Freediver Nina dreams of victory as she dives for Ireland

“Underwater is a place where you will dream,” said Nina McGowan, who this year, at the age of 50, will represent Ireland at the world championships in freediving, a sport in booming.

Despite being only three years old, the Dubliner has quickly risen through the ranks and is confident of success in the competition which takes place in Turkey in October.

Apnea involves divers diving underwater without any breathing equipment. They are attached to a rope with depth markers, which is connected to a surface buoy. Without using breathing apparatus, divers try to reach the lowest possible depth.

The sport has a lot in common with yoga, meditation and breathing techniques.

McGowan, who holds an Irish women’s record of 34 meters for freediving and can hold her breath for around three and a half minutes, describes it as an “incredible experience”.

“It’s a sport, but it’s not about adrenaline – it’s actually the opposite. It’s about knowing your body and having confidence in your body,” she said.

“Snorkeling means you engage with the ancient software of the human body called the mammalian diving reflex, a breathing technique that allows you to sink into your body and surrender to what you are about to to do.

“The human body is amazing. He walks away from technology. Scuba diving is tied to technology. A lot of it is about getting back to the potential of the human body.

Given that McGowan grew up in a house near Balbriggan Harbor and her father was a diver, it was pretty clear that water would play a major role in her life.

“I remember when I was about four, my parents’ friends were at home and one of them asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said I wanted to be an underwater archaeologist and find the Titanic. I was angry when [Robert] Ballard found the Titanic. It was going to be me,” she said.

McGowan, who has been a scuba diving master for 20 years and has practiced yoga for the past decade, had never heard of freediving until a 2019 trip to Egypt, where she encountered a group of divers in a 100 meter deep chasm.

However, she said the sport hasn’t evolved in Ireland because the water is so cold.

“We don’t really have deep water around Ireland either. The only place I can train is Portroe Quarry in Tipperary, which is up to 40 meters deep in places,” McGowan said.

Despite these difficulties, the sport has developed rapidly and steps are being taken to have it recognized as an Olympic event.

In Turkey, McGowan, who is a professional visual artist with a strong focus on water-based projects, will compete in women over 50
categories.

“I would like to be an example for older women. I would like them to look at me and think, ‘Look at this bird, it can do this thing’. Maybe I can too,” she said. declared.

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