A Dive into the World of Free-Diving with the British Champion

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Free-Diving Journey

This article is brought to you by National Geographic Traveller (UK).

What Inspired Your Journey into Free-Diving?

From the depths of childhood fascination with swimming to becoming a scuba instructor in Thailand, Georgina Miller’s journey into free-diving is nothing short of intriguing. It was a chance encounter with a monofin-wielding lady exploring a shipwreck that sparked her curiosity. She recalls thinking, “I’d love to be able to do that!” Initially, free-diving was just a hobby, but as Georgina began to appreciate the importance of sharing her knowledge, she set her sights on a professional path.

Records and Personal Bests

Georgina’s journey led her to break the national record for static apnea a remarkable six times, with a personal best of an impressive seven minutes. It might seem ironic that a sport involving complete stillness can be physically demanding, but when you’re holding your breath, calmness reigns supreme. Understanding one’s physiology and having a reliable safety team become paramount. The world of deep diving, however, introduces far more uncertainty, with colossal pressures at play. Georgina’s best depth is 215 feet, which may sound deep to most, but when compared to the incredible depths women like her reach – up to 390 feet – it’s a reminder of the immense challenges of free-diving.

The Fear Factor

Curiously, Georgina finds free-diving to be a peaceful endeavor, in stark contrast to the potential dangers lurking in scuba diving. It’s a discipline centered around relaxation and meditation, tapping into our ancient ability to hold our breath underwater, a skill honed over millennia by tribes like the Bajau people of Southeast Asia, who still free-dive for sustenance and pearls.

A Journey Through Waters

When it comes to Georgina’s favorite free-diving destinations, Mexico tops the list, where underground lakes, some hundreds of feet deep, offer a breathtaking spectacle. However, for depth training, Dominica in the Caribbean stands out. The only downside is that finding sufficiently deep waters close to home, like in the North Sea, can be challenging, as much of it is only about 130 feet deep – a depth suited for beginners.

A Memorable Encounter

Georgina shares a standout experience from her Mexico trip when she and her partner spotted a pod of humpback whales. These majestic creatures were not cruising but resting at the surface. While respecting the animals and not disturbing them is paramount, the experience was simply amazing. The resonance of their vocalizations, felt deep within the chest, left an indelible mark.

The Evolution of Free-Diving

Georgina reflects on the evolving landscape of free-diving. When she began, it was a niche pursuit with limited opportunities for learning. Today, the sport has seen a radical transformation, with more people taking the plunge. She and her partner relocated to Cornwall, setting up a free-diving school in 2015, close to the Atlantic, where the waters can sometimes rival the Caribbean’s beauty, albeit with frigid temperatures.

Words of Wisdom for Aspiring Free-Divers

For those considering a dive into free-diving, Georgina’s advice is clear: take a course with a certified instructor. There’s no substitute for learning proper techniques and safety drills. While it’s a safe sport when practiced correctly, the consequences can be fatal when not. Fortunately, the UK boasts a surprising number of diving schools, making it accessible to many.

Pride in Community

For Georgina, her proudest moments are not necessarily marked by personal records but by the sense of community. Helping students overcome challenges is what truly matters. Free-diving, she emphasizes, is not just an individual endeavor; it’s a team sport, a shared journey where the people around you are the ones who keep you afloat.

If you’re intrigued by the world of free-diving, Georgina Miller and her partner Daan Verhoeven run Aquacity Freediving, offering courses for all levels at the Porthkerris Divers center in Cornwall.

Published in the October 2023 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK).

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