5 minute read

I'm a freediver

I'm a freediver

Does it sound proud or reckless?

Text: Agnieszka Kalska
Photos: Audrey Cudel

I remember to this day, when having a dozen or so years, the movie "The Big Blue" was shown on television. Any sea and diving fanatic for sure has seen it at least once. Not having too much in common with the sea itself then (the only sea known to me personally was the Baltic Sea), and even less with diving (yes, I had tried it maybe twice, in a lake in Ińsko and in Łagów, that's all), I switched to another channel in the middle of this movie. The only thing that kept me glued to the movie were the scenes with dolphins, which I loved more than any other creatures since I had been a little girl. I was able to set an alarm clock to wake me up in the middle of the night just to turn on the TNT channel at the right moment and watch "My friend the Dolphin", which I had already seen several times, to get a good look at animals even though I did not understand any English dialogues. I did the same on Sunday morning, when they showed "Flipper". It did not matter that it was the only day when I did not have to get up in the morning for training. Looking

at the screen, I had my fingers crossed so that the TV showed the scenes of the "diving madmen" as little as possible and showed the dolphins instead. After some time there were practically no scenes with the animals and watching the scenes of, incomprehensible for me then, pursuit towards the bottom of the oceans, especially in such an "extravagant" way – it was just too much. Even at the expense of missing several scenes with my favourites, I changed the channel.

Freedivers can be called madman and compared to the mountain climbers climbing to the top, risking the loss of health or life, just to get to the top for literally one short moment, and then making not less difficult way down. In freediving it seems to be similar. A freediver goes down in one way or another, struggling meter after meter down, puts on more and more m³ of water producing higher pressure, thus increasing the pressure on every point of the body. At a certain depth the freedivers start to fall

At a certain depth the freedivers start to fall freely. They fall dawn as if they fell off the slope straight into the abyss. And as soon as they reach the right place, they turn back.

freely. They fall dawn as if they fell off the slope straight into the abyss. And as soon as they reach the right place, they turn back. Often, without stopping at the bottom, even for a second, they start their way towards the surface, which is the most difficult part of diving. Tens of m3 of water above them push them down, giving resistance preventing the diver from getting to the surface. However, when the freediver reaches the surface and takes the "first breath", this moment is as emotional as if it was the first breath in life. Isn't it the most important difference between these two activities? Certainly, we can indicate more evident differences, such as the fact that diving lasts definitely shorter and takes place in water, not in the mountains. How many other similarities or differences could you point out? I won't try such a detailed analysis as I have nothing in common with the high mountain climbing. So I'll leave the analysis to others and today I will reveal why I, personally, feel proud of being a freediver.

At the beginning, it would be appropriate to explain the term "freediver", because perhaps it is not entirely clear. Hoping that every reader knows that freediving is nothing but a free dive on one breath, I assume that you happened to meet or just see someone doing freevdiving. Should we therefore assume that such a person is a freediver? And if the person dives in such a way on a depth of 2–3 meters, is he or she only a snorkeler? How to distinguish freedivers from snorkellers? May be we should consider the equipment used? Not really. Freediving is also diving without equipment, as the freediver, frequently using additional equipment like fins, mask, wetsuit or weight, can also do freediving wearing just a swimsuit! Could we take into consideration that freedivers dive just along the rope and deep down, while snorkelers swim only by the reef, looking at colorful fish? I couldn't agree also for such a division, because I love shallow diving among the smallest sea creatures, and yet I still call myself a freediver. According to my personal

When we become a Freediver, we are a Freediver all the time…

opinion, a Freediver (written with capital"F") is not a person equipped with a set of professional freediving equipment or exceeding certain depth limits, time limits or distances under water on just one breath. A Freediver is above all a person who is aware of what freediving really is, what risk is associated with it and how to prevent situations that threaten one's own health and life, as well as how to ensure adequate protection for a partner. In addition, a Freediver is someone who has experienced also the overwhelming feelings of relaxation and tranquility, which appear during immersion on one breath. Naturally, the theoretical knowledge must go along with practice. A weekend training confirmed by a certificate is not enough. Proper training with an experienced freediver is essential to possess skills, develop proper habits and practice various types of scenarios. Then, we could start thinking about ourselves as freedivers. However... can you be a freediver just at the weekends, and on weekdays completely someone else?

For me this element is a source of pride. If you are a Freediver and have experienced free diving in the right way, you have probably discovered something new about yourself and the surrounding world. Everything mentioned above about freediving concerns more the physical sphere, but those who have experienced a real freediving know how vast mental area it touches. One would think that a Freediver in a kind of an underwater yogi, but this is not quite an accurate comparison.

Yoga will never replace freediving, because there are certain behavioral mechanisms and instinctive processes which draw us deeper and deeper inside ourselves. Thanks to practicing freediving, we get to know ourselves, we learn about our weaknesses and reveal fears. And, above all, we begin to experience a deeper and deeper tranquility, which gives us bigger distance to external impulses and lets us master our composure in daily life over the surface. When we become a Freediver, we are a Freediver all the time, because it is not something that can be turned on and off at our will. However, as in any other discipline, one can meet freedivers with a different approach and even a completely different philosophy. There are people who have no desire to even think about taking part in competitions or trying to compete with others, although they practice or train freediving regularly to dive deeper. What for? It's because the depth strengthens the need to control one's own body and mind. To stay safe, you must be able to respond to any emerging problems on the way down and up. One negative thought, which we are not able to push back, can stop our instinctive calmness and rapidly increase the oxygen consumption, which can result in unsuccessful conclusion of our dive. Therefore, the pride of being a Freediver comes from a desire to discover yourself, own capabilities and from further work on the improvements in many areas, starting from the physical skills, through diet and lifestyle, up to the widely understood external sphere.