Hi, my name is Danel Wentzel.
I'm a freediver and a marine biologist.
I'm gonna take you guys through my top wellness practices.
It helps me be the best when I am in the water.
I can hold my breath for up to four minutes
and I probably spend at least an hour
in the water every day.
My top three wellness practices are movement,
fueling my body, and being involved in my community.
It is bright and early. I just woke up.
First thing I do when I open my eyes,
it might sound silly, but I just say thank you
for another beautiful day.
It's gonna be a great one and I can't wait.
And then I would hop out of bed,
I'll do some stretches, and then off to make breakfast.
I love having muesli and yogurt
and it's really good for that long, sustaining energy.
My morning runs are always different.
If I have a lot of time, I would go up in the mountains,
I'd go for a little trail run anywhere
between eight kilometers to about 20 kilometers.
With running, I'm able to build up a lot
of anaerobic training, which helps increase my lung capacity
at the end of the day.
When I freedive and I hold my breath,
having that extra lung capacity is very, very important.
With combining running and yoga,
I'm able to strengthen and train and stretch the muscles
around my rib cage, my torso, my intercostal muscles,
my diaphragm, because it's important to open up space
for your lungs to stretch out in.
I mean, kind of think about your lungs being a balloon.
If you take a deep breath in and your rib cage
is very, very tight, then there's not gonna be a lot
of room for your balloon to expand.
I train to increase that room, the space
for my lungs to expand.
Other muscle groups that I also include in my training,
obviously, is my legs.
'Cause when you are wearing freediving fins
and you are either kicking in the ocean
or you are kicking down a line, doing depth,
you don't wanna run into the issue
that you are 30 meters down, now your legs are too tired
to kick yourself to the surface.
The only thing I would say is very important to me
is that everything that I use is kind to the environment.
So I love trying different things, different soap,
shampoo bars, things that don't come in plastic packaging,
as well as making sure that the actual ingredients
in there is biodegradable.
So my toothbrush for instance is made of bamboo,
toothpaste in the little glass jar,
I use a shampoo and conditioner bar.
I make sure whenever I'm in the ocean
I use a zinc-based sunscreen that will stay
on my face as well as it is ocean safe and ocean friendly.
Post-run smoothie is also very important.
As I just came from the mountain,
I obviously need to refuel my body.
I add vegan protein powder, a good way
to get that extra protein in.
It helps with muscle recovery.
And then I add a big heaped scoop of all the greens,
which is a mix of spinach and kale
and spirulina and chlorella,
which is filled with so many vitamins and minerals.
I got my bag, I got my beanie, and I got my smoothie.
I've been freediving for as long as I can remember,
since I was really, really young.
I think what got me into free diving is just my love
for movement and being outdoors and the underwater world.
Once a year, we went to a site called Sodwana Bay,
which is the place where the Southern most coral reefs
are in the world and I started snorkeling around there
when I was 11.
Just wanting the ability to not have to rely
on scuba diving gear and just free dive with my dad,
that kind of sparked my love for freediving.
Just wanna go deeper and see all the colorful fish
and corals that is out there in the world.
So the first thing I do when I get
to the water is I do cartwheels just because I love
being at the ocean and I'm the biggest kid.
It just makes me so happy to be there in that environment.
I think that if people see me just be so stoked
about the ocean, it helps them
if they are scared to be like,
Hey this is actually a very interesting experience.
If this was really scary, then our instructor
would not be doing cartwheels on the beach.
This is my mask that I use for freediving.
It is different than a scuba diving mask
because it is low volume and it is also a single-frame mask,
meaning it doesn't have that little line in the middle.
It has one singular lens and that helps expand the field
of view so that when you are underwater
you can see a little bit more of the underwater environment.
So with the fins, they are designed
to be very hydrodynamic in the water.
So they are long and when you are kicking,
you don't kick with those short little body boarding fins.
There's not fast kicks. It's nice, slow, controlled kicks.
This is going to help you conserve oxygen
when you are down in the water and you are diving.
So the slower the kicks and the harder they are,
the faster you're gonna move in the water
and that's why these fins are so long
and they're specifically designed
to be as energy efficient as possible.
So the next piece of equipment, if you are diving
in a place like Cape Town, where the water
is always cold, is a wetsuit.
This is my little wetsuit right here.
