Rapture of the Deep
Jill Rennicke, Alumni Coordinator

There is, for many, an allure to the sea – the constant movement of the waves, the way light dances across the water at sunset. But for some, that allure goes deeper than the surface. Annie Birkeland, a CS4 alum, has recently qualified for her Level One Freediving certification allowing her to go, in one breath, to depths few of us even dream of. Here, in her own words, is an explanation of her love of this new sport and the process of achieving her goal:

“A few years ago I would never have believed that I would be able to dive down 65 feet in the ocean in one breath. The thought of being in open water ten miles off shore would have made me uneasy. Imagining being so deep underwater with no air would have given me quivers of panic.

Today, I now have my level 1 Freediving certification which states that I can dive down to 20 meters (65ft) and hold my breath to around 3 minutes. (There are three levels which require successively deeper dives and longer static breath holds.) It all started my senior year in college when I took a class about Polynesia and the South Pacific. I realized that I wanted to learn more about the ocean and coral reefs while the fragile ecosystem still exists and remains accessible. So last summer I decided to take a course to become Scuba certified. I dove for the first time in Thailand in January and I was hooked.

In the Scuba diving community I heard talk of freediving and I was curious to learn more. I saw a mesmerizing video(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OrRj6mMtZFk&t=3s) and knew that I wanted to try it. Freediving is a unique extreme sport that requires you to hold your breath until resurfacing, rather than having gear like an oxygen tank to breathe underwater. It is physically taxing, but above all it is mentally demanding. You learn to push yourself past limits of what you think you are capable of.

Freediving allows you to access the deep open ocean completely uninhibited. You can soar underwater effortlessly. Once you reach a certain depth you pass neutral buoyancy and you become negatively buoyant. Instead of floating, you are pulled towards the earth's gravity. And then, once you start to swim back, you rise to warmer waters. You swim through penetrating sun rays and float towards the light. You break the surface and being to breathe air again. Every dive is incredible journey down and a humbling return back.”

See below for photos and a video of Annie in her element, the ocean.


Photos and video contributed by Annie Birkeland, CS4