Freediving: Finding lessons for life in the deep blue

I always loved being underwater. I would spend endless hours diving for coins in my grandmother's pool or count how long I could hold my breath in the bathtub as a child. There was something that fascinated me about plunging my head into the water. It was only when I watched an incredible documentary named Dolphin Man about the legendary french freediver Jacques Mayol, that I understood why. In the documentary, they explore Mayol's fascination with the depth of the ocean and its collateral sense of freedom. I could relate to his obsession without having been anywhere near the depths he had explored. After watching the documentary at the beginning of this year I continued researching and reading more about freediving the following months. It was added to the top of my bucket list, assuming it would probably remain there for a very long time or possibly always. 

Exploring the reefs around Menjangan Island, Bali. 

Then, however, I went to a little island in Croatia for my friend's wedding. The water around there was some of the most beautiful and clear ocean I had ever experience. I was mesmerised and explored the underwater world perpetually.
I was in a bit of a fragile state of mind at the time and had been sensing that I needed a time out. The diving helped me to let go and calm down - it gave me strength and I felt more peaceful. It was then and there that I decided I would actually go through with this point on my huge list of things I want to do and find a place to learn freediving as soon as possible!

Vast emptiness in the deep blue.

Fast forward two months, I had persuaded my friend Max to join me on this adventure and arrived in Permuteran, in the far north-west of Bali. This authentic little coastal town right next to the Bali Barat National Park is adjacent to some of the most beautiful underwater world of Indonesia and an insider's tip for divers all around the world... scuba divers that is. After some research, I finally stumbled across Ousia, which seemed to be the only freediving school in the area. A little unsettled about the lack of offers in this field I questioned whether the location was the right address to learn freediving - luckily I soon learned that I had stumbled across a gem of a place with the kindest people and the most enchanting underwater world. 

Driving out to the open sea.

Yoshua, the founder of the Ousia Freediving School is the most caring and passionate teacher we could have hoped for. Step by step we learned everything we needed to know to explore the ocean with one breath. Most importantly: Safety. When I spoke to people about what I was going to do, the most common reaction was worry. With Yoshua's teaching, we were lucky to be free of that during all our dives. There are a few points you need to comply with for your safety so that there is nothing to be afraid of - at least at the depths amateurs like us go to ☺. Slowly, we learned to dive deeper and deeper and were mesmerised by the beauty and peace of the gigantic deep blue. Of course, diving to depths of 20 to 30 meters brings about challenges. It is mostly the equalisation that I would say people struggle with at the beginning. So the key to a successful dive is relaxation. When you dive deeper, you begin to get anxious about equalisation and breath-hold... and the only thing you can do to help is to let go. Release all worries and tension and quiet the mind. This is the most important to improve your diving. Of course, there is technique and practise that are essential too, but most of all you need to just stay focused, relaxed and let go. You may experience trouble with your equalisation when diving down but then you'll notice you have begun to cramp up around your neck and shoulders - the moment you relax, your equalisation will work again. Suddenly you look up and find yourself at a respectful depth, the sun is shining into the water and the surface seems terribly far away. You may begin to feel an urge to breathe and start getting anxious thinking about the distance to the surface. Again, the only thing you can do is relax and let go of the worries in your mind. The brain is actually one of the main consumers of oxygen in the body! So the more you calm your mind, the longer you can stay without air. Also, we think we need to breathe much sooner than we actually do. It is the rising level of CO2 in the blood that causes this urge. When you understand the chemical process and your body's reactions you can learn to release this urge. This will improve with training and yet again calls for relaxation and being able to let go.


Max and I seduced by the rich underwater world.

  I realised that these were lessons for life. I could apply what I was practising underwater to my everyday. To all moments in fact, that cause friction or tension inside of me. The moment you tense up against what is happening, the friction will increase and it becomes even more difficult. Staying centred and clear-minded helps you to adjust the right area and continue with the flow. Also, I tend to have a very active mind which is sometimes very hard to tame. Experiencing the vast emptiness of the deep ocean helped me find this emptiness in my mind. Since I experienced it and got to know this feeling of space, I can now work with the memory during my meditations or whenever I feel the urge to calm my mind.

I can now officially say, I got seduced by the deep blue. Although I initially thought I just wanted to learn the technique to dive with fish on one breath, I am now hypnotised by the depth of the ocean. I am already looking forward to continuing my training in the summer and experiencing the effect it will have on my mind and body. I can highly recommend this sport to any adventurous soul that can relate to my fascination for the gentle frequency of this vast underwater world.


All photos by Yoshua Surjo


+ We donate 2 euros of every order until Christmas to the Ocean Cleanup to give back to the deep blue!


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