Woman’s Day (New Zealand)
‘I should have been born with fins!’
Move over, Ariel – free diver Alana loves to relax 60 metres under the sea
For Alana Caskey, meditating means being dozens of metres under the water, holding her breath for minutes on end. Freediving is an unusual hobby, but the 42-year-old jokes she should have been born with fins. Like a human fish, Alana can hold her breath for over five minutes while she plunges so far under the surface, her lungs shrink to the size of oranges.
“It’s very relaxing,” she tells Woman’s Day. “It might be a battle against your own mind, but it’s addictive.”
Alana is one of Australia’s most impressive free divers and is often found in the watery wonderland of Port Stephens on the Hunter Coast of New South Wales, her home base. But her passion has taken her all over the world, including the Blue Hole off the Egyptian coast, where she went the deepest she’s ever been on her third visit. “It was only 59.8 metres, but I’m calling it 60,’’ she laughs.
In the Maldives, Alana was
part of a Guinness World Record attempt for the most free divers ever assembled. In 2019, 521 people freedived simultaneously in the clear waters of Baros Island, near Malé. That day, the president of the Maldives even took part and Alana says anyone can have a go – it’s all about being safe, practice and hard work.
In fact, Alana says she can teach anyone to hold their breath for a few minutes in just a couple of days of trying.
“It’s not like many other sports – if you build yourself up to do it, then you fail,” she tells. “It’s about getting into that mind frame of allowing your body to relax and go with the flow. The key is to allow your body to de-stress and not become anxious about the thought of having to take a breath.’’
Although Alana always had an affinity with the water, growing up on the Gold Coast, it wasn’t until she began spearfishing off Sydney’s beaches 20 years ago that she discovered freediving.
“After a while, I dropped the spear gun and started freediving to look at the fish,” explains Alana.
Soon she was hooked by the freedom of being under the surface. “The adrenaline rush when you achieve what you set out to do is something
I haven’t really experienced doing anything else.’’
By 2007, Alana and her then-husband Mike Wells realised there was a platform to take freediving to the next level as a business. Mike, also a renowned free diver, had taken a few trips to Egypt – a place with worldclass freediving locations – and returned with the expertise to start teaching.
“There weren’t a lot of freediving courses going on in Australia, so we decided he could get the men interested and my job was attracting the women!’’
She now teaches the skill to old and young. “I have a 72-year-old with one leg who can dive over 20 metres,” she enthuses. “If he can do it, then anyone can. There are no excuses – no extreme levels of fitness you need. It’s invigorating.”
While it’s important to ensure any would-be free diver learns the skill safely and with supervision, Alana tells her students to remember that humans, like whales and dolphins, are mammals.
“It’s just about learning to deal with low oxygen levels and depth – just like the other mammals in the ocean.”
‘It’s a battle against your own mind, but it’s addictive’