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Community Stories - 08/14/19

Irish Freediving’s Finest

Claire Walsh is a dynamo of a woman and the first Irish person EVER to compete at the AIDA Depth World Championships in freediving, starting this September 2nd and running through ‘til the 15th. If you’re looking for inspiration to just start something (whatever it is), then listen up lads, cos it’s all right here.

You know those people who, when you meet them, you suddenly find yourself mentally running to keep up with them and possibly signing yourself up to do whatever it is they’ve decided to do just because they’re so enthusiastic about it all? Yeah. Claire is one of those people. After having met her, it’s possible that all of us here at Gym+Coffee are enrolled in freediving courses…

Claire Walsh First Irish Free Diver in AIDA World Depth Championships

“There’s more than one way to get into anything… I think about myself like the Jamaican Bobsled Team in [the film] Cool Runnings - they weren’t coming from the same place as the pros, so they went in through their own door.”

Claire makes you want to get in the water. Claire makes you want to be able to hold your breath for 6 minutes (yes, she can actually do that). Claire makes you think that your most far-reaching goals aren’t that far out of reach after all. Claire is a person who says she’s gonna do things and then goes ahead and wouldn’t you know it, actually does them. “There’s more than one way to get into anything,” she says, “I think about myself like the Jamaican Bobsled Team in [the film] Cool Runnings - they weren’t coming from the same place as the pros, so they went in through their own door.” 

“Water makes me centred. I know who I am in the sea.”

She basically got into freediving after finding out she didn’t like scuba diving. On a trip to Mexico in 2015, Claire purchased 15 scuba sessions but found the gear restrictive and wasn’t loving it. A friend suggested she try freediving instead and the Kildare gal hasn’t looked back since. She describes herself as a water baby and freediving has become something of a meditative sport for her (not to mention she’s good at it..), saying, “Water makes me centred. I know who I am when I’m in the sea.” 

Claire Walsh First Irish Free Diver in AIDA Depth World Championships September 2019

She’s a voice coach, she does that Aerial Silk gymnastic stuff, she’s a puppeteer (uh-huh, a puppeteer), she’s a breathwork practitioner and she’s a solid, sound human being to boot. She uses her singing background to help with her breathing technique and has even started to coach fellow freedivers in breathwork as well. There’s a supportive feel to the sport as Claire describes it, with competitors often checking in with each other to offer support or advice. 

Claire describes the environment as one of extreme trust and heightened camaraderie. But the road to real belonging and community requires an openness that doesn’t always come naturally and there have been lessons for her to learn along the way, saying “Irish people have this tendency to deflect with charm. I’ve had to change how I think about that in a sport that relies on openness and trust… We’re a small community. When someone is responsible for your safety like that [in freediving], there’s a lot of emotion involved.”

Claire Walsh Irish Free Diver from Kildare - Inspirational Irish Women in Sports

“Irish people have this tendency to deflect with charm. I’ve had to change how I think about that in a sport the relies on openness and trust… We’re a small community. When someone is responsible for your safety like that [in freediving], there’s a lot of emotion involved.”

Claire enters this elite competition (and simultaneously achieves a lofty goal she set for herself) as the first Irish person ever to represent her country in the AIDA Depth World Championship, starting September 2nd, 2019. We’ll be following along closely here at G+C and we hope you will too. 

Check out more of Claire’s journey here and stay tuned for updates on our blog as well!

 

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