Breathless

You may already know about this, but it was a first for me: free diving.  That is diving without a self-contained underwater breathing apparatus, or in other words, no oxygen tanks and breathing tubes. Using scuba gear would be too easy, and “unnatural,” say those who free dive. I only discovered free diving in conversation (not by actually doing it) when I was told that Carol Schrappe, one of the world’s best free divers, Brazilian record holder (242 feet!) and considered one of the top 15 female athletes in the world, was a guest at Divi Flamingo Beach Resort & Casino in Bonaire. The resort is a magnet for divers from all over the world, so the staff of Divi Dive is accustomed to having divers around all the time. But, the presence of Carole Schrappe at the property created a buzz. She is aqua royalty, known and admired the world over.

The Bonaire Tourist Authority recently invited her to come to learn about the island. Naturally, that included introducing her to Bonaire’s many sensational dive spots. Schrappe did many free dives while in Bonaire, many right at the Divi Flamingo. “I loved this place. It’s unique and perfect for free diving,” she said. “I’ll be back for sure.”

Schrappe practices competitive apnea.  We’ve all heard of apnea, defined as the suspension of external breathing, but I’m pretty certain that most of us would not consider it a contest. But apnea competitors attempt to attain great depths, times or distances in a single breath.   Which is probably why free diving qualifies as an extreme sport. I will stick to snorkeling by the Chibi Chibi the next time I’m in Bonaire. If you’ve ever dined there, you know you can peer right over the railing and watch myriad and colorful fish swim by.

And, wouldn’t you know there is an association governing the sport, sometimes called breath-hold diving, and staging competitions around the world. Given Schrappe’s stature in free diving circles and her impression of Bonaire, an international competition is bound to come to Bonaire in the not too distant future.

I also learned that there are records showing that Greek and Roman armies employed free divers to cut anchor lines so that enemy ships floundered on rocks. Thank goodness those days are over (hopefully) and we can just considered this all good fun and sport. Some spear fishermen and underwater photographers use it, as do synchronized swimmers and mermaid shows. I even read that free diving is part of underwater rugby, underwater hockey, and underwater target shooting.  Huh?  Now, those do sound a little extreme.

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