It is a surf suit and it doesn't have a hood,
but I also do have an external hood that I can pop
on my head to make sure my ears are nice and toasty.
When I do wear a wetsuit, very important,
this makes me floaty so then I wanna wear
something called a weight belt to counteract that buoyancy.
When we are freediving and me and my friends plan
a really long, slow, free dive and we know we're gonna be
in the water for two to three hours,
we carry with us a little buoy.
I fill it with some snacks like energy bars
or apples or oranges, so when we get tired,
we can rest on it.
If we get hungry, we can steal a little snack from it.
And that is a very nice cheat way
of carrying snacks with you when you freedive.
So I do have a watch that I use when I freedive.
Firstly, it keeps track of time to make sure
I don't do three hour free dives, which often does happen,
especially when the visibility's really good
and the water temperature isn't that cold.
Afterwards, it gives me my profile.
So then it has a little cute little bar graph
and I can go back and I can see,
Okay, I was in the water for an hour.
I did 20 dives and each dive, I averaged two minutes.
If I go again in a week's time
and I really wanna focus on,
Okay, this dive isn't just for fun.
This dive, I'm gonna push my breath holding,
then I might aim for two and a half minutes average per dive
compared to the last time I did two minutes.
When I go into the ocean and prepare
for my first duck dive down,
I pause and I really focus on my breathing.
I focus on taking slow, deep breaths
and I focus on slowing down my heart rate.
So if I breathe in for four seconds,
but I breathe out for eight seconds,
what will happen is my heart rate will start slowing down.
So by slowing down your heart rate,
it helps you to preserve oxygen.
When I'm freediving depth,
the challenge of pressure kinda comes into play.
The deeper you dive, you will notice you would have
to start equalizing to be able to withstand
that change in pressure.
When you get past to about 20 meters, the normal way
of equalizing, where it would be pinch your nose,
blow it out, ears got pop is no longer that effective.
I do something called hands-free equalizing.
It is when you equalize
using the little airspace in your mouth.
So you would keep your mouth closed
and you would kind of push your tongue back
down your throat and that creates a little vacuum,
a little negative pressure,
And that is how you can equalize
without having to use your hands on the line.
At one point, you would feel weightless.
This is where I stop kicking
and I just let the weight of gravity pull me down,
so that way I'm also conserving oxygen.
And then something happens when I reach 15 meters.
I start becoming negatively buoyant.
Gravity comes into place again
and I can just feel that weight pull me down to depths.
The deeper you go, the faster you sink,
and it's honestly one of the most incredible experiences.
It might sound very scary, but that's also why
I'm always attached to a line and have a lanyard
that keeps me to that line.
But the feeling of being negatively buoyant, sinking down,
it is something I just can't explain.
And then you start heading back for the surface again.
At this point, you've already been holding your breath
and for me, it's the toughest section.
My legs are tired because I am kicking and operating
with a lot less oxygen in my body.
So my body has to fight and work even harder.
At this point, I start feeling the contractions.
Sometimes I love just singing a song in my head.
I'll sing the ABC song, I'll count,
anything to just keep me distracted
and keep my mind focused on the goal.
So the really interesting thing about freediving
is people don't black out on the way down.
It is that last 10 meters
where you come up to the surface again.
You are holding your breath,
you are depleting your oxygen levels,
and you are increasing your carbon oxide levels.
So as you come up to the surface,
that sudden increase in partial pressure of carbon oxide
is what caused you to do something
called a shallow water blackout.
Something that I do to train is called CO2 tables.
I'll lay flat on my bed and I'll have my little timer next
to me and I'll have that timer ticking down,
counting down, all my different CO2 tables.
It is where I would hold my breath
not only to bolt up my lung capacity
but also increase my body's tolerance
against carbon dioxide.
Whenever I've just finished a long freedive
and I'm on my way to the surface,
I would do something called hook breathing.
So I'll breathe out
just getting rid of all the excess carbon dioxide
and then you would slowly take deep recovery breaths.
And then the amount of time I spend at the surface
also depends on how long my previous dive was for,
how tired I am.
For me, the most challenging thing about freediving
is definitely the mental aspect.
So when I'm preparing to do a deep dive
and I'm going down the line,
there is a lot that goes in my head mentally.
Can I do this? Can I not do this?
Yeah, is my safety along the line?
Is my lanyard attached to my wrist?
That is why I concentrate on my breathing.
