Due to my recent injuries I left home somewhat unsure what, if any, future I would have with freediving. It seems I had forgotten the magical powers shared amongst Hawaii’s seas, lands and many residents. If, however, this past week is any indication of my future relationship with the ocean, I will be nothing but grateful.
After settling in and finding myself a surfboard to use for the week, I had lunch with legendary Freediver, Underwater Photographer and Author Carlos Eyles, (The Blue Edge, Last of the Bluewater Hunters, Secret Seas) and his wife Margaret, a gifted Rolfer (structural bodywork) and accomplished freediver herself. Deeply inspired by Carlos’ history with the ocean I had planned an early arrival in Hawaii in the hopes of spending some time together.
Towards the end of our discussion a very attractive member of the US Women’s team joined us. As I seriously considered abandoning my current post to volunteer as their team masseuse, the conversation turned to the day’s events and Carlos and Margaret invited me to join them in looking for Manta Rays along the deep blue waters edge just north of town.
We made a couple of quick stops to pick up gear and dropped by their place where Margaret did some bodywork on my upper chest and lung region. Although only a short session, there was a marked difference in my ability to take in and hold a full breath.
The area we were to explore was actually known for dolphin sightings however the food tossed out to attract them had also brought in the plankton and, as a result, the incredibly graceful and intuitive Manta’s. From the shores of an ancient burial ground the three of us donned masks, fins and snorkels and began our lengthy swim.
Pockets of colorful fish danced beneath us as we made our way along the rocky coral shallows that separated lava cliffs from the great abyss. Carlos led, setting a modest pace so not to aggravate my condition, which thanks to Margaret I had almost forgotten. We were about half way towards our intended distance when I noticed something below and to my right. Within fifty feet of me was a beautiful Manta Ray slowly grazing. Calling to Carlos and Margaret I turned around and gently eased over to the slow moving Manta until I was swimming directly over it.
As I imagined thoughts of goodwill radiating downward the Manta began to rise until it was at arms length. We stayed in this formation for several minutes, me never once leaving the surface, until a deck-hand onboard a nearby charter boat shattered the moment by calling to us to keep clear of their mooring maneuvers.
Excited and enriched by the experience I continued on and witnessed two more encounters between Margaret, the Manta’s and Carlos as he positioned himself to take photographs.
Two days later, in the Bay of Refuge at Honanau, a magnificent sea turtle led me along the shoreline just below the waters surface. His form and grace was that of a masterfully gliding eagle. As we reached the shallows I was handed off to a new partner. Far from shy, she and I took turns leading a flowing, rhythmic dance through swilling clouds of sand, in and around the rocks and coral.
The next day Margaret did a full session on my chest, stretching and relaxing the intercostals along my upper rib cage. By the time she was finished I felt like I had been given a new set of lungs.
The magical and healing events of this last week are surely precious moments and I am grateful to have been both humbled and inspired by them.