran away from Bulgaria and settled in Paris where he met Jeanne-Claude! And they also were a really good team, artistic team. They had projects in Paris (blocking streets against the Berlin wall, wrapping the Pont-Neuf), Sydney, Miami, and all around the world. They were living in New-York! (http://christojeanneclaude.net/) They were artists in relation.
So, together and with my husband and our new company Deep Dive Systems, we realised the Floating Piers! It was a floating pontoon, like a promenade about to 3km long linking coast and island, that our company installed in the waters of the lake Iseo, Italy.
I was really busy, with this project. For 2 years I was in Italy…
(another project with Christo and Deep Diving Systems is currently installed In Hyde Park Lake , in London! The Mastaba.)
And everybody knows that if you don’t practise something for a long time, you forget the habitudes…”
Floating Piers image from https://www.dezeen.com/2016/06/17/christo-the-floating-piers-stretch-across-lake-iseo-italy/
“Oh, that’s why you stopped going so deep…”
“Yes, it is like this with freediving and depths. If you don’t train, you lose it…
But the new season is coming, we are going to open the dive facility again this year… Oh! And the other business that was on the list is for diving equipment! We are offering there the most famous brands, like the French brand Aqualung. Or Halcyon, which is great for the technical divers, if using the DIR configuration. It’s a lot of work!
We were the first actually, on the market for diving equipment in Bulgaria. Until we moved from France, there were almost no shops for it, and the people were aiming to places to buy equipment out of the country. While in France there were so many shops! In Bulgaria, it was not available for the common people…
Thus, 12 years ago, when we dispensed many brands, making them available and reachable for the first time, we became known in Bulgaria for that. We actually built a community with divers and instructors who started to come here. There were not so many divers, and by reaching there, they started to know each other and to travel together all around the world. There were times I was traveling every month, bringing groups to liveaboards or other facilities all around the world!
This is how the community started growing up… I can proudly say that every diver in Bulgaria know us as the founders of the family here.”
“That’s really great!“
“And there were some other interesting things, within the list of things we want to make… The other was to create a dive magazine.”
“What? Teaching, technical diving, installing art, world record, and diving magazine?!… You are amazing“
“Yes we also made Diving Magazine. It doesn’t exist anymore because of the economic crisis, you know… It became very very hard to work there under our underwater lovers conditions: everyone working for this magazine was volunteering, and edition-printing-publication was only paid with sponsorships… But by the time, sponsors disappeared. It was a bimestrial, with high quality cover and paper and… shooting on outdoors sessions, publishing special articles and translating some. This magazine was the most popular diving magazine, among the 2 at this time on the market… I don’t have time anymore to support the website related to it….”
“Oh, sorry to hear that… I wonder also… As a woman, how are you dealing with this manly world that is scuba diving?“
“Well… I have never pictured myself as a woman in this kind of world. I am a diver as first. Simple as that. People are expecting from me to be worse in my skills only because I am a woman. I can only smile on that. So it is even more difficult to prove the opposite and this is actually a very good training.
With men you can never be sure of anything… Probably sometimes they decrease the level and accept some things because “I’m a woman and I am weaker”. So I created my own strategy. I had chosen almost all of my instructors to be Women and being sure they will be always honest with me. That if I am not doing everything good they would tell me and sentence me for that. Eveline Verdier, Dorota Czerny,… they were really strict with me, they make you earn it.”
“That’s a nice advice you’re giving to female divers! (laugh) No presents, equality!“
“Exactly, you shouldn’t play tricks with women when it comes to diving. If you understand what I mean…”
“Diving is becoming more and more popular among women. For example, my last group was composed of women, only women.”
“That’s good, you are referenced.”
“Yes, but diving teams deserve gender equality. We all can dive together…”
“To put an end to the interview, because I know your time is precious, do you have a general advice for common divers?“
“I have many advices to give! But the main part I am always trying to teach my students is to never get over their own limits.
During the advanced courses, divers usually start to trust their capacities and believe in themselves, that they can do anything. Like Superwoman or Superman under water…
So they start to deal with dangerous things: you should always be conscious of what you are doing and never do anything that is out of the plan, for any reason. Especially in technical or extreme diving. Rigor at any price. Because the price is usually really high, up to the cost of your life…”
“Yes, underwater can be not safe environment, it is unnatural to mankind.”
“Yes. Through this conversation, I guess you have understood that I gave my life to diving. Spending years working for that, living with that, dreaming about it, working very hard. It’s the result of a lot of trainings, a matter of self-dedication and commitment. The world record owners have to make people trust it is easy for them and they can do it with ease, but only they know what is the real “price” for that.”
“Thank you, Ina, and see you soon maybe if ever you pass by Marseille…”
“Oh? Marseille? I have a French family there. I call them my French parents. I will come and see them, and give you a sign by then.”
“Nice! And when I go in Bulgaria…”
“You’ll be welcome in our dive centres! Bybyeee”
“Bye and have a nice day!”
Again, thanks very much to Ina Dimitrova for her time and kindness! She is an amazing tek and professional diver, instructor and entrepreneur. She is a model for other women. We hope to meet her soon and have new exchanges with our Click-Dive team.
Pictures provided by Ina Dimitrova
Text written by Jérémy Dellile