Ever since I first discovered the world of Freediving in Koh Tao just over a year ago I was pretty hooked. It mixed my love of the ocean with a new challenge – one that pushed my mental boundaries and gave me a new found confidence in the water.
After completing my SSI Level 1 I quickly found the opportunity to progress to gain my Level 2 certification by freediving in Gili T, Indonesia.
With my breathe hold at just over 2 minutes 30 seconds and a personal best depth of 23 metres I’ve been keen to freedive whenever I can.
In Ecuador at the beginning of the year I spent heaps of time in the pool with a freedive buddy, practicing static holds and lengths with the aim of heading to the Galapagos Islands – which unfortunately due to breaking my toe had to be cancelled…which sucked!
A Unique Perspective
Earlier this month with flights to Iceland all booked I was investigating scuba diving at Silfra when I suddenly thought “well if I’m going to scuba dive in Iceland, why not locate a freedive club and really go all out”.
A few emails later I found myself with an invite to join Birgir from Freedive Iceland at one of the worlds most beautiful yet strangely unpublicised dive sites.
The Perfect Dive Site
Silfra is famous for 2 reasons. First is the visibility – the glacial waters of Iceland are filtered over 100s of years through volcanic rock and emerge on the surface right by the dive platform.
The result is crystal clear, fresh water – literally good enough to drink – with visibility on a standard day being 100 metres plus! Ask any diver and they’ll tell you that’s freaking incredible!
The second draw of Silfra is the geography of it.
It’s where the tectonic plates of America and Europe meet.
This results in the dive site literally being between two continents!
How incredible is that for a unique place to do anything, let alone freedive!
Needless to say that was one hell of a bucket list tick to crack on with and I was seriously stoked for it!
Cold And…Not So Dark?!
As if the whole holding your breath underwater wasn’t made cool enough by doing it between two continents Birgir decided to throw another curve ball into the mix and arrange it for a 7pm pickup – summer time in Iceland means the sun never sets and it’s crazy light 24/7.
So…yup…freediving between two continents, in Iceland, under the midnight sun.
It was surely shaping up for a rather epic experience!
After driving through the gorgeous Icelandic countryside some 45 minutes from the capital of Reykjavik we arrived at the Silfra site.
I’m not sure what I was expecting but it was somewhat unimposing. Very quaint.
Don’t get me wrong – it was stunning – but I guess I’d built up a mental image of a grand scene where countries collide!
Still the exterior hid the sheer beauty of Silfra beneath the surface.
After braving the windy Icelandic evening and sliding into our 5mm hooded freedive wetsuits (yup no dry suits for us free divers!) we walked towards the platform, weighted up and jumped in.
Trust me when I say that if I wasn’t awake after my flight before hitting the water I surely was afterwards – it was 3 degrees!
Geez I thought I had it bad as a British surfer but that was a shock to the system!
A Hidden World
And with my body recoiling from the cold I adjusted my mask and dipped my head under for my first view of the landscape beneath.
Having travelled the world for 3 years and not being one to stray away from odd and adventurous experiences it’s fair to say I’m somewhat jaded by a lot of things these days and I don’t really appreciate them as much as I should.
But Silfra was something else.
Breathtaking (no pun intended!)
Literally insert any description of pure natural beauty here and you’ll still fall short of how truly small and in awe you feel on your first view into the depths.
Any chills I had previously felt were soon evaporated as my suits heated up and the sheer stoke of being able to freedive Silfra took over!
Into The Blue
Over the next hour me, Birgirs and his amusing moustached Icelandic buddy (whose name I couldn’t remember or pronounce…it later turned out to be Steini, which I still can’t pronounce) dove into the blue tinted depths of the cavern between the continents, between the imposing boulders, into the swim throughs and along the sandy bottom.
Every breathe up was done in anticipation of being able to spend time looking up to the midnight light dappling through the surface with the perfect silhouettes of my new freedive buddies looking as if they were flying above me.
It was trance like.
The Icelanders – accustomed to the cold and well practiced divers – explored the deep and tackled the tunnels as I watched on from shallower depths, part mesmerised by their effortless dive times and part annoyed that I hadn’t trained more before heading out!
As the cold crept in we had to draw the dive to a close but not before exploring the shallows of Silfra – where neon green algae clings to the rich brown rocks, perfectly contrasted against the deepening shades of blues.
It was like someone had painted it!
Slightly shivering and totally confused by the fact it was still bright as day at nearly 10pm we shared high fives and stories of freediving in -25 air temperature in the snow (I say traded…more them laughing at my lack of tolerance for the cold – travelling has certainly made me soft!) on the walk back to the car park and the horrible rush to get changed whilst I still had some mobility!
I could barely feel my hands, my nose was running and my teeth were chattering but I haven’t felt that stoked about an experience for a long time.
The videos and photos convey the beauty somewhat – but nothing beats laying eyes on Silfra in person. If you head to Iceland I thoroughly recommend checking it out – be it dive, snorkel or scuba. In fact I also explored with scuba tanks the next day – but that’s another blog post!
If you’re interested in freediving in Iceland you can book AIDA or SSI courses with Birgir through Epic Gap Year and if you already freedive he does guided freedives in various locations throughout Iceland.
**PLEASE NOTE – I received a complimentary freedive tour courtesy of Birgir and Freedive Iceland – but all opinions are honest and my own**
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