I stare up into the vast blue sky littered with puffy clouds and repeat one word over and over to myself. Relax, relax, Renee, relax. Moments earlier, with guidance from friends, Kjartan and Rob, I succeeded at free-diving to 14 meters deep. It felt like a miracle. Until now I had been stuck at shallow depths due to inability to equalize in the head first down position. I had spent the last week, practicing in the bay, free-diving down the moorings of the boats. The practice was paying off.
Now, it’s time to go a bit deeper, 18 meters, 17.7 to be exact, a meager depth for competitive free-divers but a challenge for me, with this as my first legit free-diving session. Nervous and unsure, I hesitate and I hear Kjartan and Rob saying ‘Just relax. Don’t worry.’ I bob on the surface, breathing in, pause and out, pause. I raise my head from the water and turn myself upright, feeling completely relaxed. Inhaling as much as possible, I duck dive down into the sea.
I pull myself deeper and deeper, and equalize over and over, determined yet afraid. With the silty sea making it impossible to see what lies where I am going, I focus my full attention on the line. Now feeling far away from sunlight and air, my mind starts screaming and yelling like an 8 year little old girl, having a tantrum. I want to breathe, I want to breathe! Suddenly, Rob glides swiftly past me, sinking toward the ocean bottom, with GoPro in hand. A wave of relief comes over me. I’m not alone, I can do this!
I see the end of the line and pull myself to it, giving a light tap to the weights which hang suspended. I wave promptly to the camera and anxiously hurry toward my unseen destination. Soaring upward, I relax more and more with every second of increased brightness. I see the flexing, reflective surface overhead and know that I have plenty of air, so I slow my ascent for Rob to catch-up. With no sign of him, my return journey continues and I drift peacefully, toward waves and sky. I break the surface, breathe and beam with a smile. When I turn, I see Rob, and laugh happily that he was by my side the whole way up. Big smiles of gratitude pour over me.