Profile: Ashleigh Baird, 2018 Team America


With the upcoming 2018 CMAS World Championships in October, we will be profiling each of the members of 2018 Team America. Enjoy their stories. Get to know them, and we hope that you find a nugget of inspiration from their story.

Ashleigh Baird

How long have you been freediving?

I took my first freediving class in 2009, and attended my first competition in 2011.

What, or who, inspired you to freedive?

Growing up in Florida we were always in and around the water. Freediving was something I'd loved since I was young, but I didn't know it was an actual sport until I saw a competitive freediver (Tanya Streeter) on TV in 2009. Ultimately I'd say it was my childhood love for breath-hold diving, coupled with an eye-opening conversation I had with my brother the same day I discovered competitive freediving - that was what got me into the sport.

What did your brother say that was so inspiring to you?

That same day I saw Tanya Streeter freediving on TV, I ended up having a conversation with my brother about his dream of flying and how excited he was that he was able to start pursuing it. I made a comment about how awesome it was that he was chasing this huge dream, and that in a way I was envious and wished I could do the same with freediving. As soon as I said that he stopped, looked at me and said, “Why can't you?”. He said it in a way that was so matter-of-fact that it just flipped a switch for me. It was such a simple and yet profound question, it made me realize that the only thing standing in my way was me. So immediately after that conversation ended I got online and enrolled in a freediving course - I'm not even sure I responded to his question, I just remember going straight into the computer room haha.

Why do you freedive, and what has it done for you?

I've always loved the feeling of being underwater on one breath – the sensation of water flowing across your skin, the distortion of sounds, the comforting feeling of pressure all over your body – you can really lose yourself under water. It's incredibly peaceful, like a form of meditation.

As for the sport itself, it's opened up the world to me. If I hadn't taken up competing I wouldn't have seen the places I've seen, nor would I have met my freediving family. Some of the closest friends I have are the ones I've found in this community. It's also provided me with some really amazing job opportunities. I've been able to do projects with GoPro, Royal Caribbean, and a handful of other small companies simply because I have an unusual talent for holding my breath (and also not being afraid of big sea creatures haha). It's also taught me to listen more closely to my body and has even helped me with stress management and sleep issues. So it's a win-win-win.

What are your future freediving goals?

Well every year the goal is simple, and that is to train better and get deeper than the previous year. Last year I was finally able to spend a long time focused on depth training and I learned a lot about what I'm capable of as well as my limitations. This year I'm focusing on building a bit more strength prior to depth training in the hopes that it will add a little more power to my dives. My ultimate goal is to get beyond my previous depth of 75 meters. I'd also like to be able to spend some more time working on FIM and CNF dives since lately I've mostly been focused on CWT.

What is your profession and other hobbies?

I'm an architect by trade, but I've also dabbled in a bit of social media work as well. As for hobbies, I would love to get more into photography, but it's been slow going for me because every time I get paid my money goes to freediving. So far I've just been living vicariously through my photographer friends.

What advice about freediving would you like to offer readers?

To anyone interested in freediving, I would say absolutely take a course. You will not regret it. Freediving isn't like skateboarding or cycling, you can't just go out and buy the gear and expect good results. It's only a safe sport when practiced properly, but you won't know what that means until you take a class. As for anyone not interested in getting their own feet wet but are still feeling inspired by the adventure of it all, I like to use my own experiences as an example of what can happen if you start following your instincts and chasing those dreams. It doesn't have to be freediving. Maybe it's starting a band, or backpacking through Europe. Just get out there and start making moves. I'm pretty sure you won't regret that either.

One With Water