Review: One Breath

I am inspired.  Fred Buyle’s images are pure eye candy.  A master of available light, all photographs are taken sans strobe and on ‘one breath’ – no tank, no noise, pure freediving.  Emma Farrell details a candid, personal account of her journey of discovery and the subsequent pursuit of her freediving vocation.  Here lies a worthy complement to any ocean lover’s coffee table.

It’s clear from Farrell’s fluid descriptions that her exposure to Eastern philosophies at an early age has shaped her approach to and interpretation of freediving.  The reader is invited upon exercises to heighten breath awareness.  Guiding, not forcing, enticing the reader to discover what lies ahead with the mastery of the breath.  “To temporarily hold your breath will bring incredible peace, power and calm to your life.” 

Introduced as “…not [being] an instruction manual but a reflection”, One Breath is an eloquent description of Farrell’s experiences and sensations underwater.  Freediving has clearly enriched the author’s life and the joy of it shines through the pages.

The images provide fuel for endless daydreams.  You will be left in awe at a photographer able to compose a self-portrait at 55 meters on one breath.  Surreal images taken under the ice of the North Pole further illuminate Farrell’s descriptions of our most magical ocean world. A former world champion freediver, the photographer, Fred Buyle, is instrumental in bringing the author’s words to life with his images.

The reader accompanies the author from a childhood locked beneath dark skies and longing for the warmth of tropical seas to the world so gracefully captured in Buyle’s photographs.  Articulating her dream of a life as a freediver to a friend one New Years Eve, a serendipitous encounter later the same evening would serve to realize these ambitions.  From thought, to realization.  The enactment and fulfillment of a dream.

The evolution of freediving is described in lucid detail.  Touching upon the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis, One Breath educates the reader to our in-built adaptations to the underwater world, and how we can harness these to bring much enjoyment to our in-water experiences.  We are reminded of the incredible aquatic capabilities we exhibit as babies, and how we must re-train ourselves as adults to regain these.

Farrell goes on to describe a number of modern cultures inextricably linked to the sea:  ceremonies conducted by the Garifuna of the Caribbean to honor the ocean and also their ancestors, the Japanese Ama (female) freedivers harvesting their bounty and exemplifying a “…declining culture that has a very personal relationship with the sea.”  And forward to modern times, we follow the pioneers with prototypical early equipment and on to the first official freediving record.  The race, as Farrell terms it, was on. The redefining of human potential continues.  And, of course there’s always the option to just dive a few meters down for the sheer love of it. One Breath keeps the interest alive for all readers, of varying levels of aquaticity.

The book is punctuated throughout with apt quotes from the likes of poets, Eastern philosophers, yoga teachers, artists, a champion freediver, and a renowned cinematographer.  ‘Freediving is not about depth, [it] is about experiencing the sea’ – Bob Talbot.  This moderation of emphasis on the sheer attainment of depth is echoed by Farrell throughout the text.  She is, in effect, working to broaden the appeal of freediving. Removing the ‘extreme’ label and replacing it with the perception that freediving is a “safe and enjoyable way to connect with the natural world and our breath.”

Haunted by a recurring nightmare of being alone in the sea at night, Farrell reveals a gripping fear with convincing sincerity.  Using freediving and her newly found aquatic abilities as the means to overcome this, we share in her delight as she conquers this demon and discovers a darkened night world that fills her with joy.  “I had stumbled through the black forest of my fears and found unimaginable treasures on the other side.” 

Let the mesmerizing image on the cover entice scuba and non-diving friends alike to venture forward and behold the words that so passionately describe the world that freediving can open.  An inspiration in both the photographic and written sense, One Breath may just provide the impetus to venture forth in apnea.  Any such enquiring mind is naturally tempted.

One Breath – A Reflection on Freediving by Emma Farrell

You can buy a copy via the publishers website.