Everything you wanted to know about freediving, told by a mermaid

As the summer heat lingers, many of us can gaze at those who seem at one with the ocean with a sort of wistful gaze. However, something that has always intrigued me beyond the thrill of the activity is free diving, writes Ashleigh Nefdt of Cape {town} Etc.

People often talk about the meditative aspect of the experience, so I set out to investigate what apnea is.

I was lucky enough to come into contact with a mermaid, who also goes by the title of co-founder and director of SA Freedive, Daniela Daines, who delightfully gave me advice on freediving.

A brief explanation of what apnea is

“Snorkeling or snorkeling as it is also called simply means diving underwater while holding your breath,” Daniella begins.

“Freedivers learn to harness their breath by acquiring the physical and mental skills to dive as deep, far and as long as they can safely. It is often compared to scuba diving because we are underwater but it has more in common with yoga and meditation from a physical, mental and even spiritual point of view.

Putting the experience into a sort of galactic perspective, Daniella explains that:

“It’s the closest most of us will get to feeling what it would be like to float in space.”

“Snorkeling, more importantly, is the easiest, purest and most natural way to explore and interact with marine life,” she adds.

The different types of apnea

Of the different types of freediving, Daniella expresses that Cape Town Freediving (as part of Pure Apnea, one of the leading international freediving education systems) “we separate sport (competitive) freediving and recreational apnea (adventure)”.

However, she notes that no matter what type of freediving you participate in, the basic science and fundamentals of freediving remain the same.

“The main difference is how these skills are applied and what aspects need more specific attention to make freediving as safe and fun as it deserves. For our freedivers, this means learning both the skills and the experience needed to be confident and capable freedivers in the environment they find themselves in,” she explains.

Sports apnea: Emphasis is placed on the 4 main disciplines of apnea: static apnea, dynamic apnea, constant weight, free immersion. These are competitive disciplines practiced in the pool and on a diving line.

Freediving Adventure: Emphasis is placed on static and dynamic freediving in the open sea, away from dive lines when environmental awareness, buddy diving, safety and dive time become more important.

From his personal apnea journey

“As far back as I can remember, the water has always been my favorite place. At 7 years old, I was absolutely convinced that I had (a mermaid) been adopted by my parents. All I had to do was find my way back to the ocean and I’d be a mermaid again. The ocean and freediving have always been a part of me, but it wasn’t until I met my husband, a South African freediving champion (and Cape Town Freediving partner), that I realized of the term apnea,” recalls Daniella.

“You know mermaids don’t exist” her now very seriously husband had said when they first met in Tanzania, as Daniella tells the story, “but I can teach you how to freedive properly (clearly not impressed with my underwater mermaid skills) and then you’ll be as close to a mermaid as possible,” he promised.

“We got married 10 days later and I uprooted my life from London to Cape Town 2 months after. The rest, as they say, is history – in our case, Cape Town Freediving. Dreams come true! ” she said in a sparkling tone.

What do you like about it?

To be so passionate about something, there is always love involved. Daniella sweetly explained her love:

“All!” she notes.

“Freediving is an amazing sport/recreational activity, a way of life – because it teaches us and changes us with every breath. As a scientist specializing in nutrition and lifestyle medicine, it is extremely gratifying to see firsthand the many benefits that freediving offers. Unlike any other activity, freediving gently forces us to be present.

I remembered a similar sentiment expressed by Zandile Ndlovu, aka the “black siren”.


To read also: The Black Siren – for all those who are afraid of the unknown


“There’s nowhere to hide when you’re holding your breath,” Daniella continues.

“Through freediving we gain physical and mental awareness, it is a very personal process of learning and unlearning, letting go of limiting beliefs and trusting an unknown inner force. Freediving is extremely transformative and empowering if we let go and let it be. Freediving is our connection to the ocean and because we can’t take our phones and laptops underwater with us, it’s probably the only place we are fully human, in our most natural state.

“Our freediving goal is very simple: to reconnect people to nature within and around them, one breath at a time. Many of our students talk about finding new purpose, connection and compassion for the natural world. and experience a positive change in their way of life.”

Freediving lessons in Cape Town

Cape Town Freediving offers an incredible range of courses, from beginner freediver to freediving instructor and even master instructor. This means being able to acquire the skills and experience to dive 5-65m deep in a single breath.

“Sports lessons are usually a bit more challenging and particularly suitable for anyone with a competitive nature. Level 1 to Level 3 courses are for anyone who wants to explore how far, deep and long their breath will take them, working through limiting factors and personal barriers in the process. It’s hugely rewarding and incredibly transformative,” says Daniella enthusiastically.

“Adventure courses are a bit more relaxed and instead of focusing on perfecting techniques to achieve record depth and distance, the focus is on increasing your dive time to allow for marine interactions longer, honing your awareness, safety and outdoor buddy diving skills. ocean (or our incredible kelp forest). This course is well suited for anyone interested in marine life, connecting with nature, underwater photography, adventure, coastal foraging, exploring the ocean with friends and family and of course the mermaids and mermen who are more at ease at sea than on land. ”

“What this course does best is create a growing community of like-minded adventurous people, inspired to explore the incredible diversity of marine life and flora that we are blessed with here in Cape Town,” adds- she.

Some benefits of freediving

“The demands of modern life create unhealthy levels of stress for most people. Freediving offers a meaningful way to get outside, relax, connect with nature and like-minded people.

It opens the door to adventure – exploring and learning more about yourself and the underwater world in the process,” concludes Daniella.

  • Improved breathing patterns and oxygen efficiency
  • Reduction of stress and anxiety
  • Increased relaxation and feeling of calm
  • Increased body awareness, fitness and flexibility
  • Improved mood, concentration and self-confidence
  • Improved stress resilience and energy
  • Improved outlook on life, sense of connection with like-minded people and purpose

Intrigued to have your own experience? Discover Snorkeling in Cape Town here.

Read also :

See! Cape Town photographer captures ‘biggest great white shark I’ve ever seen’

Photo: capetownapnea

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