Why I FREEDIVE!
When you were a kid, did you sometimes take a really big breath in the bath, pinch your nose, close your eyes and sink in under the water? Do you remember the quiet as sounds became muffled, the shifting colours and shapes inside your eyelids, that feeling of being quite contained... You were freediving!
When I was nineteen I decided to become a kid again and never grow up, to step back into water and live for that silence. Freediving as a competitive sport is about diving as deep as far or as long as possible on one single breath of air. Pushing their bodies far beyond what researchers thought was possible, freedivers have made one breath be enough to below 200 meters when assisted and breath hold beyond eleven minutes.
For me, freediving is the perfect expression of my love affair with the ocean. Just like a whale or a dolphin or a seal, I take one breath, kick down and explore the magical fairyland that lies beneath the waves. The human body is perfectly created for diving on one breath. We share an adaptation called the Mammalian Dive Response with all aquatic mammals, we have a small seal living inside us waiting to come out and play. As your face touches the water, your heart rate slows down, blood gets shunted away from your arms and legs to make sure your brain has enough oxygen, your spleen constricts flushing new haemoglobin rich blood into the system and more as the little seal sits up, shakes out it’s fur, yawns and gets ready to dive!
For deep dives I wear a monofin that is like a mermaid tail, where my feet are together and a large fin propels me down… one two three four… twenty kicks until I pass my neutral buoyancy and start falling. Letting go of light, air, doubt and fear I let my body fall into the ocean. It is so still here. I close my eyes and let my fingers glide along the rope. Equalise, equalise… relax. A small mantra I play over and over in my head. Below fifty I feel the pressure increase, like a vast ocean embrace my chest gets compressed, my equalisation is key now, don’t miss a beat. Then I’m there, the bottom of the rope. I open my eyes, give one pull to start my ascent and let my safety diver at the surface know that I have turned and start kicking up. I am heavy down here. Kick kick kick, relax, I am strong, I can do this. I love this. The water gets brighter, I get lighter and there she is, my friend meeting me at twenty, she smiles at me and swim the last bit up together. Break the surface, deep breath. I want to go deeper!
For every training dive, for every hour spent in the water I become more aquatic. I practice on a rope so that I can easily play with the majestic creatures that live in this big blue that covers out planet. How not to bore a spinner dolphin, how to meet and greet a great blue whale, how to entertain an acrobatic seal, how to glide with a manta… get back in, pinch your nose and sink below