Freediving - the journey to yourself

When I moved to Dahab, I start meeting, especially at the Blue Hole, new species – freedivers. I was always laughing about their special breathing technique warm ups and weird stretching with animal sounds coming out of their mouths.

And I also experienced this very stupid rivalry between them and us, divers. Divers complaining about freedivers lines crossing the Blue Hole and limit the space for groups of divers. In the other hand freedivers complain about divers bubbles and also about the ignorance to keep a proper distance from the rope. However unnecessary that battle was, I always loved watching these special creatures holding their breath and following the line, going to the same depth, which I reached with six tanks being a tec diver. And I never understood how do they do it? Same as I always knew that I would never be able to do anything like that :D



Being Czech, I was proud that our country is having incredibly good freedive athletes. Some of the most famous names belong to the Czech brave boys and girls, and being a resident in Dahab, somehow I got to know most of them. Honestly, they all knew about me, and slowly we started to know each other. Maybe from a year 2010 I was asking them to show me some basics and try freediving. They were always very polite and open to it, obviously even more than me, who always just talked, knowing that there is no way to hold a breath for me. I knew that all of that is about the head, ability to calm down, relax, focus and empty the brain for a while. And that was exactly what I was missing and definitely wasn’t able to do in all those years. My head was always full of complaining, I was never happy whatever was going on. And I had no idea that only I can stop it first and change it later.


Last year changed a lot of things for me, personally and generally. I have lost my mum who passed away on the Valentine Day 2015 and my boyfriend left me few weeks after for whatever reason. I didn’t know what to do with myself anymore, I have lost myself, my confidence, self-respect and I felt completely lost. It wasn’t just short-term feeling, I realized later that that feeling was here for such a long time. But I knew that I have to change myself, stopped torturing myself, learn how to let things go and stopped turning my life in the same circles over and over. And it was a reason for camino, which I have mentioned already here. During more than 40 days walking 1278 kilometres I went through many stages, starting from the physical pain… till I had to deal with the hardest part – myself. Lots of things have changed, thank to the people I met, adventures I lived and decisions I have made during and after the camino. But what was the most important, my head started to relax, I was easily able to focus and empty my brain out of thoughts.


After my camino experience I was so not ready for Dahab yet, as tourism there went too down and people were depressed and unhappy from the whole situation, I knew that this attitude would let me down, as I was not stable still. So I travelled a bit around my amazing friends in Spain, took a photography job in Mallorca and happily accepted the job offer in Indonesia after. My plan was to start practicing yoga, learn Spanish, but mainly set up all new life I just discovered after my personal journey, which was much more than just camino (btw. Camino in wider meaning is also a life journey, not just a path you walk). There is no better place for starting with yoga than Bali. I went to Ubud, got my first yoga mattress … But I have never even opened the bag with it. I wasn’t ready for yoga yet. Slowly I continued in digging inside my memories and myself. And I returned to Dahab, almost exactly two years after I left it at 2014.


My plan was staying at home for one month only and after short visit in Prague I wanted to return to Indonesia. Nusa Penida became my home as well, and I wanted to settle down there and make it my second base, together with Dahab.


But I crazily fell in love with little Bedouin town Dahab again! I became sure about my decision I made nine years ago. I’ve clearly seen again why I call this place my home. One month passed too quickly and sure I was not ready to leave. After two years living a Gypsy life style, I loved my house so much, same as my friends, and specially unlimited freedom I have by living and working here in Dahab. That‘s my place. I decide what to do. Happy time.


I was not sure about any job in here, so I even didn’t ask. I wanted to be just a photographer. Even before I came back, I have got a business offer from Pim Vermeulen, trainer of Ukrainian freedive team, to start some shooting projects with freedivers. And it opened completely new world to me. The world I love so much. Thank you, Pim.


And happy time continues. I contacted my friend Sara Campbell and started joining her kundalini yoga lessons. I learn more about myself, my past, my limits, but specially about power of breathing and power of NOW. I started to meditate, or better sitting with myself in silent, and being familiar with something what might be called the inner peace. (So, Tim, am I really f…. hippie? Lol)

After few photo-shoots with freedivers, joining their trainings and became an official photographer of Red C Cup international freedive competition it somehow came completely natural, that I asked one of the best to learn from. Beautiful Natalia Zharkova, the Ukrainian record holder and the third deepest woman in the world became my instructor and I start taking my first freedive lessons with her. I had no expectations or goals. I just wanted to try how it feels.

And I am so thankful I gave it this try. Freediving is much more natural way how to spend time underwater. Well, much shorter for me, as I cannot stay hours, as I am used to. But I love that feeling you have, when you somehow relax that much that you go down and “hold-the-breath-forever”! This feeling is incredible. On my third session I did my till now PB (personal best) – 20,9 metres, and I reached 3,30 minutes in static. It was always a night mare to me, but I found it really awesome, holding a breath and empty my brain that much, that time just goes and you are here, feeling the water moves, NOW and only for yourself.


So, yes, I don’t call myself a freediver yet. But I might become a “Me-diver” later. It is not about competition, but about reaching the personal limits, getting to know you better and challenging yourself to see, how incredible the human body is. Discovering step-by-step all what you can experience working only with your mind, breathing and learn how relax. It is not just very addictive passion; freediving is a lifestyle and way to be. I met incredible supportive people and I simply love it. Let’s see, when I will sell my dive gear and I will become part of the underwater fishy world :D.


#freediving #freedivers #Pim #Natalia #Sara #yoga #Dahab #NusaPenida #camino #journey

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COPYRIGHT KRISTINA VACKOVA PHOTO 2016. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

All images © 2013-2019 Kristina Vackova. Credit for header picture Brad Holland. Few signed photos at the galleries Rich Carey and Brad Holland.

© 2016 by KRISTINA VACKOVA PHOTOGRAPHY