On 20 August 2017 Natalie Rudman broke her first record for South African Women’s free diving, by diving into the blue Caribbean Ocean 58 Meters down with One breath using her arms to pull her down a line and back up again (Free Immersion or FIM). It was the start of a very successful pre-competition warm up comp to the World Championships in the Caribbean Cup, held annually in Roatan, Honduras
The very next day she broke another SA Women’s record by diving to 50 Meters, using Bi-fins to propel her down and then up again, in the discipline Constant Weight or CWT Bi-Fins.
On the 26th of August, super star divers from all over the globe joined together in Roatan, Honduras and the Aida Freediving World championships began. 8 Women’s National records were broken on the first day, including Natalie’s own record, again in the discipline Free Immersion,Natalie broke her own record, set just 6 days before by diving to 60 Meters.
On the Final Day of the competition Natalie hesitantly announced a personal Best Depth in the Discipline of Constant Weight No Fins (CNF) of 43 Meters, the most physically demanding discipline and one should it be broken would be a record not been broken in over 6 years. Natalie made the dive and succeeded and she now holds 3 South African records of the 4 Disciplines of depth, having made 4 new records throughout the two competitions.
I grew up in KZN, in a small green suburban town called Kloof. I spent as much time at the ocean as I could, surfing in my teens, and just trying to be a beach bum as much as I could. Fortunately I found one buddy from our hilly area to share this joy with and her father and brothers surfed, we occasionally would wake at 5 in the morning to head to the beach, taking a 30 minute commute to the Durban waters to get a surf session in before school. I remember sitting in class my skin sometimes burning from the fire weed that would wash up in the Durban waters from time to time, and the sensation gave me so much joy because it reminded me of that experience, that moment in the water with no one around and the sun rising from the Ocean and the moon setting behind the high rise buildings of Durban City and no one but me and the water.
I think I was freediving from the age of 4. I remember once while at a holiday resort jumping into the water in a pool from a step and quickly getting back up as I was not yet able to swim, I remember at one point jumping in and not getting back up quick enough and somehow just sinking, but not being afraid, just being there, in this new space, in this new found silence. I remember hands reaching for me and the look of slight horror on an adults face that had just rescued me.
Freediving as such with a line came much later for me. Someone once told me I had a knot in my karma, this is an entire other story of it’s own, but basically, I followed a huge flock of South African’s to London after my schooling years and got very ‘stuck’ in the rat race. Slowly slowly I felt the need to break away, and after a few bouts in unhealthy distractions to my reality I started to find more healthy and beneficial ‘distractions’ that helped me to deal with my reality. I began to run during lunch breaks, and having never been a runner endured a few physical injuries, I knew how to push myself, but I didn’t quite have the body awareness I now aspire to. I trained hard and ran the London Marathon, after that I knew that what ever I wanted to do I could do. One year later I packed up my London life and moved to Australia where after saving enough money in an office job I bought a van and moved up to the Whitsundays, the Great Barrier reef of Australia where I worked on boats for almost 2 years. I worked up to Dive master and when my work visa came to an end I left for Thailand where my life would completely change forever!
I became a Scuba Diving instructor in 2013, and began to teach more and more yoga on the little Thai Island Koh Tao. In 2014 I took my first Freediving Course and I fell in love. Apparently the love wasn’t mutual and I endured many obstacles to any intention to train with constant sinus problems. It wasn’t until I left Thailand for the last time last time in 2016 and headed to The east Coast Town of Amed and Tulamben in Bali to begin a Master program training with Apnea Bali that the sinuses cleared and I could finally dive with ease. The waters of Bali invited me in and before training began I hit a depth I had aspired to for so long of 40 Meters. When my training was finished I was doing comfortable dives to 50 Metes and occasionally going beyond to match the current South African Freediving Womens record at that time held by Sophia Van Coller of 53 Meters.
Competition was never on my agenda for freediving, I actually didn’t understand why people would want to turn such a beautiful and to me a spiritual practice into something competitive and ego based. When I decided to compete last year at the Australian Nationals held in Bali, diving completely changed for me. It turned from the blissful withdrawal of senses and instantaneous meditation into stress and discomfort, every dive became a chore and as the self inflicted pressure crept in, so did tension and discomfort. I withdrew my decision to compete and returned to my blissful state of diving. When the competition came around, I was at the forefront of the action and watched it with absolute joy and amazement. Competing is nothing I had expected it to be, every dive was important, every white card received a cheer, there was no rivalery, and noone really cared about how deep someone was going, there was joy and fullfillment in each and every dive.
This year I decided to join the competitive diving scene, for myself, for my country, for the people I love and for the people I wish to inspire. You can do anything you want to do, you are always stronger than you think you are. For me there is more in the tank and I’m going to keep on going. When you find something you love doing, don’t let anything stand in your way, life is short, lessons are hard, the ocean is ready for you, no one can hold you back but you.