The first sounds
I have always felt an unexplained attraction for wild beaches–the ones with the small fine pebbles and the huge rock formations surrounding them. I didn’t know why I liked them, although I thought I did. I used to tell my friends “I like it here because it doesn’t have a lot of people”. We would often go to that northern beach of Andros island in the Aegean, even at times when the northern wind was strong, when the sea would turn white and the waves would hit the facing entrance to the bay, throwing the water high up. We used to dive from the left hand side of the beach (I still do whenever I go there) from as high as we would dare. In time, I reached the highest point, the point from where you can really feel earth’s gravity as it pulls you down towards the sea. A sea that, from high above, under the mid-day sun, looked as if it had a thousand stars on its surface, stars that kept moving. I liked to pause there, at that high point, to look at the water before I dove, to look at it moving. I remember we used to play with the waves, sitting with our backs against the rocks, letting the sea hit us, wash our bodies and our souls until it would almost hurt us.
I liked to wear a mask (those old round ones) and swim to deep water. I didn’t know how to equalize the pressure in my ears, no one had told me how. A few times I tried to dive deep, paying no attention to the pain. It hurt. I limited my dives to 2-3 meters, but I remember very well how much I liked to look not down, but towards the underwater horizon, where the water would turn deep blue and towards the surface, where the water would become like a broken, moving mirror. I wanted to get lost in the blue, I wanted it to absorb me. I wanted to try and look in the mirror in case I could see something, a secret message, written with light and water.
When we went swimming on the south side of the island (where the sandy beaches are), we would sometimes take our little boat, just for the ride. In one of those rides, we stopped in order to swim in the deep waters, in the middle of nowhere. The picture of the sunbeams getting lost in the chaos hypnotized me. It got imprinted on my mind like a scar they would put with burning steel on horses in the “wild west”. I almost felt the burning. Six-seven years later we were fishing in the middle of a passage between 2 islands, in 300-400 meters of water. The sea was flat and the temperature was high. I couldn’t resist the temptation and so I dove in the water. I looked again at the sunbeams trying to see where they ended. I felt once more that strange emotion that I had felt in the past. I felt like a drop of water in the ocean, I felt nature surrounding me.
A “night” freediver (someone who goes spearfishing at night, with a torch) taught me how to equalize the pressure in my ears. I went with him a couple of times and then started going during the day only (disappointing everyone expecting fish). I started reading and searching. Little by little I started building up interest in Freediving. I had found a door that led into another world. What is it that attracts me to this different world? I think about it many times, but not when I dive, only when I look at the sea.
A Magical Trip
My movements are mechanical and impatient as I put on my suit. I put on my fins; I’m almost there. Mask, weight belt, and I leave. I swim on my back for a while as I wave goodbye to those back on shore, getting further away from the beach. I turn around and the journey begins.
The first thing I see is the shallow seabed; the first thing I hear is the sound of silence, my breathing and my heartbeat. I slowly get away not only from the beach but also from those things that make up my human dimension. A hidden part of me is magnified while the rest of me gets smaller, almost disappears. I make it to the area that I want to dive and I stop. The pictures in front of me make me freeze; they mesmerize me. I relax and take a last breath. I start my dive with an urge to face the blue again, to look again in the mirror on the surface.
My dives aren’t targeted at getting fish. If I only wanted the fish, I would go to the fish shop and just buy some. I will probably never be good at spearfishing. Because I will never manage to make fish my only purpose, I don’t feel so much like a hunter. I don’t care if I don’t get a single fish. If that was my purpose, I would have stopped a long time ago.
Freediving shows me a different world. I look around me and I admire the underwater life. I feel small and unimportant. I feel how badly I move in comparison to these graceful creatures. I try to learn their language, I want to communicate with them. I feel my weaknesses and my limitations. The need for oxygen forces me to return to the surface more often than I would like. I train in order to get better. I try to fight my human weaknesses, to surpass my body’s limitations, to gain more water confidence. I try to communicate with the sea in a better way. She talks to me all the time, but I feel unable to reply.
Is there a meaning to this quest? I know for sure that there is zero probability of success. I am doomed to fail. I will never manage, no matter how hard I try, to become one with the sea. But there is a meaning for sure. Through my effort I find my inner balance. I get a better understanding of my body, my mind, and my constraints, of the fact that I’m an ordinary human being. And that makes me a better person I think.
When I get out of the sea, I’m a different person. I want to remain quiet, not to return into this world, but I also want to share what I saw. What I saw only, cause what I felt is hard to describe. Those things must be felt in order to be understood.
Now I Understand
I very recently realized exactly why I like those beaches with the small fine pebbles and the huge rocks surrounding them. And I believe it’s for the same reason that my childhood friends liked them and many other people like them, even if they don’t realize why. It’s not the absence of people itself. It’s just that this absence amplifies the phenomenon because of the silence that prevails.
The quiet sand beaches of the south are very calm, without waves. They show us a mild picture of nature. But the wild beaches are very different. They make us open our eyes and ears wide open. They show us nature in all its force and brutality. The colours of the rocks have more contrast, the sounds of the wind and the waves are stronger, and the blue of the water is deeper.
These extreme landscapes, that show me the hidden limits of nature, motivate me to explore my own hidden side. It’s like magic. They awake an instinct so strong, that I feel pain in my heart if I don’t go even for a short dive. A short dive, a small magical trip that will always have the sounds, the colours and the scent of the sea, as an introduction and an epilogue.