Sophie Perolari is a 22-year-old multi-talented Seychelloise – three-time Tang Soo Do gold medallist, filmmaker and freediving instructor.
In 2020, Sophie decided to take freediving professionally, seeing an opportunity to set up a niche activity in Seychelles for locals and visitors to enjoy. She did some courses overseas and completed the intense and demanding instructor’s course with Dahab Freedivers, one of the best freediving schools in the world. Sophie enjoyed the enriching experience and had the opportunity to meet freediving champions, including Alexey Molchanov and Alice Modolo, in addition to freediving in the famous Blue Hole in Dahab every day.
Upon completing her training, Sophie returned home, where she set up her own company, Freediving Seychelles, as the first Seychellois Free-diver Instructor. She offers her services on a freelance basis all around Seychelles. Freediving, or apnea, is the sport of breath hold diving, where a diver descends on a single breath of air. To Sophie, freediving is more than simply a sport.
“I love the feeling of freedom, and that’s how I feel underwater in the big blue on one breath. I freedive to connect and observe marine life, and I love how much mindfulness goes into the sport. For me, freediving is 90 percent mindfulness training and 10 percent physical training. To be able to go deep, equalise and enjoy freediving, you need to be able to relax your mind and all the muscles in your body.”
“Freediving is a way of life. There are so many different reasons why some of us want to explore the big blue. Whether it’s because you want to increase fitness, be at one with the ocean, master your body, manage stress, feel accomplished or blend in with our marine life, some of us freedive to experience the ultimate feeling of freedom, find peace and tranquillity and to observe our coastal ecosystems more closely. Whatever it may be, I promise you, when you get here, you too will want to protect what you love and begin living for our ocean,” Sophie stated.
Sophie’s favourite thing about freediving is freefalling, the point in freediving where the diver stops moving completely and assumes a relaxed yet streamlined position, allowing them to sink, or “freefall”.
“Freefalling allows us to limit muscle activation and conserve oxygen, which lets us put more focus on relaxation and equalisation. These two elements become more challenging the deeper a freediver goes, so it is essential to incorporate freefall after about one third of your dive, depending on how deep you plan on going. When I am freefalling, this is the only moment when I feel like time is nonexistent,” Sophie added.
Having experienced freediving both abroad and in Seychelles, Sophie loves the experience that Seychelles has to offer with its unique and rich marine life. Sophie and her clients have been freediving with dolphins, turtles, whale sharks, reef sharks and many different types of fish.
“The experience in Seychelles is absolutely amazing. You wouldn’t want anything else! Freediving is a must-do activity when you are in Seychelles. The amount of marine life there is that can be explored around our islands is unique. It’s not everywhere around the world where you can hop onto a boat or walk into the ocean from the shore, surrounded by green lush mountains and then plunge yourself into a healthy, beautiful blue ocean where there is so much biodiversity. We also have months of the year, especially April, May or August, September, October and November where the visibility of the sea is 35m, and you can’t have better when it comes to freediving.”
Sophie is qualified to teach AIDA (International Association for the Development of Apnea) Freediving Courses from levels 1 to 3. She noted that everyone could learn freediving even without scuba diving experience.
The AIDA Level 1 course is an introduction to freediving, and the only requirement is knowing how to swim. AIDA Level 2 course comprises certain requirements, such as holding your breath for 2 minutes and going down on one breath to 16-20m, completing a theory exam and a 40m Dynamic apnea in a confined water space. The advanced AIDA 3 course is taught over three days and goes into the theory of freediving in more depth which allows learners to understand the physiology and techniques behind diving deeper. The course will help improve freediving performance while advancing safety and rescue skills.
The AIDA level 1 to 3 courses start from age 16. Sophie is also a qualified youth AIDA Freediving instructor where she teaches kids starting from age six aquatic skills. She works as a freelancer with diving centres, private yachts, hotels, and tourism agencies around the Seychelles archipelago.
“There are so many people interested in freediving, and I am exceptionally glad that there are lots of Seychellois and females interested in the sport. My favourite thing about teaching freediving to people is the outcome of how people feel after the experience. All my clients have loved the experience; they have all said that after just one session of freediving with me, it’s changed their lives, made them feel more confident with themselves and the water, that they were taught many important aspects that they can use in their everyday life such as relaxation and rescuing techniques. Freediving most of the time gives people confidence – and motivates them to do anything that they once thought impossible” Sophie concluded.