Interview: Freediving champion Rebecca Coales

Meet diver, yoga instructor and part mermaid Rebecca Coales, a freediving record holder who can swim 587ft under water on a single breath.

unnamed-2 copy Rebecca Coales freediving

British free dive record holder, freedive instructor and yoga teacher Rebecca, 38, set a UK free diving record in 2014 – swimming almost four lengths (that’s 2.5 minutes!) of an Olympic pool without coming up for air. Skills. She talked to me about diving around the world, her training regime and how yoga helps her keep calm.

rebecca

How and when did you first start diving?
I’ve been a scuba diver for many years, but 5 years ago on a scuba holiday in Egypt I had a go at freediving on a day off. I’d always fancied the idea of being in the water without heavy tanks and equipment. I loved freediving instantly. When I came back to the UK I took a beginners course and by the summer was diving to 20m depth. I started a small club in Bristol so I had friends to dive with – we’re now 4 years old and have 25 members with more waiting to join.

Can you tell me about starting to dive competitively?
I’d tried a few competitions previously, but didn’t start to take it seriously until the start of 2013. This was after taking pool freediving clinics with Steve Millard of Apneists UK, who has since became my coach. Getting personal bests in all three of my events in March 2013 got me hooked and I was accepted to join the UK team at the World Championships that summer.

How did it feel when you set your first national record?
I felt a huge sense of achievement, but also some relief as it was a nerve-wracking experience! When you set up a record attempt all the judges, safety divers and photographers are there for you alone, which felt daunting at first.

In 2014 you became the UK female Pool Freedive Champion. How did you prepare for the competition?
I trained from October 2013 through to March 2014 with only a few days off over Christmas. I particularly worked on my monofin technique and static apnea so that all 3 of my events would be the best I could achieve. A week before the event everything felt perfect and I was doing great distances and times in the pool, so I felt really confident going into the competition.

Rebecca Coales freediving unnamed-1

How did it feel to win?
I was overwhelmed to win as there was stiff competition from several ladies with years of experience. I felt really proud of myself because I knew I’d put in so much effort to get there.

Where are your favourite places to dive around the world?
I’ve been lucky enough to dive in some beautiful locations including Australia and the Caribbean. The Great Barrier Reef has so many amazing locations to dive I could keep going back for many years. I tend to go to the Red Sea for freedive training for the warmth, blue seas and excellent instruction. I do have a few favourite spots in the UK too – especially around Cornwall.

You’re also a yoga instructor. What’s the crossover between the two disciplines?
To freedive well you need to be relaxed and move efficiently in the water. Some people are blessed with a natural ability for both, but most of us need a little help to overcome the stresses and strains of daily life. Yoga is a holistic practice that addresses physical stiffness, tension and lack of energy. It also encourages better breathing and an ability to focus the mind. These benefits come with regular practice so yoga has also taught me about discipline in training!

unnamed Rebecca Coales freediving

What’s your training regime like at the moment?
I’ve just started training again for the next season. At the moment I’m trying to get my fitness back as this drops off over the competitive phase when you’re mainly doing one or two big dives a week. For fitness training I run outdoors or at the gym, and swim….alot! I’m working with a new personal trainer (Mark Durford of Create Fit) on strength and conditioning specific to swimming. I aim for around 15 hours of training per week built around four days of work and one rest day. My training plan needs to address many aspects of the sport so is very busy, but there is lots of variety and that keeps me motivated.

How can beginners try out freediving?
Please don’t try in the pool on your own! Its best to find an instructor who can give you some tips on relaxation and breathing, and help you out with equipment for swimming underwater in the pool. Most people need some extra weight to keep them hydrodynamic in the pool. There are instructors all over the country – you can find out more on the British Freediving Association website.

What’s your next big goal?
We will have World Championships in the pool next summer so I working towards these as my main goal, hoping to achieve more personal bests and possibly even a medal!

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