Ways of encountering water: ethics of freediving
Sara Malou Strandvad
(University of Groningen )
Anne Marie Dahler (University College Lillebælt)
Paper short abstract:
Based on an ongoing study of freediving, the sport of diving as long or deep under water without assisting air, this paper looks into the ethos of aquatic encounters by investigating various ways of diving and the role of instructors in providing and mediating experiences.
Paper long abstract:
In freediving, care for water becomes a priority, regardless of divers' political orientations. Having serene encounters with this natural element make freedivers certain of their superior access into the nature of water and our own bodies. Similar to scuba divers, who learn about marine conservation as part of their training, freedivers have personal experiences of this natural element, which makes it something worth protecting. Yet, freedivers moreover see their experiences of water as unmediated encounters (despite use of equipment), and thus stress that their practice outlines a strategy for caring for marine environments as well as for our own bodily natures. In this paper, we look into the different ways in which freedivers dive, outlining differences between seeing water as a medium for individual triumph or a medium for transformative personal explorations. Yet, this apparent opposition between heroism and holism is brought together in the practice of freediving, where a quantifying set-up provides a frame for entering and encountering the aquatic environment. Empirically, the presentation is based on interviews with 24 excellent freedivers (of 17 different nationalities), accompanied by auto-ethnography of freediving, and experiences of being a freediving instructor (one of the authors) for several years. As a focus point for our investigation, we address the role of freediving instructors. Often, the extraordinary freediver is portrayed as an epitome of individual accomplishment. Yet, we will turn attention to the role played by instructors in outlining strategies for divers and providing translations of bodily sensations from underwater breath-hold into verbalized experiences.
In other words: caring for water