Free dive record at Sodwana Bay
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