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Nov 08

Freediving with Team GoPro

Many of you have probably seen the new GoPro video for their new Hero3 camera by now. (If not, crawl out from under that rock and check it out!) The video itself is just over five minutes of pure adrenaline-pumping, goosebump-giving, makes-you-wanna-ski-off-a-cliff excitement. But in those short five minutes you see much more than just what those amazing little cameras can do. You catch a glimpse of the GoPro adventure sport lifestyle and the many areas of the world in which GP athletes kick ass.

I can’t tell you what it’s like to surf in Tahiti, ski in New Zealand or race motorcycles around the tight corners of Skaggs Springs Road in Northern California, but I was lucky enough to join the GoPro crew for an amazing few days of freediving with humpback whales in Tonga this past September. I can tell you that nothing else in my life experience so far compares.

Now, it wasn’t all easy filming. The thing about filming large animals is that you’re at their mercy. September in Tonga is migration season for humpbacks. The females’ primary concern is protecting their calves as they journey back to their Antarctic feeding grounds. The males join in the migration as well, often competing with one another for dominance and for the role of escort for a female.

So they could care less about a film project and won’t often stop and smile for the camera. Shooting is all on-the-go and you have to be in the right spot at the right moment to catch the epic shots we finally landed. Nonetheless, with the right guide and the right approach, they allow freedivers near them in the water. We spent a good deal of time geared up on the back of the boat, monofins and head-cams at the ready, awaiting the right moment to enter the water.

We spent much of the in-water time keeping our distance from the whales, letting them know we weren’t any kind of threat and as they became more comfortable we were gradually able to approach close enough to get the shots you see at the end of the video. There were many moments where I’d find myself still beneath the surface, looking into the eye of a female as she rested from a long swim. It made me feel both extremely fortunate yet completely insignificant being next to such an enormous underwater creature.

We ran into a few other hurdles as well during the shoot, including coordinating three freedivers into one shot with the whales. I was glad to see it looked effortless in the shot, but three simultaneous breath-holds with almost zero notice can be a challenge. Luckily we had an experienced dive team including Kirk Krack behind one camera, Mandy-Rae Cruickshank, Ashleigh Baird and myself. We were also lucky enough to have a great and determined crew that powered through the long, somewhat chilly hours in the water, hours of boat rides waiting for whales and the creative director’s sixth request to “try that shot just one more time!” (Totally worth it, Brad!!!) =)

And for all the work…and yes, lots of playtime too!…what do we end up with? Epic adventurousity-awesomeness. A video so amazing that I’ve had to coin words describe it. A video that makes you want to jump out of your chair, run outside and get dirty. The biggest adventure sport video to date, and it’s all filmed on a camera that can fit in your pocket. Sick.

11 comments

  1. Anastasia

    Erin, this is one epic video; I just wish there were more freediving shots! :)
    Maybe you can make your own freediving-with-whales video based on the materials you guys filmed in Tonga?
    It’s literally breathtaking!

    1. admin

      Hi Anastasia,
      I agree, but then I always think there should be more freediving! Glad you enjoyed it, now I’m just trying to figure out who’s going to teach me to ski off cliffs with a parachute…

  2. Dylan

    Did you have any special permits to manage these shots? We encountered many Humpbacks while traveling by boat off western Mexico and were always tempted to get in the water, but it’s quite illegal there without proper permitting.

    1. admin

      I’m sure there were, but GoPro organized the trip so they would know more than I would on that. I’m fairly sure that’s the case in most countries.

  3. Meredith

    Hi Erin!

    Stunning! What kind of mount was used? It was hard to see but looked like you had one mounted right on your mask. What about the person that was filming you? I’ve bought a couple of the older model for gifts … now it’s time for me to get one for myself!

    Meredith

  4. Christina

    Hey, this video is sick! I was wondering what type of monofin you were using? They look awesome.

    1. admin

      The black ones are Waterway Nemo fins! They’re a great recreational monofin if that’s what you’re interested in!

  5. Mandy

    Is the photo above with the 3 whales taking with a GoPro? I’m planning a trip down to the Dominican Republic next year to swim with the Humpbacks. I’m researching cameras to find one that would get some good shots. Do you think the GoPro would be a worthy investment?

    1. admin

      100% yes! I’ve loved GoPro for years and have used it extensively underwater, but this new version blows all the others out of the water. That photo is a still taken with the Hero3 as was the entire video. They’re wonderful little cameras, get great shots, handle depth and pressure well and are small enough to tuck out of the way when not in use.

      And no, I don’t get paid to sell them. =) They’re just bad ass.

      Have fun on your trip!
      Erin

  6. Alex

    This looks amazing Erin! Question: what mask did you use (brand/model)?

  7. admin

    This model was the Aquasphere Sphera. It’s my favorite mask! Good for spearfishing, competing….really reduces the amount of air you need to equalize the mask at depth.

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