Jun 04

A Look into the Future of Freediving

With every dive we are trying to find the deeper meaning of freediving.  We feel like part of the elite when we describe our esoteric sport.  We boast to our friends and families about five-plus-minute breath-holds and the meters upon meters that we swim straight down into the belly of Mother Ocean.  They talk about how they can only hold their breath for thirty seconds and could never EVER imagining diving deep like we do.

“How do you do that?  Aren’t you afraid of sharks?”

“Naw,” we reply, “you could do it too with some practice,” we assuredly proclaim, confident that they will not ever try it themselves, ensuring our positions at the top of their guess-what-my-friend-can-do conversation list.  We smile and walk away impressed by how impressive we become, meter by meter.

There is solace in the fact that freediving is such a small sport.  The elite complain that there is no money in it.  They sit around plates brimming with pasta, loading up on carbs for their next dives, brainstorming ideas to grow the sport, publicize it, broadcast it, make it accessible to everyone willing to tune in on their televisions or computers.

“What if we did live feeds of our dives, guys?” we ask each other.

But is this what they really want?  The conversations remain half-hearted attempts at progress because there is an intrinsic fear that there may be real untapped talent out there knocking at our back doors.  The kind that will quickly put us all out of a job.

Imagine there being an NCAA organization for freediving.  A collection of superb athletes from which to choose.  Breeding freedivers from adolescence and sending them off to compete at the collegiate level.  With the field of talent expanding where does that leave the rest of us?  Sure some of us are good at freediving, sure some of us are great or good enough to hang with the new freediving revolutionaries.  But most of us are not.  Most of us will leave the playing field, tails between our legs, as the real athletes hussel out.

Imagine the best athlete you know.  That girl from your old soccer team that could run, jump, kick better than the boys.  Now imagine that she has a knack for freediving.  Not to say there are not already greats in the diving community but if drawing from a much larger pool, maybe the impressive feats of Natalia Molchanova and William Trubridge would not remain so uncontested.

When the sport opens up, the glory days are over.  There are already hints of this evolution happening.  Take American, Nick Mevoli.  Brand new to competitive freediving and already 91 meters and a national record in his first year, right out of the gate.  A new dawn is breaking. We’re left asking who of the currently high-ranked freedivers will be able to contest the newborn progeny.

So as we try to find the deeper meaning of freediving we do not neglect the fact that our fragile egos are being challenged as the ultra-adapted join our community.  When our egos are no longer being fed will there be anything left to enjoy at depth?  Will the breatholds be just as painfully satisfying?  Will the lack of praise leave us empty and feeling unrewarded?  Who am I to tell you why or how to dive?  But, may I suggest that you dive for you and for liberation from your ego because soon the sport will gain popularity and open up to people who are going to blow our minds.

Records will fall as quickly as leaves from a tree and all the rest of us will be left with is the warm fuzzy we used to get when we first started diving.  When the love was fresh and new, unadulterated by our self-images.


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  1. Walter

    Some one may be able to take a record away from you, it may get more crowded and seem mainstream. But NO one can ever take away the feeling of flying, the unadulterated peace you can achieve, the relaxation, the way of life freediving has bestowed upon you, the friends you’ve made because of it, the way that you see the ocean and it’s wonders below now(i didn’t think i could love the ocean any more than i did before freediving and i was mistaken). I could go on but i think you get the point. There are things that you will take away from freediving as i have that NO ONE will/can ever take away from you…..and yes i believe people 20 yrs from now will still say “you can hold your breath how long” and “you can dive how deep holding your breath”?

  2. Bill Graham

    Great blog Ashley. I hope that there will be another 10 years where I can feel those ‘butterflies’ at 20-30 meters while waiting for a friend trying for a PB. That’s the best part of the sport.

  3. ericvrp

    Yes, please let’s keep doing what we love even thought the reason why we love it will inevitably change.

  4. AshleyChapman

    great message guys…you totally get it :)

  5. Mark C Butler

    Ashley, you have such a Zen quality about your blogging. It makes one think about so many aspects of the sport of Freediving, not just the “Wow, look what this guy did!” or “This is so cool!” I’ve read your blog on your website Evolvefreediving.com and each time it only makes the world as a whole seem to open up with so many possibilities of what can or might be. I am certainly a novice at this but hope to learn so much more from you and your colleagues. Maybe you simply have the gift of being able to express a very basic emotion that resides in every human that has over the years become rather dormant but regardless you express something that divers understand but that even non-divers recognize when they hear it. I agree with that previous post about you having more talent than you realize…you so beautifully articulate the sense of wonder and beauty that comes from the ocean itself.

  6. Nathan

    Just because a record gets beat, or a person can hold their breath longer than the last person, does not make anyone person better. There will always be greats in history, and these people taught us what took them a life time to learn. They learned by trying, we learn by the books they wrote, or classes they taught. So in essence, we have a head start, and so will the next generation, and so-on. The people that did this 20 years ago may not have been able to hold their breath as long, but they are still greats in my book. They passed along knowledge that got us where we are today.

  7. AshleyChapman

    Nathan, it’s great to recognize those who have blazed the trail for us. They deserve the ultimate respect.
    Mark, thanks man! I love focusing on the lifestyle surrounding this amazing sport.

  8. Bill Stacey

    Great article

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