I grew up around the sea and swimming pools, I grew up being tumbled around in the big washing machine waves of the South African coastline. My dad once had to jump into the swimming pool at a BBQ,- sunglasses and cigarette in mouth- to get me from where I was hanging out at the bottom. My early experiences could have put me off water, but somehow it didn’t. Instead, I sported a permanent tan and sun bleached chlorine-green head. I swam for my school and competed against my brother to see who could swim the most lengths underwater.
I was still scared of what lay beyond the breakers though, until my 21st birthday. I was on the beach in Jeffrey’s Bay with my family when we saw the resident dolphin pod making their way along the coast, right across the path of the swimming area! I ran into the water and swam out to where the lifeguards were floating just past the breakers- I felt safe with them there. I could hear the clicking dolphin sounds above water as they swam within a arm’s length of us. It was beautiful.
I couldn’t afford to join the scuba club at university but once I moved to London it finally became possible to save up for my first dive trip. Fast forward a couple of years and I was a dive instructor, travelling the world and teaching people about the wonders of the sea. The more I learnt about the ocean the less I was afraid. On quiet days it was standard to play those familiar breath-holding pool games with the dive staff in Sodwana or dive to the bottom of the buoy line in Fiji. In South Africa I was always surrounded by guys who spearfished but killing fish didn’t interest me at all. I remember watching a young guy freediving down to 28m, hovering there for a while, taking aim at a fish and shooting. I was impressed by the beauty and grace of his dive as well as his obvious athletic ability!
After leaving the dive industry I found myself watching Guillaume Nery’s classic YouTube video at work one day. That was the moment I decided to learn freediving properly. I booked an AIDA 2* course with Freedive Dahab, Egypt and ended up doing my 3* as well.
Why freediving? Why is scuba diving not enough? To me, freediving combines the tranquillity of scuba with the athleticism required to do well in sport. Freediving is meditation, freediving is living in the moment: calm, slow, relaxed yet focused. To me, freediving is the ultimate personal meditation experience: it’s only you, your body and your mind. Training your mind to silence negative thoughts, training your body to adhere to its inner mammalian reflex. Freediving is letting go of fear and doubt and replacing them with trust and inner peace. It leaves you on a high.
In 2010 I reached 29m. Four years later I returned to the sport with a new goal: 30m and beyond.