Roxanne Messenger was the person who had the most natural aptitude for freediving in the TV series Hidden Talent. She trained in the UK with Emma Farrell and then went to Egypt before injury and illness curtailed her training. Here is an exclusive interview with her about her experiences.
DeeperBlue.com: When you applied to be on the show, you didn’t know what you were being tested for. How did you feel when you found out it was for freediving?
Roxanne: I didn’t have a clue what I was being tested for, I thought the tests were very random and I had no idea what freediving was.
DB: Had you ever heard of freediving before? What were your perceptions of the sport?
R: When I was told I could be good at freediving, I thought they wanted me to jump out of planes and sky dive! I had no perceptions of freediving because of this. Looking back I’m glad I didn’t, because once you’re told the concept of freediving it can be very worrying as to why someone wants to hold their breath. It’s not until you actually experience it that you become hooked.
DB: What is your background in sport and water activities?
R: I was previously overweight and the only exercise I did was walking and sometimes swimming but nothing competitive or serious. It was mainly to lose weight.
DB: How did you find the test days? What were your high and low points?
R: I enjoyed the test days, it was exciting for me because there was hope that I may naturally be good at something and I think hope is better than having nothing. Sport was never a strong point for me but meeting experts and taking the tests was a step in the right direction for me. My high point was getting through to the final group of people. My low point was confidence as I had none until I met Emma Farrell.
DB: How did you feel when you were told that you had a natural talent for freediving?
R: Gobsmacked is the only word to describe it. I strangely also felt reassurance in myself. It made me feel capable of anything. Being told and tested and proved to have a natural talent is something I will never forget, for me my body had let me down but now it’s everything to me.
DB: What did your friends and family think?
R: They were shocked but excited, I am blessed to have parents who love and support me whatever. My dad was especially excited as he loves the idea of freediving.
DB: How did you find your freediving training in the UK? What did you do?
R: Learning to freedive is a journey that will change your life, it makes you calm and allows you to explore your body and listen to every part that makes up you. My training involved close work with Emma Farrell. I would study and takes exams to become a trained free diver, I practiced yoga every day, I chose to change my diet to allow me to perform better, I would have swimming pool sessions most days and basically train as I expect an athlete would. I always enjoyed it, though, and I was never made to do what I didn’t want. The fact Emma is a woman freediver is something that for me helped me with this journey. I have trained with some of the best people in the world, and Emma was the person who made me feel safe and confident. She can explain and make things very simple for people new to freediving and also take experienced people to a better level. The emotional support is something she uniquely gives that I didn’t really experience anywhere else. I think for me, my safety and improvement was key to me being able to train, I was gutted Emma couldn’t come with me to Egypt, as I feel it may have been a different outcome.
DB: Did you expect to change your diet and how did you find the diet changes?
R: I wanted to be the best, so I was introduced to Emma’s diet plan. This was very hard for me, loving sweet foods and badness, but the results were unbelievable. If any woman wants to lose weight the freediving diet is amazing. I mainly had high protein and anything grown in the ground diet. I cut out all caffeine, sugar, bread, wheat or alcohol. For me this was hard, but I dropped over one stone and my skin and everything was glowing plus my freediving just kept getting better.
DB: How did you find learning yoga and breathing techniques?
R: Yoga taught me how stressed and bad I was to my body. I loved yoga and still do it now. The breathing techniques I use every day back in my work environment. I am altogether a much calmer person to who I used to be. I benefitted most with my breathing and being able to control and slow down my whole body just through simple yoga techniques.
DB: What is your favourite freediving discipline?
R: I think the freediving I love is exploring the ocean and seeing the world under the sea. The freediving I felt I wanted to carry on doing was static apnea. I would love to get a title in static, for me it was mentally the hardest thing to hold your breath for over 4 minutes, but the most satisfying achievement ever.
DB: What were the highlights for you of the experience training to be a freediver?
R: There are two points in my training that stand out for me. I once was at the pool with Emma and I was having a bad day, I was missing home and I was tired, but Emma as a trainer is one of those people who will pick you up, dust you off and make you better. That day we smashed my static record and I held my breath for 4minutes 13sec, something I never thought I would be able to achieve. The second, was a mid-point challenge, where I had to do my first sea dive and free dive down to 30 meters. I have got to be the only seasick freediver ever, I was physically sick and the old Rox was totally scared, but all my training kicked in, I was calm, focused and had Emma there. I remember meditating the whole way down the line, hitting the bottom and I did it so quick the boat above was shocked to see me. It was all worth the training, something I will never forget.
DB: What were the low points for you of the experience training to be a freediver?
R: The low point was having the mental strength to carry on and keep going when my body was tired and needed to rest. I wasn’t as fit as other freedivers, so it was doubly hard for me. Another low point was missing family and friends. I thrive on the support of those I love, so being away was hard. Also injures and being in Egypt getting sick and having to give up was horrible. But I wouldn’t change it for the world, I don’t know what I am capable of. I can always carry on as it is a natural talent, this gift can take me anywhere and I have years to explore it.
DB: What would be your advice for someone who is thinking about starting freediving but worries about age, fitness or confidence?
R: The only thing holding you back is your own mind. I never dreamed I would be good at freediving but now I’m confident, I love the gym, I’m healthy and happy. Freediving will bring you so much more peace, less stress and it will make you realise what is important in life. All I say to anyone who fancies it is, enjoy it, go for it, and don’t let anyone hold you back. The reason I did this was to try and inspire other like to me to do something out of their comfort zone.
DB: Will you continue free diving?
R: Freediving is in my body now, I could never give up something I love. I also don’t know how good I can be yet. I would love to be ranked in the world or even try to do a competition. One step at a time, though!