I’ve always had a deep fascination and connection with the sea. Countless hours of my childhood were spent in the ocean learning to surf in San Clemente, CA, or walking down the sandy beaches. After the years passed my love for the sea drove me in new directions. Now many years later, I have found myself in Costa Rica creating an all new connection with the warm waters of this tropical coastline, practicing free diving and spearfishing, and incorporating this interest in my artwork. I took up snorkeling and spearfishing after moving here, and unlocked yet another layer of the sea I had not known first hand. It’s a surreal experience to be under the water while strange creatures swim by and currents and waves pull you in different directions. Your breathing slows and you try and swim in effortless motions, and not look or act out of place in hope of blending in and truly experiencing the life of a “Pacific Bottom Dweller”. This was my inspiration for one of our latest graphics, that we now hand screen onto upcycled shirts. Read on to hear about my experience getting my PADI Level 1 Freediver certification, and diving down to 70 feet in the sea.
After a couple of years of snorkeling, diving and holding my breath with no formal training I wanted to unlock the secrets of freediving and push myself deep into the sea on a single breath of air. Freediving is technical and requires training and understanding of the mammalian dive reflex that we all posses. To do this I found Freedive Costa Rica who offered certified training by a master of the underwater world. His name is Gauthier Ghilain and he has dove deeper into the sea on a single breath of air than anyone I have ever met. The process began in a classroom on a yoga mat where we learned about the body’s ability to conserve and redirect blood and oxygen when placed under water. Most importantly was the proper technique of breathing deep and packing your lungs full of air. After 2 days of training and static breath holds in the pool, we were ready to attempt our 20 meter freedives to receive our PADI Level 1 Freediver certification. But more importantly, it would be a personal achievement that I would remember forever.
We headed out on a large dive boat from Playa Flamingo. The boat was filled with scuba divers and a handfull of freedivers. We were headed to the Islas Catalinas, a small chain of islands just off the coast. An amazing place for diving and fishing. We dropped off the scuba divers in all their cumbersome gear in the 25 foot depth zone. Then we headed back out to the deeper water where we would be freediving. Our instructor threw the training float in and we all slid into the warm tropical waters. It was perfect; the islands in the distance, as we floated in 100 feet of pure sea. A marker was set at various depths on a weighed line that we followed down and returned up. We used the breathing techniques we learned in the class and pool and pushed deeper as the marker was lowered. It went pretty smoothly, and one by one we made dives into the deep with our instructor following behind. It’s important to have someone watching you as you dive deep. The day went on and the final marker at 20 meters was set for our last dives of the course. My first attempt was slightly rushed and I was not relaxed enough. As I came near 60 feet I began to panic and lost sight of the marker and turned for a hasty retreat. I surfaced, performed my proper breathing and all was good. The second diver went down and the instructor followed behind. Within a matter of 25 seconds he was returning from the dive with a thumbs up for a completed dive! I was instantly inspired and knew it was not a matter of me not holding my breath long enough, it was only that I doubted myself. I breathed up and made my dive I was calm and focused on my technique as I passed 40 feet the water became darker and colder and in the distance I could hear the signing of a mother whale to her calf. I slowed myself as I dropped into 60 feet. I could see the marker so close. I felt good and had plenty of oxygen to reach my goal. I grabbed the marker at 70 feet with one hand and let my body drop and make a 180 to return head first for the surface. I hung there for a moment suspended in the water holding the marker with my outstretched arm listening to those whales signing. I looked into the endless liquid of blue and reveled in the moment and experienced the sea like I had never done before. Not as a creature of the surface floating on the topical layer but as a true creature of the sea deep in the heart of the ocean. The need to breathe snapped me back into focus and I looked up towards the light. The surface was far and I was ready for air. I swam up the rope and kept an even pace, kicking from my thighs and hips. I spotted my instructor at 40ft from the corner of my eye and tried my best to keep my technique in check. I gradually made my way up and my buoyancy began pulling me to the surface. I came up and took my quick breaths and just like that – I had returned no more than 30 seconds later from one of my most surreal moments of my life. It was smiles all around and we were ready to head home. The boat came back and we all pulled ourselves in, happy with our day in the sea. The sun was hot and the wind felt great as we headed back to Flamingo on the dive boat. We unloaded and headed off with our new-found skills of diving to depths in the sea known to few humans.
Check out some photos of my dives.
The whole experience was pretty amazing and I really felt inspired to finish up one of the freediving/spearfishing designs I had been sketching. So I polished up the design, added some new text and had a screen burned to screen print. The screen came back looking great and it was time to pull some ink. We’re using water based inks, which dry really fast in the warm climate of Costa Rica, so you only have a minimal window of screen time before your ink starts drying and clogging up your screen. It’s a true art and not one mastered overnight. We successfully screened a dozen or so of the “Pacific Bottom Dwellers” design. It’s always fun when I get to incorporate my life experiences in my art and design. I’m looking forward to designing and screening more tees inspired by our life in Costa Rica, and expanding our collection of designs.
If you’d like a shirt feel free to email us with your size and color request. Our inventory fluctuates so we can let you know our current stock.
By Trever Adams