In August 2017, at the AIDA Individual Depth World Championships held in Roatan, Slovenian freediver Alenka Artnik became only the fourth woman to reach 100m in Constant Weight (CWT) in an AIDA competition. This was a momentous dive for Alenka but wasn’t the first time that she had made freediving history.
Alenka first broke the World Record in Bi-Fins by diving to a depth of 82m in the CMAS World Championship in Kas, Turkey, in 2016. (Constant weight using bi-fins is not recognized as a separate discipline within AIDA at the current time).
This record was taken from her in July 2017 by Colombian freediver Sofia Gomez Uribe, who took the record to 83m, then to 84m, in a matter of days.
Alenka took back that record later in the same year with a dive to 85m, which also won her the Gold medal at the CMAS World Championships in October 2017 (a medal and record that she holds jointly with Natalia Zharkova from Ukraine). Currently, Alenka holds both the CMAS World Record in CWT with a monofin at 95m, and jointly holds the CMAS World Record with Zharkova, in bi-fins.
While Alenka does not hold the Free Immersion (FIM) World Record for CMAS, her record for FIM in an AIDA competition is actually deeper (75m) than the current CMAS record of 72m (currently held by Sahika Erkumen).
Alenka has also broken more than 20 National Records, has been a CMAS world champion on two occasions (Oct 2017) and an AIDA world champion once (August 2017).
RELATED: Freediving Disciplines Explained
While her records are in the two constant weight with fins disciplines, Alenka is also a strong diver in constant no-fins (54m CNF), and the pool disciplines. Currently residing and training in Panglao, Philippines, Alenka is clearly one of the strongest female freedivers currently competing, and one to watch!
Alenka shared with DeeperBlue.com her motivations, the meaning that freediving has given her life, and a powerful and moving vision she experienced during a dive. Read on for her candid interview.
DeeperBlue.com: What continues to inspire your freediving?
Alenka Artnik: Self- exploration.
Before I started to discover the underwater world, I was going through a big life crisis and I was very unhappy. Basically, freediving gave me the opportunity to start a completely new life and slowly overcome my fears and frustrations. I was 30.
I spent more and more time underwater until I realized “it” could be the answer to my long quest for a meaning to my life. I started training regularly, and I put more and more focus and effort into freediving until I decided to invest all of my time, strength and resources into it.
I love this sport, as I like physical training and I can spend a lot of time underwater. But what drives me the most is probably this unlimited mental challenge to adjust to extreme circumstances, in other words, the connection between the mind and the body. I’m very eager to explore more and share it with others.
DB: Who do you most admire in the freediving world?
AA: I’ve always admired Natalia (Molchanova). She was a combination of all these characteristics that I appreciate: kindness, modesty, determination, altruism. I think Alexey is doing a great job too.
DB: What is/are your favorite place/s to freedive?
AA: Well actually I`ve only been traveling and freediving abroad for the last three years so I`m sure there are many more incredible places to discover.
I really like the Red sea and everything the Sinai peninsula offers, as well as the Philippines and the rich marine life there. I’m looking forward to discovering more of the Adriatic and the Mediterranean Sea, which feels the most natural to me as I`m from the region.
On the other hand, I did a little lake diving in Slovenia with no visibility and extreme cold, and I felt like the happiest person on the planet. I guess just being close to water makes me feel happy and at home.
DB: Can you tell us about any exciting locations that you would love to freedive?
AA: The underwater world is simply magical and so diverse. I like to discover these beauties as life offers them to me, to take my mask, fins and just go and explore. That`s exciting for me. Not really knowing what I`ll find down there… I appreciate nature as it is, next door as much as on the other side of the world.
DB: What would be your best piece of training advice for beginner/intermediate freedivers?
AA: Spend as much time in the water as possible (snorkeling and in the pool). Find an experienced coach. Do many repetitions. Train your breath-hold (statics, apnea walking). Train your focus (focused breathing, meditation). Be patient.
DB: Top freediving athletes favor a variety of cross-training methods. What is your preferred form of dry training and why?
AA: I like to do bodyweight exercises on exhale. It`s hard to do dry training, but I think it`s also very efficient. Apnea walking combined with static is a nice simulation of a dive and it gives me great confidence for deep diving.
However, I also train a lot in the pool as it provides a wide range of exercises that are very important for deep diving.
DB: What is your pre-dive preference: breakfast or fasting?
AA: Only water/lemonade. Water also during and after training to flush free radicals and keep the body hydrated (even better with some Himalayan salt). I reward myself with a big breakfast and coffee after.
DB: Which general nutritional principles do you follow?
AA: I usually eat what my body feels like. Lots of seasonal and local vegetables and fruits, nuts, herbs, cereals, mushrooms (when I`m home). Good fats are super important. I avoid processed food. I like plant-based food but I also like fish, good cheese, pasta, wine 🙂
As I travel a lot, I can’t always get enough nutrients from food, so when I’m in my “hardcore” training periods, I take supplements to help the body to recover faster.
DB: Freediving is a teacher: what important life-lessons has freediving given you?
AA: I wouldn`t say freediving in itself gave me life lessons, but I’m definitely using the lessons life gave me in my approach to freediving especially the importance of breathing.
DB: Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
AA: Pregnant with a 3rd child, on a white beach, somewhere on this planet (hahaha)! Of course, I wish to have a family. But I also wish to continue my personal exploration and to contribute to life as much as I can.
DB: Can you describe your most memorable or significant dive?
AA: It happened two years ago while diving in the Blue hole. I had this strong vision of my brother who died 15 years ago. He was just there, staring at me with this confident look. I was actually very surprised to see him there but as the vision didn`t go away, I just brought him back to the surface. It`s hard to explain the feeling but when I came home I cried like a baby. I was so sorry for him, for choosing the lifestyle he chose, for not being strong enough. I realized I had kept some kind of resentment towards him for all these years. This dive brought it to the surface and helped me to understand and soothe my feelings.
DB: Which of your achievements are you most proud of, and why?
AA: I would have to say surviving all the obstacles life threw at me, keeping faith and positivity.
Cover Photo by Kalindi Wijsmuller