Eyes gently shut, ears dipped beneath the surface to drown out the non-aqueous world. . .
. . .a series of long, deep breaths. . . relax.  One final breath to pack in as much air as possible, a pronounced bend at the waist, and I’m off. . .

I recently reviewed my semester goals and I realized that one goal is always on the list–freedive more often.  Some semesters I have more than achieved that goal, and in others I have come up short.  Regardless, I put that one on the list semester after semester.  Spending the afternoon on Monday freediving my favorite reef with my extended advisory (led by Ashley Akerberg) forced me to consider this question: Why is freediving so important to me?

The first word that came to mind when I stopped to meditate on the question was “sublime”.  I know what the word means, but I’m a bit of a word geek, so I decided to look it up to see if there weren’t other definitions that I was unaware of:

1b. of outstanding intellectual, spiritual, or moral worth

1c. tending to inspire awe usually because of elevated quality (as of beauty, nobility, or grandeur) or transcendent excellence.

Exactly!  Still, that did not sate my thirst for information about the word. Digging into an etymological dictionary this time, I discovered that sublime first appeared in the English language in the 1500s and stemmed from the Latin prefix sub- (under or beneath) and limen (lintel or threshold).  Beneath the threshold.

Back to the dictionary for threshold:

2b (1) : endboundary;  (2) :the place or point of entering or beginning : outset <on thethreshold of a new age>

Exactlier!  For us air breathers, the sea represents a natural boundary.  But it also represents a “point of entering”.  Like all boundaries–both physical and psychological–the sea offers us an opportunity to stretch, to grow, and to learn.  Surely this is why I enjoy sharing my passion for freediving with the students, and why past students have found the periodic opportunities to commune with the creatures of the underwater world so rewarding.


To leave the a familiar sights, sounds, smells of the landscape, to enter the frontier of a new world, and to forget, if only for a moment, that I am not bound to air above the surface, can only be described as sublime.