THE STORY BEGINS ON A SMALL ISLAND IN THE PACIFIC OCEAN
Freediving is a sport that teaches your mind and body to adapt into a new world of water. To do this one submerges in H20 without breathing for extended periods of time. I do it to connect with marine biodiversity. I began snorkeling at a very young age. It started when I was five in the Pearl Island Archipelago just outside of Panama City. We had a beach house in one of the Islands: Contadora. Every weekend I would be excited to snorkel for hours while looking at the colorful fish through my mask. With a desire to explore more and having developed a curiosity for the ocean, at age sixteen I became scuba certified. I could now discover new locations each with its own landscape of corals and rocks creating unique architectural structures for the marine animals residing in these underwater cities. I was fascinated by the aquatic world.
I LEARNED TO BE ONE WITH THE OCEAN
My evolution was inevitable as I was in love with the Ocean. The next steps in my story would be to get advanced certifications to dive deeper and at night, learn Nitrox to be able to use different gas mixes, and dive all around the world. I became involved in conservation and protecting marine biodiversity. I was then introduced to Freediving. To connect with the marine animals I needed to learn to hold my breath so that I could swim with them amongst them naturally. After returning to Panama from my journey to Hawaii for the IUCN World Conservation Congress I decided to get certified in freediving. The first class was at twilight, we started with yoga and breathing techniques. We relaxed, entered the pool at night and began training. I enjoyed it tremendously. Being underwater focused, swimming, not breathing was the best meditation. I performed well and was invited to participate in Panama's 1st International Freedive Competition. The categories: Dynamic Apnea with Fins, Dynamic Apnea without Fins and Static Apnea.
DYNAMIC APNEA WITH FINS + STATIC APNEA
The morning of the competition I was nervous and excited as they played our national anthem. In my hand I was holding the flag of my country: Panama. They called my name and I entered the pool. I closed my eyes and only felt the water around me, the external world was disappearing, my heartbeat was dropping and I was getting ready to swim. I hear them say: "Aïa Mar - ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one - OFFICIAL TOP" and I start swimming. There is a mental silence as one glides through the water. At this point the thought of needing oxygen is far from your mind, you are a fish. You keep swimming. Eventually you think about air; you try denial for a while pretending you are a mermaid, soon the human side in you wins and you come up to take deep breaths of precious air. I had been swimming underwater for a total distance of 182 feet | 63 meters. That became Panama's Female National Record for Dynamic Apnea with Fins.
Static Apnea consists of how long one can hold their breath. In order to succeed complete relaxation of the mind and body needs to happen. My moment comes. I breathe deeply and fill my lungs with air, place my head down in the water. Floating in the abysm of a world without gravity, eyes closed, I wait for time to pass. Thirty seconds, one minute, one thirty. Time feels eternal. I open my eyes and become entertained by the sunny rays of light dancing in the bottom of the pool. Two minutes. I close my eyes again and my mind wanders to swimming with sharks. I smile. Two minutes thirty, and I start am missing air a lot. Two minutes and fourty one second - Air we meet again! That becomes the female record for static apnea in Panama and I feel a warm sense of pride and gratitude to have been able to represent my country in a sport I love.