In November 2015, I heard about a Freediving Mermaid Course taking place in Newquay, Cornwall. Excited and enthused, I enrolled for a birthday treat. Whilst my friend was hitting the waves on a surfboard for the first time in twenty years, I wriggled into a mermaid suit and mono-fin and discovered what life would be like as a mermaid.
During the morning session, we learned how to hold our breath for over two minutes by utilising all the air chambers in our bodies. Having reached a not too shoddy two and a half minutes, we donned our full mermaid regalia and were taught how to undulate gracefully through the water before an underwater photographic shoot late in the afternoon.
It was an interesting and fun experience but what they don’t tell you in the freediving guidebook is that holding your breath for a long time underwater is actually very painful! Your body convulses as it warns you are low on oxygen, activating a strong reflex inside, which makes you gasp for air. Professional freedivers have learned over time to control this reflex which allows them to go to depths of over two hundred meters and hold a single breath for over ten minutes (The world record is 22 minutes!)
There is another startling and rather macabre level to the freediving; after the convulsions, the body eventually blacks out and this is where things can get dangerous. I really enjoyed the mermaid experience but it confirmed to me where my real passion lay; in scuba diving. Give me an air tank and a pressure gauge any day over the perils of breath-holding, diving deep and blacking out! If you are thinking of freediving then always go with a professional instructor. Freediving UK are an amazing company; professional, friendly and most of all completely safe.