An in­ter­view with Kiki Bosch, a cold-wa­ter free­d­iver

Scuba Diver Australasia + Ocean Planet - - Contents - In­ter­view with Kiki Bosch

Kiki Bosch is an ad­ven­turer, nu­tri­tion­ist and bio­hacker from the Nether­lands, now liv­ing in the UK. De­scribed as a true dare­devil, Kiki is an ex­pe­ri­enced free­d­iver and ex­treme cold spe­cial­ist. She has re­cently dived some of the cold­est wa­ters in the world. Dur­ing her last trip in Green­land she swam in sub-zero glacial wa­ters with noth­ing but a swim­suit for 20 min­utes.

How did you get into free­d­iv­ing, specif­i­cally cold-wa­ter free­d­iv­ing?

The wa­ter al­ways fas­ci­nated me. From a young age, I swam of­ten and learned to scuba dive when I was 12 years old. The first time I saw a poster of a free­d­iver, I knew im­me­di­ately that it was some­thing I needed to try. Since my first free­d­iv­ing train­ing in Colom­bia, I fell in love with ev­ery­thing about this sport. I knew for sure that I would dive for the rest of my life.

The cold is a whole other story though. I heard about Wim Hof a few years ago and saw that he did amaz­ing things in freez­ing tem­per­a­tures. He in­spired me to chal­lenge my­self and re­ally ex­pe­ri­ence the cold first­hand. I tried my first win­ter div­ing in South Aus­tralia when the wa­ter was roughly 14°C. Back then, it was the cold­est wa­ter I had dived in with­out a suit and I be­came ad­dicted to chal­leng­ing my­self more and more, which led to seek­ing out the cold­est wa­ters in the world.

What do you like about cold-wa­ter free­d­iv­ing?

The mo­ment you en­ter the cold, you get hit with a cer­tain peace and seren­ity. The only way you can with­stand it is [by] re­lax­ing, know­ing that you are okay and your body can han­dle this. You go back to sur­vival mode – fight or flight. For me, that is a very med­i­ta­tive state. There is no space for think­ing, no space for ru­mi­na­tion on the past or plan­ning the fu­ture.

Your body is so fo­cused on keep­ing you warm that you can’t be any­thing but present. These mo­ments have taught me a lot about my­self and the world around me. By be­ing present in such harsh con­di­tions you gain a whole new level of re­spect for Na­ture. Any par­tic­u­lar rea­son why you choose to freedive with­out a suit? First of all, I want to show peo­ple that it is pos­si­ble, that our bod­ies are ca­pa­ble of so much more than what we think. Most of us are al­ways seek­ing com­fort, and even though it is nat­u­ral, it can make our bod­ies very lazy. If you are al­ways in an en­vi­ron­ment of 18–22°C, your body won’t be trained to keep you warm. By get­ting into the cold wa­ters with­out a suit, I feel like I am re­con­nect­ing to a more pri­mal state of my­self. It is al­most like tap­ping into su­per­pow­ers we all have within us, but are for­got­ten. How do you train to dive in cold wa­ter?

Any spe­cial prac­tices that have helped you? When I heard about the ben­e­fits of the cold, I started with tak­ing cold show­ers that I grad­u­ally pro­longed. I started to seek out el­e­ments in Na­ture that I could play with; swim­ming in cold wa­ters, walk­ing bare­foot on a cold floor or run­ning in shorts dur­ing win­ter. To pre­pare my­self for this last trip to the Arc­tic, I took ice­baths al­most ev­ery day and went to a whole body cryother­apy cham­ber in London that goes to –85°C. Most im­por­tantly, I fo­cused on re­heat­ing my body by it­self af­ter these cold ex­po­sures, mean­ing no warm shower, sauna or hot tub. This way, I primed my body into us­ing its own en­ergy to warm up. Ul­ti­mately, your body is the only thing you have in such re­mote ar­eas so learn­ing how to rely on your­self is the best les­son that you can learn. Could you talk us through what it feels like step­ping into the cold wa­ter? What do your mind and body go through? Be­fore get­ting into the cold, my mind is al­ways scream­ing not to do it. I’ve learnt that’s the point you need to push your­self, and it’s em­pow­er­ing to find that switch and let go of those thoughts and feel­ings. Once I am in the wa­ter, there is no way “out” and I know there is noth­ing I can do be­sides be­ing as re­laxed as pos­si­ble. When I am div­ing, I al­ways fo­cus on the warm places in my body; there is al­ways some­thing within me that is still warm. I try to hold on to that heat rather than fo­cus­ing on keep­ing out the cold.

