Africa’s female freedivers have been busy the last two months. In November, Passante Adel from Egypt dived to 54m in the Free Immersion (FIM) discipline during the RedCcup, setting a new AIDA African continental record in the process.
Beth Neale dived to 55m for a Pure Apnea Free Immersion (FIM) last weekend in South Africa, overseen by Pure Apnea’s John Daines. She now holds two South African Pure Apnea freediving records (Bi-fins Constant Weight CWT and Free Immersion FIM) and the African continental record in FIM. She also managed to break her original fundraising target of $3,000 for the conservation education NGO, I AM WATER.
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Beth took some time to answer some questions for DeeperBlue.com.
DeeperBlue.com: How did you mentally prepare for your attempt?
Beth Neale: I mentally prepared by doing positive visualizations of my dives. I was also fortunate to have Sara Campbell give me online Distance Coaching Sessions and she advised me on powerful meditation practices to do daily. I feel that yoga practice also helped me to prepare mentally and I would continually remind myself how many people believed in me and were sending me support.
DB: What were conditions like?
BN: On the East Coast of South Africa, we have to launch through the surf and then drive quite a way out to find the right depth. When I first got into the water, I could not believe the beautiful blue colour of the ocean. My new favourite colour! The visibility was an incredible 30m. The surface was choppy and I had quite a few waves break over my snorkel, which makes breathing up quite challenging. I didn’t think that there was a strong current until I got down past 35m and then I felt the current swing me around quite forcefully while I was freefalling. The current made the ‘climb’ back up quite tough until I got back up to the 30m mark. For the three depth training sessions I did before the Record Attempt, we had different species of sharks coming to visit, and I started thinking of them as my mascots, but they didn’t come and “support” me on the Record Attempt day.
DB: How much money did you raise? How will the money be used for I AM WATER?
BN: Incredibly, I managed to raise $3650! I couldn’t believe it when I had reached the fundraising target BEFORE the deadline, and then amazingly people continued to donate. The money will be used for a very special I AM WATER Ocean Conservation and Education Project. I will be selecting 10 young girls from our local underprivileged Zulu community and they will be attending a Mermaid course, which will include snorkelling, freediving and breath work, yoga, a self esteem and body image workshop and many more incredible things, which will really help these young girls to become empowered and aware of their role as future Ocean Ambassadors.
DB: How did the publicity affect you? How did you keep focus?
BN: Initially the publicity was affecting me negatively. This is my first Record Attempt and only my second deep dive attempt. I’ve never competed or been public about my freediving. So when I first started putting the Record Attempt on social media, I panicked. I felt that I would really let people down if I failed. However, as more and more people believed in me, my confidence grew. I also made sure that I had lots of fun making the promotional videos for the fundraiser.
DB: How do you feel right now?
BN: I feel extremely overwhelmed. I never expected such unbelievable support, from my family, friends and even strangers. But this isn’t about me and the South African records. I feel incredibly grateful and humbled because this is about giving a life changing opportunity to young children through I AM WATER, and now that opportunity is possible. Of course, I also CANNOT WAIT to get back into the blue and keep diving deeper!
DB: What advice would you give someone who’s trying to set a new depth PB?
BN: Freediving is about the journey, not the destination! Have fun every metre of the way and don’t fixate on the numbers. The more you relax and find stillness, the deeper you will go. Be gentle on yourself, get the right support and increase your depths gradually.
Congratulations on reaching your goals, Beth. We wish you all the best in your community development project.