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

[Danel exhales]

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.

Good evening.

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.

[low-fi music]

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