The Hidden World of Freediving


Christina & Eusebio

I was surfing the cyber wave recently and came across some incredible images of freediving, I started to wonder how the hell you’d even begin to learn something like this, is it a matter of holding your breath for as long as possible in the bathtub and trying to go 10 seconds better each time or do you need proper full on tuition in a safe, non rubber-ducky environment? I hit up the owners of these images to find out more and turns out that they’re professional freedivers and record-holders… Wowzer…

With my head full of questions, I threw some questions at  husband and wife team, Eusebio and Christina Saenz de Santamaria and owners of the all-impressive shots and here’s what they had to say..

How did you first get involved in freediving?

Christina ~ Growing up by the ocean in Sydney, Australia, I have always had a strong connection with the ocean. In my early twenties I was exploring the world and traveled to the small tropical island of Koh Tao in Thailand to teach scuba diving when I saw some incredible underwater footage of freedivers swimming deep beneath the sea without equipment. It looked so free, fun and seductive. So I started freediving in 2005 when I completed my first course at the freediving school ‘Apnea Total’ on Koh Tao.

Eusebio ~ from Spain, was traveling through Southeast Asia when he noticed some divers holding their breath in a swimming pool. Curious, he gave it a go himself to discover that he had a great natural talent for breath-hold and a passion for freediving in the ocean. Following this he travelled worldwide to countries such as Egypt and Turkey to further his apnea experience and education before co-founding the school ‘Apnea Total’ in Koh Tao, Thailand in 2004, which has now grown and developed into an international organisation and recognized freediving education system.

FreeDive Hawaii & The Pit

What is it about freediving which attracted you to doing it?

Christina ~” It simply makes me happy, it calms me, it satisfies my hunger for challenge and I love the ocean. Another major appeal for me is that freediving is a sport that is both mentally and physically challenging.”

Eusebio ~ “Freediving re-energises me, I never get tired of being in the water” Eusebio is a former National Record holder for Spain in the three depth categories. He currently freedives to 100 metres in depth in the self-powered disciplines, a triple-figure barrier that very few men in the world have surpassed.

Why have you chosen Thailand as your base?

Christina ~ “The small tropical island of Koh Tao where we live is beautiful, charming, has a cool vibe and natural lifestyle. It is a great place to teach freediving and train with warm waters year round and beautiful tropical marine life. We love the freedom of lifestyle we have here without the imposing rules and regulations that you often feel when living in Western countries.”

If your profession wasn’t freediving, what do you think you might be doing instead?

Christina ~ “It would likely be something extreme and physically challenging although I can’t imagine life without freediving.”

Eusebio ~ “Something exciting; base-jumping … porn-star …!”

FreeDiving Eusebio

If you had to single out 1 incredible freediving experience, which one would it be and why?

Christina ~ “I have two: freediving with the Caribbean reef sharks of Roatan and freediving with the wild spinner dolphins of Hawaii. The reef sharks were truly exhilarating to freedive with. To look into the eyes of these creatures is to see a primitive and instinctive animal that is strong, streamlined and built as the ultimate sleek machine for the oceans. The wild dolphins were pure fun, playful and immensely intelligent to freedive with. I loved how curious they were of us as they would spin, twirl and twist around our bodies underwater with a flick of a tail.”

Eusebio ~ “It was within my first year of freediving when during one of my ascents an impressive 600-pound black marlin swam within 5 metres in front of me in blue waters. I still have the image of such a powerful and impressive underwater creature clearly imprinted in my memory.”

How do you and Eusebio decide on your next project?

Christina ~ “We decide upon our new projects according to how challenging they are, how we can share the experience together and how we can learn more about ourselves and the ocean by expanding the boundaries both physically and mentally.”

What is the best thing about freediving and what is the worst thing?

Christina ~ “Best: Through freediving we have discovered and explored some incredible places in the world. Worst: Nada”

Eusebio ~ “Best: Meeting great people who share the same passion. Worst: Meeting a lot of weirdo’s too!”

FreeDiving Xmas and Training

If you could give the 15 year old you a piece of advice, what would that advice be?

Christina ~ “Freedive now!”

Eusebio ~ “Go to Koh Tao, buy some land and start freediving now.”

What keeps you awake at night?

Christina ~ “The only thing that ever keeps us awake would be a big night out and fun with friends.”

What was the inspiration for founding Apnea Total?

Christina ~ “Apnea Total was founded by Eusebio and Monica Ganame in 2003 and was inspired by the lack of a correct and structured freediving education system in Southeast Asia and the desire to share and promote a safe, fun method of freediving for everyone. I came along later in 2005 when I completed my first freediving courses at Apnea Total, where I progressed, established new freediving records and I am now coaching at the school.”

Tell us a secret…

Eusebio ~ “Elvis is still alive”

What are you most looking forward to during the remainder of 2014?

Christina ~ “We have some big projects coming up involving a 5-month freediving adventure to the Caribbean where we will be reuniting with some old friends, freediving with tiger sharks and breaking new records.”

You’ve got some incredibly impressive records under your belt, which record do you have your eye on next?

Christina ~ “Our freediving projects and records are soon to be announced on our website, however one of the records will involve a tandem dive where Eusebio and I will dive together as deep as our bodies and minds can take us.”

Where are you right now and please describe your view/what’s around you?

Christina ~ “In our house that we built on Koh Tao, Thailand. We are elevated high with sweeping views over Koh Tao, the palm-fringed hillsides, the half-moon bay and main town of Sairee and out over the blue sea of the Gulf of Thailand. This house is our retreat, our office and our place of peace.”

What has been your biggest lesson learned in life so far?

Christina ~ “You choose your own life and happiness. Reality and happiness is simply a product of your own perspective on life, how you choose to see the world, the choices that you make and the possibilities that you create.”

Eusebio ~ “I won’t waste a second of being with someone I don’t like.”

BW Roatan Shark Dive 02

If you could secretly get away with 1 thing and no one would ever find out, what do you think you’d do?!

Eusebio ~ “Breathe underwater”

Christina ~ “That’s too good, I second that!”

What makes you sad?

Christina ~ ” Being geographically separated from people I love.”

Eusebio ~ “Thinking of my dad … I can’t hug him anymore.”

Aside from free diving, what makes you happy?

Christina ~ “A happy husband”

Eusebio ~ “My wife being happy”

What are you listening to on your iPod at the moment?

Christina ~ ‘One Day’ – Reckoning Song (Wankelmut Remix) – Asaf Avidan and the Mojos

Eusebio ~ ‘In the City’ – Chromatics

Fill in the following blanks:

My pet peeve is: dirty plates left in the sink
Imminent Danger is: tripping over my own bloody clumsy feet
The swear word I use the most is: bloody hell… I am Australian after all
Nobody knows this but sometimes I … eat chocolate for breakfast…

My pet peeve is: to shave
Imminent Danger is: not being tidy in the house (my wife…)
The swear word I use the most is: I’m Spanish, this could take a while, we have an extensive vocabulary for swearing….
Nobody knows this but sometimes I…… shave my cojones.

Hooked? Find out more about Eusebio and Christina’s work and way of life here
All imagery courtesy of One Ocean One Breath



More from iLivExtreme