The cold shock causes my skin to tin­gle and some­times even st­ing, but I try not to fo­cus on that and just ac­knowl­edge it as a stim­u­lus from my body. Af­ter a few min­utes, my thoughts start to slow down and my re­ac­tion time in­creases. When I feel that, I know that fo­cus is cru­cial – not hav­ing com­plete fo­cus on my body can quickly be­come dan­ger­ous. As I am aware of ev­ery lit­tle change in my mind and body, I can tell ex­actly when I need to get out. Once I’ve made that de­ci­sion, I al­ways stay very calm and sit some­where quiet to med­i­tate. This helps my body warm up grad­u­ally, but if I am in a very cold or windy en­vi­ron­ment I will al­ways put my dry robe on.

Any dif­fi­cul­ties you have ex­pe­ri­enced?

When I did my first dive in the Arc­tic wa­ter, it was so im­mensely cold. Even af­ter months of train­ing for this, it was still a big shock to me. The fact that the wa­ter was sub-zero was a game changer. It felt like noth­ing I had ever ex­pe­ri­enced.

Once I got out of the wa­ter, it was in­cred­i­bly hard for me to get warm. I was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing af­ter-drop. The body is very smart and keeps your core and vi­tal or­gans warm for quite a while even if you are in ex­treme con­di­tions. Af­ter-drop is when the cold blood from your ex­trem­i­ties mix with the warm blood of your core. This mix­ing of blood can drop your over­all core tem­per­a­ture even more than the orig­i­nal ex­po­sure, so your body goes through yet an­other chal­lenge. At this point the cold blood in your chest can be quite painful. Dur­ing these mo­ments it is cru­cial that my team know their roles and keep safety a big­gest pri­or­ity. It is for this rea­son I never rec­om­mend any­body just jump into cold wa­ter with­out proper train­ing and su­per­vi­sion.

What about the most re­ward­ing and/or mem­o­rable time?

The first time I vis­ited Ice­land was one of the most ex­cit­ing and mem­o­rable trips so far. It was my first ex­pe­ri­ence free­d­iv­ing in such cold tem­per­a­tures and there is no bet­ter

Div­ing next to these mas­sive ice­bergs was a whole new level of cold. These big gi­ants ra­di­ate cold like a heater does into your home. The sound of the crack­ing ice was con­stant and drowned out nearby whale noises

place to do this than swim­ming be­tween the tec­tonic plates. It was such a great feel­ing – I felt one with the wa­ter, one with the planet and ev­ery be­ing on it. Be­sides that, cold is part of the Ice­landic cul­ture and while I was there I met a lot of amaz­ing peo­ple who found great ben­e­fits in the cold. It was meet­ing these peo­ple that made the trip truly re­mark­able.

What ad­vice would you give to divers who are in­ter­ested in cold-wa­ter free­d­iv­ing?

First and fore­most, never hy­per­ven­ti­late be­fore get­ting into the wa­ter and most im­por­tantly, never dive alone – es­pe­cially with cold-wa­ter free­d­iv­ing where you are adding an­other level of dan­ger. Be­ing well pre­pared and hav­ing a team that knows what they are do­ing is cru­cial. When train­ing for cold ex­po­sure, it’s im­por­tant to grad­u­ally build your tol­er­ance: Don’t fo­cus on the num­bers but lis­ten to your body. Last but not least, if you do it, en­joy!

Could you share some of your fu­ture goals with us?

I want to keep chal­leng­ing my mind and body on dif­fer­ent lev­els. Through my stud­ies, I’m re­ally in­ter­ested in the psy­cho­log­i­cal ben­e­fits of cold ex­po­sure. I do have some ex­cit­ing things com­ing up but you should stay tuned for more de­tails on that!

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