Freediving – to dive underwater without standard scuba gear. Historically, freediving was what people did to feed themselves via spear fishing. Imagine someone diving down to the depths of the ocean with nothing but a spear in hand, calmly looking for their next meal. Magical, isn’t it?
Nowadays, freediving is gaining traction globally as a sport with two associations governing the sport of “competitive apnea”: AIDA International (International Association for Development of Apnea) and CMAS (Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques – World Underwater Federation). Apnea simply means the holding of breath.
It might surprise you to know that in Singapore, there are already several organisations and centres where interested enthusiasts can dip their feet in the water to learn about this exciting sport.
It might also surprise you to know that Singapore has its very own freediver who has represented the country on the international stage in several competitions. Anqi Lim, the first female freediver to represent Singapore in the world championships, started scuba diving in 2004 when she fell in love with the ocean. Eventually after becoming a scuba diving instructor and teaching the sport in the southern island of Thailand in 2014, she met a freediving instructor who opened her eyes to a whole new and liberating way of experiencing the ocean.
Five years on and she hasn’t looked back. In 2015, Anqi moved to the island of Panglao in the Philippines to train more and eventually completed her instructor course with Freedive Panglao. She then decided to join one of the competitions they organised and actually created a record for Singapore.
On which events in competitive freediving she enjoyed most, Anqi said “I enjoy constant weight with fins.”
“Using the monofin is the most efficient way to go deep, and the movement and grace of using the monofin has made it my favourite discipline. Lately I have been training with bifins and I am starting to like it very much too,” she explained.
“In fact I enjoy all disciplines as each one adds a different dimension to diving and tests me in various ways, so I usually practise all disciplines.”
As for some of her favourite diving sports in Singapore, Anqi says “the southern island such as Lazarus or Sisters island make a nice day out in the sea away from the city. Although Singapore waters do not have good depth or visibility, I still enjoy getting out of the city to the islands with fellow freedivers. Sometimes we have BBQ on the beach after diving!”
She enthused, “Some of my favourite places for diving for marine life are in the coral triangle in Asia where the biodiversity is at its best such as Raja Ampat in Indonesia. Some special marine life include diving with dolphins in Mikurajima Island of Japan, and schools of manta rays in the Maldives. Panglao island in the Philippines is one of the best places for freediving training.”
She also mentioned the Maldives in the Indian Ocean and San Andres island of Colombia in the Caribbean as having some of the bluest and most amazing waters to dive in as well as Mexico being one of the best spots for cave diving.
“Greece is one of my favourites, an all rounded destination in the Mediterranean with good food, beaches and clear blue water, though I often still prefer warmer tropical waters,” she added.
Freediving is gaining interest and popularity
In an interview with TOC, Anqi told us that freediving has been gaining popularity on the island. In the last two years, there were two pool competitions in Singapore and in 2015, the Apnea Association of Singapore (AAS) was set up to generate interest in the sport and create awareness about safety in freediving, now with 250 members. Even so, there’s room for more interest, says Anqi.
Singapore’s freediver has achieved some fantastic records so far, holding the national record for Constant Weight with fins (62m), Constant Weight No-Fins (45m) and Free Immersion (58) which she set at the Asian Freediving cup in 2018, also winning the overall women’s category. On the world ranking, she’s ranked 101, 66, and 95 respectively in those events.
“The experience was incredible as I could have never imagined getting a first placing,” commented the athlete.
She adds, “This medal came as a surprise as my objective for competing has never been to win, but only to better my performances from the year before. It has always been a personal challenge, rather than a competition against others.”
Right now, Anqi has set her sights on the Freediving World Championships in Honduras that will take place in August. She’s already on the island of Roatán training, getting used to the water and preparing for her upcoming competitive dives.
But there’s still a long way to go in developing the sport in Singapore
For the moment, it’s difficult for Anqi to secure sponsorships to fund her Championship dreams as the sport is fairly new in Singapore.
“Freediving athletes from Singapore have almost little to no sponsorship for training or participation in competitions,” says Anqi, adding that she had managed to fund herself for regional competitions in the past in Indonesia and the Philippines. Now, however, a larger scale competition at a more expensive locations means more expenses. Anqi has set up a crowdfunding campaign to help her keep the dream alive.
“I chose to crowdfund also to raise awareness for the sport in Singapore. It is my hope that more Singaporean freediving athletes will have the support needed to compete in the international stage and we will have Team Singapore represented at the world championships in the future.”
You can follow this page to find out more about the competition and support Singapore’s first female freediver at the world championships in Roatán: https://www.gofundme.com/freedivingWC.