The convulsions were becoming more constant. “2 min 30 seconds check” … a deep voice in the background and a poke on my shoulder. Almost by instinct my hand goes out and signals…OK. My diaphragm is punishing me as I push further. “It’s the carbon dioxide…ignore it, push through.” I hear the voice again, and it pounds in my head as I feel my arms and legs tingle and my diaphragm pulsing begin to slow. “TIME,” I lift my head as I hear Stephanie say “BREATH” and count 1…2…3. I had done it…static a breath hold of 3 minutes. Great moment during our first freediving class. Stephanie is beaming and gives me a high five.
I have been scuba diving for eight years and had hundreds of dives. From La Jolla Cove on the sunny coast of California to remote islands of Papua New Guinea. It has always been fun and exciting, but the time when I feel the most at one with the ocean is when I shed my tank. Throw on my mask and fins and dive beneath the surface into the silent but dynamic world on just one breath.
For years, I have spent countless hours eye to eye with myriads of species. I silently cruise along after a duck dive, pull with my arms and a few kicks driving me downward. But those beautiful moments are always ended within 30 seconds. My body was saying, “breath dummy!” This reflex sends me propelling to the surface. Remorse that I cannot spend more time with my marine friends below. I have long thought about getting trained in freediving. To increase my bottom time and learn the safety aspects about of the art but never pursued it. That all changed the day I received an email from filmmaker Shawn Heinrichs. There was a video attachment labeled, “Tigress Shark- Woman Dances with Tiger Sharks”.
I opened the video and found myself mesmerized by the featured freediver/dancer Hannah Fraser. Her makeup and outfit were exquisite. She channeled the tiger shark’s spirit and transformed into the human form. Her dance was powerful but sultry. She moved around the bottom interacting with tigers, lemons, and reef sharks. The entire interaction while holding her breath. The most natural connection I have ever seen between woman and shark. I sat with my mouth open as I watched it for the 4th, 5th and 6th time. This film touched something deep inside me, my strength as a woman. I had to share…
I called my 15-year-old daughter to watch and hoped that she would see and feel what I did. Would she feel the power? Would she feel the same drive to succeed that I felt? Would it make her feel like she could DO ANYTHING? She watched, then she turned to me with tears in her eyes, and I knew it had. We made a pact after watching it together. We would pursue our freediving training together. In one instant, this video created such a powerful connection between mother and daughter.
The message of the film is conservation for sharks. It is an intense and beautiful way to engage everyone into the message. The film gives viewers the desire to understand and love these magnificent animals. Though I got the driving message of the movie, it stirred something more within me. It drove me to live my dreams. For me to be a beautiful, sleek, freediver. To enjoying the power of the sea at lengths not possible to me without training.
I spoke to Shawn and discussed the dedication and time that went into making such an amazing film. How the message of empowerment drove the whole crew. According to Shawn, Hannah, an amazing woman, connected to the project in a deep way. Her incredible energy combined with the sheer presence of the sharks. Along with the filmmakers, editing has turned this piece into a work of art. Into a film that will touch every viewer in a remarkable way.
For me, it pushed me to pursue my dream, my passion, freediving. I signed up for SSI freediving training. Right by my side was my partner in dive, Stephanie. Throughout the years, we have been on many adventures. Each time I said to her, “I want to try this,” her answer has always been, “let’s do it.” Stephanie’s unwavering support has allowed me to go beyond my limits. Freediving was no exception.
Even though I did not complete all the goals I set out to, I pushed myself further. I did explore other areas than I ever thought possible. Inspired by Shawn’s film, I found myself wanting it more and pushing myself harder. More important to me is that my daughter now has the dream to continue her path. To experience the silent world and connect to her inner free diver.
Since watching the film, I have come to realize the strength and perseverance of the women around me. After seeing all the behind the scenes of Shawn’s film, I now understand the months of dedication. The incredible training, and discipline it took for Hannah. Her pushing beyond the limits of most in the freediving industry. Man or woman, to dance with the sharks. She makes it look easy in the end but how many women do you know that make things look easy in the end?