By focusing on my breathing,
I make sure it's the only thing that I hear.
I try to listen to the sound of my heartbeat
and that will help me to just recenter my focus
and clear my head.
So with freediving, I obviously spend a lot
of time in the ocean.
And when you're in the ocean,
you tend to see some very cool things,
like kelp forests and coral reef and fish.
So to be able to see that and not know
what you are looking at, it's quite weird.
So I would say definitely free diving
has helped me in my marine biology journey.
I moved down to Cape Town,
came to come study marine biology,
and four years later, I qualified with a degree
in marine biology and oceanography.
I think there is some benefit that when I'm freediving
I can have better encounters with marine life.
When you are scuba diving, you have all these big,
loud bubbles and a lot of the animals, especially some
of the more skittish shark species, don't really like that.
So if you freediving, you don't have any noise,
you move more naturally and freely in the water,
and I tend to find that animals come up
to you a lot more to come check you out.
Something that I always look forward to
is just having a big, nutritious lunch.
I follow a mainly plant-based diet,
so it is important for me to make sure I get my protein in
in some way or another.
So a lot of beans, chickpeas, adding those in,
some nuts and seeds, and also making sure
that I get carbs in.
Just something that will fill me and sustain me
to have energy for the rest of the day.
I wouldn't describe myself as being a strict vegetarian.
What is really important to me
is I do follow kind of a 98% plant vegetarian lifestyle.
The biggest reason is what freediving has taught me.
So when I was in the ocean and I see all this fish,
I don't wanna be the person to eat the fish
because I do believe that the fish are my friends
and they're not my food, as cliche as it might sound.
From there, I then started
making conscious lifestyle choices, not eating fish anymore.
As time went along, switched to plant-based
alternative milks, I stopped eating red meat,
stop eating pork.
Freediving was that gateway for me.
So another way freediving has impacted my life,
it allowed me to be a part of Save our Seas.
I'm here at my office, the Save our Seas Foundation
Shark Education Centre in Kalk Bay.
This is where I spend my days,
As a free diver, I find it very important
to educate people about the beauty of our oceans.
The ocean gives us climate control, it gives us food,
it gives us fresh water.
I have been freediving in Cape Town for about six years now
and I can definitely say there has been
some environmental changes that I have been observing.
From more plastic litter on the beaches
to even the kelp forests.
Some of the kelp isn't in the best condition,
so with warming sea surface temperatures,
it's been seeing a lot more microplastics,
especially stuck to the little tiny sea urchins
on the rocks.
I would say it is one thing to watch documentaries
and learn about the threats our oceans
are facing at university, but to be in the ocean
and seeing these threats firsthand, it affects you mentally.
But I do have to say that I have been involved
with some pretty amazing people and I've seen that
when you do get education across to some people,
that we can make a difference and we can make an impact.
I would say on a personal level,
freediving means so much to me.
It helps me mentally because every time I go into the ocean,
you just have the rest of the world go quiet.
I can close my eyes and all I can hear
is bubbles and silent.
I go to the ocean to have that opportunity, to take a pause.
To be able to have that,
that is what I really wanna share with people.
Besides free diving, I love to just be out and active.
Doing other activities like surfing and skateboarding,
mountain biking, it just gives me the opportunity
to spend a lot more time with my friends
being active and moving my body.
And I love taking that little bit of happiness
into the ocean with me when I do freedive.
After a long day of diving in the ocean,
the first thing I do is probably just get a nice,
hot shower, followed by rinsing all the dive equipment,
hanging it up to dry, and then getting ready
to prepare a good, yummy meal.
To ensure I get a good night's sleep,
what I'll do is I'll turn my phone off an hour
before going to bed and then spending that time in bed,
curled up, reading a book.
When get a good night's sleep, I know that my body is rested
and I have that ability to function normally
but as well as push my limits, if I choose to.
Some of the biggest lessons freediving has taught me
is just to have faith in myself.
My body is capable of doing so much
and by trusting my body, trusting my training,
I can push myself beyond limits
that I didn't even know I had.
So freediving, in a way, has definitely taught me a lot
in terms of just backing myself
and growing a little bit of the self confidence I can take
into day-to-day life.
The day is slowly starting to come to and end.
And what a productive one it was.
Thank you everybody for following along a day
in the life of a freediver.
Off to bed for a good night's rest.