THE PRESSURES OF THE DEEP AREN’T SO DIFFERENT TO OUR EVERYDAY LIFE ON LAND. ONE FREE DIVER SHARES LESSONS HE’S LEARNT BENEATH THE SURFACE
“B eing at depth in the ocean, where you don’t have any stress or anxiety and you are in that present moment, there’s nothing like it. At that moment, you are at complete peace, at one with yourself, and the ocean is just welcoming you in.”
Adam Sellars believes the human body is designed to dive deep into the ocean. Not with equipment, not with scuba tanks, but with just one singular breath.
He believes the power of our breath is so strong, it has the ability to stabilise our stress, anxiety and overall health, therefore “releasing the pressure” of our 21st century lives.
Quitting the corporate world five years ago, while struggling through marriage problems and raising two children, Adam found he wasn’t coping mentally.
But it was during that time he was first introduced to free diving by a friend. “He drove past my place one day because I live right on the river. I happened to be out the front and he was like, ‘Do you want to come spearfishing?’. I said, ‘What does it involve?’. He said, ‘Well you dive down on one breath and you shoot fish in the face.’
“I thought, ‘All righty. Yep. I can do that’.”
The two men went out far offshore.
Adam, who had once been a professional swimmer, had no fears around water. On this day, however, something was different.
“I had this weight belt on – I felt like I was plummeting,” he said.
“It was like jumping off a cliff.
“By this time, my mate was already gone like 100m in front. I was watching him get down to like 20m, pulling himself through caves and hunting fish, and I thought ‘that’s me’.
“When we surfaced, I said to this friend, ‘Oh my god, that was amazing. I feel like Adam again. I don’t know what it is about that?’
“He smiled and said, ‘Welcome to spearfishing’. “But for me, it wasn’t spearfishing because I didn’t shoot a gun. It was free diving.”
Captivated by the sport, Adam began researching courses where he could improve his skill. At the time, they were offered only in Bali.
It was during this course that he realised free diving wouldn’t just become a hobby.
It would later define the mantra of his life.
“Our instructor led the course by asking us, ‘What is the difference between scuba diving and free diving?’. I looked around and realised no one was going to answer,” Adam said.
“I consider myself as moderately intelligent so I raised my hand and said, ‘In scuba diving, you have tanks and you can breathe, but in free diving you take one breath and you go’.
“My instructor replied, ‘Yes Adam, but what is the real difference?’.”
A startled and blank-faced Adam sat dumbfounded. He thought he had nailed the answer.
The instructor went on to explain, “In scuba diving, you look around at the fish. In free diving, you look within”.
“I felt like I had stumbled across a weird yoga, meditation place,” Adam said.
“Man, I just wanted to learn to dive deep. “However, over my journey, I eventually realised what he was talking about.
“Especially when you progress and you go deeper and deeper, if you don’t have the ability to watch your thoughts, without letting them affect your dive or physiology and psychology, potentially things can go wrong.” Stress, anxiety and other associated mental-health conditions have become endemic in our society.
Our fast-paced, go-go-go lifestyles often have us feeling disconnected from our bodies – and existing in these states for too long can cause an imbalance of hormones.
Long-term stress has been linked to a range of lifestyle diseases such as heart attack, diabetes and cancer, but Adam believes these side effects of Western society can be managed through the principles of free diving.
“The only thing that science and medicine or humans know – to bring yourself down from a stressed state or anxiety – is closing your eyes, lengthening your exhale and breathing through your belly,” he said.
“Being in your sympathetic nervous system (stressed) suppresses your immune system.
“We produce cancer cells every day – it’s only our immune system’s ability to fight those cancer cells that keeps us from getting cancer.”
Through breath control and relaxation techniques, Adam said people could bring themselves into their parasympathetic nervous system – the opposite of our stress system.
This system lowers the heart rate, relaxes the muscles, increases the body’s digestion and burns less oxygen.
Resting in this state can help the body to oxygenate its cells and restore itself.
“Through diet and breath, you can make your body alkaline, and cancer can’t thrive in an alkaline environment,” Adam said.
As a man who can dive to depths up to 75m with one breath, the 34-year-old is living proof of the power and benefits of breath control.
His business, The Pressure Project, was born out of this ideology.
Through a series of workshops, corporate stress-management training, free-diving courses and public presentations, Adam brings these techniques to everyday people.
On average, most beginner free divers have tripled their breath-holding capacity by the time they leave his course, and the teachings of the science behind the sport allow participants to push themselves in an environment where there are strict safe precautions.
“When I have a course, I tell everybody ‘OK, this is a free-diving course – we’re going to have a breath’. Almost everyone just breathes from their chest and they hold a lot of tension,” Adam said.
“Quite often, I put an oximeter on them, which measures oxygen saturation, and when they start their breath hold and when they finish, their oxygen saturation has not moved.
“It starts at usually 98 per cent and after that first breath, it’s still at 98 per cent. It’s just before 50 per cent where we become at risk of conditions like hypoxia.
“So with the right training, there’s a lot of space to move within safe limits.”
However, while free diving is a skill everyone can learn, Adam insists it is not a sport to try without professional training.
Untrained spearfisherman and divers who head out on ocean expeditions cause him grave concern.
“I live near the boat ramp – I see it all the time, these guys, often alone, heading out over-weighted,” he said.
“I hate over-regulation but I think there should be a spearfishing licence, where they have to do a short course, even if it’s just half a day.
“The sport is getting more and more popular, and more people will die if they don’t know what to do. “Those guys who go out alone, if something goes wrong, it then becomes a recovery mission.”
Adam is one of only three people in Queensland qualified to teach free-diving courses – and the only one in the state to teach full-time – and has competed in national competitions.
He believes his love for the ocean has saved his life.
“The ocean can calm a busy mind the minute you dip your toes in,” he said.
I FELT LIKE I HAD STUMBLED ACROSS A WEIRD YOGA, MEDITATION PLACE, MAN, I JUST WANTED TO LEARN TO DIVE DEEP.
AT ONE WITH THE WATER: Adam Sellars can dive to depths up to 75m with one breath.