Free dive record at Sod­wana Bay

Zululand Observer - Weekender - - ZO NEWS - Or­rin Singh

It’s the best feel­ing, like fly­ing un­der­wa­ter

FREE diver Beth Neale (35) re­cently had her name etched into the record books at Sod­wana Bay.

The Jo­han­nes­burg-based div­ing in­struc­tor chose the Zu­l­u­land coast to bet­ter the South African and African Con­ti­nen­tal (con­stant weight, no fins) free div­ing record of 43 me­tres. She reached a depth of 47 me­tres.

Neale said she was ex­tremely proud to have achieved the record at home in South African wa­ters.

‘South Africa is not a known des­ti­na­tion for deep free div­ing because of chal­leng­ing fac­tors such as big swells, strong cur­rents and poor vis­i­bil­ity.

‘I felt re­ally strong dur­ing the dive and on the way back up I re­mained fo­cused, even though I could feel that the dive was easy and that I had the record in the bag.

‘The record dive was one of the hap­pi­est and most en­joy­able dives of my life, but I could have gone deeper ‘We headed out 200m to en­sure the clean­est, bluest wa­ters that we could find so that I could safely at­tempt the record. ‘Two judges were present to rat­ify the record and I also had two safety free divers in the wa­ter with me and a doc­tor on the boat. ‘I did a few warm-up dives be­fore I at­tempted the record dive. ‘When I was ready to go, I had a two minute count­down, took a deep breath and dove down. The vis­i­bil­ity was about 15m, which wasn’t great. ‘I only wore a nose clip and no mask, so all that I could see was a gen­eral beau­ti­ful blue blur.

‘On the de­scent, at about 20m, I be­came neg­a­tively buoyant and did a free fall down to the 47m mark.

‘It’s the best feel­ing, like fly­ing un­der­wa­ter.’ Neale said as she went deeper, it got very cold and dark, but she still main­tained her com­po­sure and loved ev­ery sec­ond of it. ‘At 47m, I had to grab a tag to show to the judges when I sur­faced. I tucked it into my wet suit sleeve and headed back up.’

Hav­ing wanted to be a mer­maid as a lit­tle girl, Neale said Sod­wana Bay and Ma­puta­land’s coast­lines are def­i­nitely her favourite places to free dive.

‘We are blessed with species di­ver­sity and truly mag­nif­i­cent coral reefs. ‘Sadly, it is clear that the health of our coast­lines are de­te­ri­o­rat­ing because of hu­man pres­sures, such as over fish­ing and plas­tic pol­lu­tion.

‘I feel a re­spon­si­bil­ity to ed­u­cate and in­spire South Africans to pre­serve and help pro­tect our oceans while we still can,’ she said.

Beth Neale on her as­cent af­ter reach­ing the record depth of 47 me­tres A ju­bi­lant Beth Neale cel­e­brates af­ter bet­ter­ing the free div­ing record

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