With the stressful, overstimulating lifestyle most of us now lead, many people often search for ways to clear their minds, relax their bodies and have a moment of peace. Others might choose to hole up in the comfort of their homes, do some yoga, or meditate.
Others, like Niccolo Stevens, prefer to find their solitude under several feet of seawater, without the aid of devices like oxygen tanks.
Niccolo first took an interest in free diving when he saw someone do a duck dive, and was fascinated by her control. “I was amazed at how she held her breath for a long time,” he says, “[and] by her form, and how she was very graceful in the water.”
Of course, one can’t expect to exhibit that kind of skill and technique on their first dive– it takes lots of proper training and conditioning, but to Nicco and many others like him, it would all be worth it for what free diving can give you.
Relaxation is the biggest benefit of free diving, at least for someone with the skill and experience that Nicco has. “It always gives me that ‘chill moment.’ I always feel relaxed and refreshed after a dive,” he adds. It might seem counterintuitive that spending some time underwater with just a lungful of air can bring you relaxation, but it makes sense. Free diving requires control and awareness of your body, knowing its limits while also pushing them. An open and relaxed mind is one of the most important factors in learning to free dive, as panicking will cause your body to go through its limited oxygen faster. Many divers I know describe their diving experiences as trance-like and almost meditative.
Since discovering that “chill moment” in the sport, Nicco has worked as a certified instructor at his Moalboal hostel, Nicco’s Place, taking first-time divers under his wing and under the sea. “I found out two years ago that I’m also passionate about teaching,” he explains. “Sharing the best practices with my students is such a joy.”
When asked if he had any advice to give anyone interested in taking up the sport, he says: “Learn the basics of freediving from a certified instructor. It will be much easier to progress fast and in a safe environment.”
“Skills over gear,” he adds, emphasizing that any first-timer should learn the proper technique first before buying expensive gear, as it is your body that is the main instrument in any successful dive.
Many people might think that taking up a sport is no way to really relax, but Nicco, and countless others, are making the most out of the water that surrounds our island. Free diving is a unique experience that allows you to see a new world underwater, and strengthens your mind and body in several different ways– so if you’re looking to get away from the stress and mess of everyday life, free diving might just be the perfect escape.
Niccolo is a certified free diving instructor at Nicco’s Place, Moalboal. You can visit their Facebook page to learn more about booking a lesson.
Photos courtesy of Niccolo Stevens