With the upcoming 2019 CMAS World Championships in August we will be profiling each of the members of 2019 Team America. Enjoy their stories. Get to know them, and we hope that you find a nugget of inspiration from their story.
How long have you been freediving?
I took my first freediving course in September of 2017.
What, or who, inspired you to freedive?
I started really exploring the underwater world when I got Scuba certified in 2014. I was taken aback at how amazing this world was. I had never sought to explore the ocean for so much of my life. I thought “Why have I not done this sooner!?”
When I moved back to Puerto Rico afterwards I continued with my Scuba education, working my way to becoming a Divemaster. During that time, I started to explore more the islands water the easiest way; snorkeling. My comfort in the water allowed me to dive and take closer looks at the corals and sea life. It was nice to feel embraced by the water, like its giving you a big hug.
While in the middle of completing my Rescue Diver certification, a friend of mine, and my SCUBA instructor Carlito who I had known for a few years who also shared a similar passion of the ocean had talked about how he had gotten into freediving. He would take a few of us to the pier, which had a depth of 40ft, drop a line with some weights at the bottom and we would take turns using the line to pull down or swim to the bottom of the pier. That was my first real introduction into the world of freediving and I really have him to thank for the start of this journey into freediving. I had also started working on boats and doing snorkel tours off of the tiny island showing people the amazing ocean system. Thanks to my bosses for really teaching me a lot about the ocean. Carlos Bermudez, a mentor of mine at the time really taught me a lot about the ecosystem in Vieques and how to fish with a pole spear. I learned alot about the marine life in the Caribbean and marine interaction working with him. Those guys have really been elemental to the foundation of my freediving and am forever grateful to them.
Why do you freedive, and what has it done for you?
I freedive because it is something that I love to do. I grew up surfing and it was something I always loved to do. Surfing and being in the ocean was my therapy. It allowed me to be completely present in moment and connected with nature. Surfing also humbled me in understanding the power of water, with its calming and soothing effects yet knowing how powerful and dangerous it can be. It really taught me how to respect the ocean while enjoying all it had to offer. Freediving deepened my connection with water and the world that lies beneath its surface. I enjoy the feeling of being on another planet or in another world. At times it seems so peaceful and surreal and has allowed me to become more connected to myself and to my body. I think many people have become so disconnected from the one thing we should be the most connected to which is ourselves. Freediving allows you and requires you to be more in tuned with your body and the physiological aspects of yourself. It also teaches you to be more relaxed and calm in times of adversity (not being able to breathe and all those uncomfortable feelings that come with it) which transpires to everyday life. The type of breathing techniques that are taught for freediving, to lower your heartrate, absorbing more oxygen into your blood and being more relaxed have been elemental tools I use in my daily life.
What are your future freediving goals?
I definitely want to keep competing. I love challenging myself to see what I am physiologically and mentally capable of. The power of the mind is such an essential aspect of freediving. Once you know more or less what you are physically capable of you realize then it becomes a mental battle and you see how it affects your dives even on a daily basis, so I find this very interesting. This is a kind of challenge and meditation at the same time, it is pretty amazing and freediving has taught me so much about myself I never even thought about before and I want to know more. The journey is challenging but also very exciting. I think the most exciting thing for me about the sport though are all the people I am fortunate to meet because of it.
This amazing community of freedivers around the world has become like a second family to me. I finally feel like I am living my dream and am fortunate enough to be doing something I am passionate about. It is kind of crazy when several years ago I felt so completely lost and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life or what I was passionate about. I found freediving and I feel like it saved my life. It has given me motivation to be the best I can be, not only in freediving but in all aspects of my life, so I want to keep going on this path because it makes me truly happy, even when encountering challenges. I hope to keep breaking records and would like to become one of the best freedivers in the world one day.
What is your profession and other hobbies?
I work part time as a freedive instructor and I also work for an ocean adventure company on Oahu. Working on boats allows me to be in the water most of my days and interact with the amazing sea life that inhabits the coastal Hawaiian waters on Oahu. I feel blessed to be able to be in or on the water on an almost daily basis and being able to share this with people from all over the planet. Seeing people get over their fears of the water and how these experiences are some of the best experiences of their life makes it all worth it. I also love surfing. This is one hobby that developed my relationship with the ocean, my first love. You know that first love you will never forget. Its always a part of who you are as person. I love surfing as well because if the conditions aren’t ideal for diving and there are too many waves, I am never disappointed because I can just pull out my board and ride some waves. If there aren’t any waves to surf, I just hit up the crew and find a buddy to go dive with. In Hawaii these days there is never really a lack of dive buddies who aren’t willing to go play around in some underwater caves or be graced with the presence of marine life. As long as we can all respect the ocean and its inhabitants life is good.
What advice about freediving would you like to offer readers?
Enjoy the dive. Never forget what made you want to freedive and why you love to do it. I see when people, especially beginners, begin overthinking everything about their dives it can sometimes hinder progression. Sometimes people become so concerned with hitting certain depths, they forget to listen to their bodies. Freediving should be fun so go out there and enjoy!