Like a fish in water…

Words: Natalie Rudman

Photos: Daan Verhoeven & Kalinda Wijsmuller

I did a free dive in the beautiful Caribbean and I broke the record!

On 20 August 2017 I broke my first record in South African Women’s free diving. Taking part in the Caribbean Cup Free diving competition I dived to 58 metres on a single breath of air in the discipline Free Immersion, which is when you pull yourself down the line and then back up again without the aid of fins. Free diving is an extraordinary and epic way to explore the ocean, you don’t need a tank or equipment and can even go simply with a mask and snorkel. Think about it, sharks have been in the ocean for more than 400 million years and they have survived 5 massive planet extinction events, this is testament to how safe it is to be in the ocean. There is little on land that can come even close to the experience of being under water and when  you dive with breath retention or free dive it can be more of an exploration of the self rather than your surroundings. I call it instant meditation because if you are anywhere else in your mind you have to come up, and usually come up fast. You really have to be completely present under water.

You can start diving at any age. I think if I was free diving 10 years ago I wouldn’t be able to go nearly as deep as I go now. Even when I first started to free dive, I loved being in the ocean and I loved the utter serenity under water, but my mind was always all over the place. I teach yoga and meditation and as I went deeper into diving, my meditation practice became deeper too. Every time before I dive, I meditate. I try to meditate every day because it is something that helps me to control my thoughts. Life can be tough sometimes but it’s our mind that controls where events are going to lead us, into empowerment and life lessons or into doubt and depression. I have worked through them both, and now I try to view both good and bad experiences as an opportunity to grow and learn.

Competition was never on my agenda for free diving, I never understood why people would want to turn such a beautiful, and to me, a spiritual practice into something competitive and ego based. I made a depth during my training in Bali which would have beaten the record at the time in Free Immersion. So,I decided to compete in the Australian Nationals which was held in Bali, to put myself to the real test of making that dive. After making that initial decision to compete,diving completely changed for me. It turned from the blissful withdrawal of senses and instantaneous meditation into stress and discomfort, every dive became a chore and as the self-inflicted pressure crept in, so did tension and discomfort. I withdrew my decision to compete and returned to my blissful state of diving. When the competition came around, I was at the forefront of the action, taking care of the oxygen tank and safety for the deep divers. I watched with absolute joy and amazement. Competing is nothing I had expected it to be, every dive was important, every white card received a cheer, there was no rivalry, and no-one really cared about how deep someone was going, there was joy and fulfilment in each and every dive.

This year I decided to join the competitive diving scene, I competed in two competitions and made 4 new national records for South Africa. During the Aida World Championships held in August in Roatan Honduras I received white cards in all my dives and received national records in the following dives. Free Immersion 60 Metres, which beat my own previous record of 58 metres set during the Pre competition Caribbean cup. Constant Weight Bi-fins (using 2 fins rather than the mono fin or mermaid tail to kick down and up again) 50 metres, and Constant Weight no fins (Using the arms and legs to kick down and then back up again, the most physically challenging discipline) 43 metres.
I don’t think you have to compete to free dive and you certainly don’t have to have a competitive mind set. I only achieved the dives that I did because decided I knew I wanted to and I decided that I could do them and then put myself up for the challenge. I controlled my mind through meditation and on the days of the dives it was just about doing another dive, being in the water, enjoying the sensations again. I see free diving as around 80% mental and 20% everything else. I worked extremely hard to adapt my body to depth, but it’s the mind that controls the body, there is no separation. It’s also a bit of a conundrum, because you should not try to control the mind, but rather let it go. We tend to hold onto thoughts and give every thought that pops up great importance, allowing scenarios and events to play over in the mind. To find peace is to let go of all the chatter and to just be. This to me is what free diving and being in the ocean is about.

When we are in nature we are apart of who we are. We are nature, we must come back to her.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login