To say Diana is a lover of the ocean would be the understatement of the year. Inspired by her lifelong ocean conservation efforts, we sat down with Oceanographer, Submarine Pilot, Freediving Record Holder and Yoga Instructor Diana Garcia Benito as she continues to raise her voice to educate the world about taking care of our oceans.
Night Slides (NS): Diana, good to meet you and thanks for taking the time out of your very busy schedule to be with us today. First and foremost, it’s clear you have a boundless love for the water, where did all begin?
Diana Garcia Benito (DGB): Thank you SaIly. Well starting off, I was born and raised in Venezuela. When I was a kid, I developed a huge curiosity for the water world, perhaps because I grew up far away from it in the middle of the jungle, the fact of being an unknown world for me made me research for more information about it.
I was fascinated with all the discoveries, too. I would often have the opportunity to go to the beach or to the coast, but not so much, and during that time, I was in the water for hours looking underwater with my mask an snorkel!
When I was 12 years old, I was determined that I was going to study Oceanography at university. Eventually, I completed a double degree in Marine and Environmental Sciences, where my love for the ocean grew, but also I realised how bad the health status of the ocean was and I was so concern that needed to do something about it, so I started my journey on being an activist.
After university, I trained to become a submarine pilot for almost 4 years, where I was involved in some conservation and exploration projects across the world.
NS: Not only are you an ocean conservationist and a submarine pilot, but you’re also a freediving instructor. The sport of freediving has to be one of the most natural ways to experience the ocean, how did you end up partaking?
DGB: During my time as a submarine pilot, onboard there was a VIP guest – the former South African Freediving champion, Hanli Prinsloo – she was running some workshops and activities and I could join one for breathing and static. I thought I wasn’t going to be able to hold my breath more than 30 seconds, but surprisingly, the first time I tried after following Hanli’s instructions I did 1 minute and 50 seconds!
I got hooked after that, especially after holding my breath underwater, feeling free and one with the ocean.
NS: As you gain confidence and start to push the boundaries in the water, the darker side of the sport will always come into question. How do you deal with these situations mentally and physically?
DGB: There are safety protocols to follow, methods and the most important part is self-awareness. In any sport there are risks, you need to know them, prevent them, act in the correct way if they happen.
Physical training is essential. Nowadays, I don’t have time for my own training, I am teaching a lot and I don’t manage to have enough days off to train but I am not focusing on competing for the moment, teaching and fun diving is good for me at the moment.
Mental training is something I train every day, since I started freediving and yoga I discovered a whole new world about your body and mind and it changed my life, meditation and relaxation exercises are part of my daily life.
NS: You don’t only see the underwater world via freediving, what other ways are you exploring?
DGB: I used to be a scuba diver for a long time and a submarine pilot. Having the opportunity to explore the ocean inside a submarine and I was the one choosing where to go, it was a privilege.
All those experiences are imprinted in my brain forever. Also, I watch a lot of documentaries about oceans, marine life, environmental facts, etc.
NS: And your camp is based in Dahab, Egypt. What were your reasons for this location to base yourself there?
DGB: Dahab is the freediving Mecca! You have easy access to depth, a calm life, good weather and sea conditions. The nature around is beautiful (above and under the water), the freediving community is big here and people are very interesting and good souls.
The combination of all of that makes it a wonderful place to stay for a while.
NS: It’s almost every day in the media that we see the human impact on our oceans, your Deep Change Project is trying to change that. What objectives are you trying to achieve with this?
With every course I teach and to the people around me, what I try to do is to expose the reality and give some solutions and tools to change the critical situation and how to create a positive impact.
Not only raising awareness but also helping people to act on it.
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Ghost fishing .* Fishing nets, long lines, fish traps among others are lost in the ocean, continuing fishing. Thousands of kilometres of nets that are abandoned keeps killing. .* Ghost fishing is one of the greatest killers of the ocean. .* The swim wear I'm using is made out of recycled fishing nets and other recycled polyamides. @o.cala_eco .* 📷@liviofakeye
NS: A lot of people from the outside will look at a sport like freediving and say “I can’t even hold my breath for a minute” – what’s your response to that?
DGB: I said almost the same words! I didn’t think I was able to hold my breath for more than 30 seconds. We don’t know the superpower we have inside us, there is a mechanism that is triggered in our body just with your face being exposed to the water, that helps you to hold your breath for longer. Once you follow some instructions and safe methods you will discover this amazing skill we all have inside us.
NS: It’s great to see people taking a stand for our oceans, what adventures are we going to see you in over the next coming year?
DGB: For the moment the plan is to be at Dahab, Egypt for the long term, not futures plans or opportunities yet. I have a flexible agenda and always open for new adventures.
A true superwoman of the oceans! Thanks again for your time today Diana, we wish you all the best with your ocean conservation efforts and we hope to see you in Dahab soon for some freediving lessons.