What does it mean to be “water born?” Those that self-identify are people who live their lives in, around, or on the water. It is where they go to find ecstatic happiness, and where they seek refuge to release their sadness.
All of us who attended DEMA Show 2015 can relate to the sentiments of Water Born co-creator and Performance Freediving International President Kirk Krack when he says,
“I was never going to be anything but an aquatically-based ape.”
Water Born is a labor of love, a series of short, creative films designed to inspire people into the water for the first time or to rekindle the passion of those whose gills may have been dry for too long, with a spirit of art and adventure.
The groundwork for the series was laid 10 years ago when Marc Kaiser (the series’ executive producer, NOAA diver and CEO of Precision Healthcare), took one of Kirk‘s PFI freediving classes. The two remained friends, and soon a third future co-creator joined their ranks: award-winning cinematographer Goh Iramoto, who would become Creative Director and principlal Director of Photography.
Goh was another student of Kirk‘s, this time in an Advanced Freedive Research class, and had been making movies of his own since childhood. He joined Kirk at the 2004 AIDA World Freediving Championships in Vancouver, producing three- to five-minute daily recap videos of the competitors. Check out the footage from that long-ago partnership here.
Eventually, the passion these three had for the water overflowed and the Water Born series emerged. Episodes are not easy or cheap to make, and their production requires 110 percent from everyone involved. They’re shot guerrilla-style, which means that everyone does everything, from scouting conditions and planning logistics, to starring in and filming the actual footage. The actors and crew beg, borrow and steal to put together these beautiful films, often sleeping on couches and troubleshooting less-than-ideal conditions to get the final product made.
The process relies heavily on the expertise of the players, though the end result is achieved through a combination of storyboarding, organic improv and experimentation on the fly. It can take twenty or more dives to nail even one shot, and at a minute-and-a-half to two minutes per dive, exhaustion is a constant companion.
To mitigate the toll on cast and crew, they employ a combination of freediving skill, SCUBA support, and technical freediving strategies — namely the use of 30 percent Nitrox at the surface to control fatigue.
The films are a mixture of adventure and surreality, conveying moods and emotions that feel familiar to anyone who centers their life around the water, and hopefully strikes a chord with many who don’t…yet.
Episode 1 is entitled “Wreckage: An Enemy is Born”. Shot in Nassau on a wreck at 90 feet, the futuristic battle between good and evil hints at an environmental theme. Rising sea levels force humans to take the next evolutionary step — you might recognize Kirk, that aquatically-based ape, as one of the homo aquaticus doing battle on the shark-infested wreck.
Episode 2, “And Here I Must Run”, is a more dreamy, introspective piece filmed in The Pit and Car Wash, two of the Yucatan’s most beautiful cenotes. Inspired by Alice in Wonderland, Shell Eisenberg plummets down the rabbit-hole to ponder her place in the world as she explores the weird wonderland at depth.
The third episode, “To Give Is To…”, follows a lifelong conversation between a freediver and a whale shark, his old friend who glides majestically by his side, enjoying his company in the deep and missing him when his life on land keeps him away. The melancholy overtones are reminiscent of Shel Silverstein‘s “The Giving Tree”, and remind us not to take for granted those things that are most important.
“Still Haven” was shot on location in Maui entirely on GoPros, and features two renowned athletes who get their kicks mostly at the surface — stand-up paddle boarder Chuck Patterson and kite-boarder Damien Leroy.
During our interview with Kirk, DeeperBlue.com got an exclusive first look at the newest episode which features a montage of freediving and another, more land-based form of freedom, showing how the two can blend, and how being water-born is something that is always with you, wherever you may be.
You can check out the episodes as well as a whole collection of making-of videos on the Water Born Facebook page.
Heading into the future, Kirk says the co-creators are going to take a step back from production and work on planning how to make the project self-sustaining and potentially even profitable. Currently it is privately-funded by those involved and sponsored by partners like Stuart Cove’s and GoPro, but it is Water Born‘s hope that the collaborations will become more collective and more people will continue to get involved.
They began with freediving films because, as Kirk says,
“We put our anchor in a spot we knew.”
In the future he envisions films featuring other types of water-born kin. Building on the success of “Still Haven”, he hints that there might be episodes featuring sailing, SCUBA, and even rebreathers on the horizon.
While we had their ear, DeeperBlue.com couldn’t resist getting a few pointers from Kirk and Shell about how to be present on camera underwater.
Kirk cautioned that light refraction in the water is an issue, and that to avoid having a blank look on film actors should look through and beyond the point where the camera is. He advised that stills and footage should be taken on the diver’s exhalation when their body and expression are more relaxed.
Shell, the talented star of Episode 2 says there’s no substitute for practice — the more freedives you do, the more comfortable you’ll be at depth. Better flexibility in the chest wall will result in a more relaxed upper body, throat and mouth which are all key for avoiding “breath-hold face”. She also credited her complete confidence in her safety divers for her ability to project a sense of serenity at 90 feet.
Check out Water Born‘s collection of breathtaking videos and let them re-stoke your passion for the deep. After all, none of us would be here at DEMA Show 2015 unless we were truly water born, but with all the mundane insanity of day-to-day living, it’s easy to forget when it’s time to go home.