She left a rookie and has returned as a National Record Holder! Claire Walsh, singer, puppeteer, aerial silk artist and international competitive freediver, is back on Irish soil with not one, but two record-breaking dives under her belt and a legion of fans including (very firmly) the entire G+C crew.
Last month we met up with Claire in a bustling Dundrum cafe to talk freediving, her impending competition and how the sport has changed her way of thinking: “Freediving helps me live better, makes me more accountable. [I can] get caught up in my own head and freediving tricks you into meditation. I take time now.”
“Freediving helps me live better, makes me more accountable. [I can] get caught up in my own head and freediving tricks you into meditation. I take time now.”
One of Ireland’s few competitive freedivers, this September Claire became the first Irish person to represent her country in the world freediving champs in Villefranche-sur-Mer, just outside of Nice. While the experience was an incredible one for Claire, it was hard-fought and she had two rocky starts to the competition. Her first dive started well and she felt calm and in control, deciding to err on the conservative side of her limits.
But after diving to a depth of 30 metres, Claire blacked-out as she closed in on her last few finless kicks to the surface. Her parents were there watching in real-time - a scary experience for the uninitiated - and her tight-knit community kicked into overdrive with competing freedivers talking her friends and family through what was happening, reassuring them that Claire was fine and taking time to explain some of the challenges involved in the sport.
But after diving to a depth of 30 metres, Claire blacked-out as she closed in on the last few finless kicks to the surface.
...And then her second dive was postponed due to rough seas… Committed to regrouping and overcoming any mental blocks, Claire spoke candidly with two of her mentors and coaches in preparation for her next dives. The advice they provided was clear: you can’t and shouldn’t be doing this on your own. Lean on your community. Ask for help with your gear, make sure someone’s travelling with you on the boat. Your focus is the dive, the water. Everything else needs to be blurred in the background and taken care of by your team.
Typical Irish humility means Claire feels at odds with the prospect of an entourage but the message was received and in her last competitive dives, Claire took her coach with her and broke not one but two Irish national records, walking away a champion.
“Freediving challenges me to turn my focus inwards, achieve a state of softness, relaxation and quiet and only then will your mind allow your body to visit depth.”
All-in-all, the competition was tough but she lives and breathes for the experience and continues to speak about the sport with romance and reverence saying, “Freediving challenges me to turn my focus inwards, achieve a state of softness, relaxation and quiet and only then will your mind allow your body to visit depth.”
And this fireball is not letting up anytime soon. Claire has now registered for the Infinity Depth Games in Cyprus this October and with more experience, more practice and definitely more singing, Claire is headed for big, bright, blue things!
With an amazing Make Life Richer attitude and a supportive community surrounding her, we can’t wait to see where she takes herself next! Keep up to date with Clairehere!