• • • Lily Crespy — neuroscientist, freediving competitor and instructor shares with us her story of the discovery of freediving and how being in the ocean has helped her discover perspective and peace of mind.

Hi Lily, it’s great to meet you. Tell us a bit about yourself? How did you end up in freediving?

I’m French. I was living in London for a long time, working in a pharmaceutical companydoing research on neuroscience and at one point I just got bored. I wanted to change. And then, luckily, life forced me to change. There was the economic crisis in 2011, so they closed the lab. I lost my job, also my relationship broke down.

So I went travelling to clear my head, and during my travel I discovered freediving. It kind of changed everything. I became addicted right away. I’ve been a free dive instructor since 2013. I’ve been living in Bali, in the Philippines, a little bit in France. And now I’m in Egypt for around a year.

What is it like living in Egypt? It’s really nice. I’ve only been to Dahab though, so I don’t really know much about the rest of the country. But Dahab itself is nice. It’s really quiet – the town has a super friendly atmosphere and the sea is just amazing!

The ocean is just so clear out there isn’t it? Yes, it is sometimes. But, I Mean, One of the things that I saw when travelling is that plastic pollution is everywhere. In Bali in the raining season, it’s a nightmare. Here in Egypt as well. It’s a bit less obvious. Still, there’re lots of trash in the ocean.

Photo: Maja Lucja Wisniewska

Like Meditation

Photo: Stella Anita Abbas

Being a freediver, you must have a connection with the ocean. Tell us about this passion and how you became a freediver? I was backpacking and it just happened. I was on an island called Koh Tao, in Thailand. I’m just walking on the beach and I saw a sign in front of me saying ” Freedive school”, so I just decided to walk in and have a chat with the people there.

They convinced me to apply for a beginner course. After that, I just couldn’t get enough of it. It was just the best sensation of my life.

Like… You just feel so free and it was kind of hitting me like meditation. I can remember being down there, being down 20 meters or something, and just completely being in my own private moment. You don’t have any other thoughts or worries about your everyday life whatsoever. You’re just completely in the moment.

I tried doing meditation on land afterwards. The goal is the same — to be in the moment, but for me, that’s a little bit harder. It’s like you always have these messy thoughts coming to you, and it feels like you have to actively get back to the moment. But for freediving, it just happens. You don’t have to make any effort and you’re just there. It is a really peaceful feeling.

I thought, I want to do this every day and I’m never going to get bored of it. That’s ridiculous, I know, but it was like love at first sight.

Like love at first dive? Yes! I know! Love at first dive! I also love the fact that you have a bit

more freedom than in scuba, you’re a bit more free with your movements and you’re not depending on all this gear. It’s more natural. Also, the fact that you don’t have any bubbles, so the wildlife are not so scared of you, you can get a bit of a better connection with them.

Can you tell me about your relationship with the ocean? Wow. It’s many things. For me, it’s a teacher. This is the first word that comes to my mind. It can feel very welcoming and super comfortable and I’m at ease in the water, but at the same time, the water also humbles you. It’s so huge and powerful. It kind of makes you feel very small sometimes.

This taught me a lot of things. Every time I go for a training session I get to learn a lot about myself. For example, being patient, being in the moment, having no expectations, being grateful…many many things.

I just couldn't get enough of it. It was just the best of the best sensation of my life. Like....You just feel so free. It was kinda hitting me like meditation.

Diving in a Sea of Plastic

Can you tell us about plastic trash you’ve witnessed on the beach and in the sea? I’ve seen it everywhere. In Bali, it was pretty obvious, especially during the rainy season. It’s a nightmare. There, you have volcanoes, so the rain drains down the mountain, and all the plastic starts being washed out, sweeping trash around the island, through the drains to the ocean. It’s like we’re diving in a sea of plastic. In Egypt, it’s a little bit less obvious. I guess the main

problem is that the local people don’t recycle, they don’t sort out their trash, they just throw things on the streets. They are not really conscious and everything ends up in the ocean. I mean, it’s not that bad sometimes, it’s dependant on the currents of the waves and the tides as well.

Do you do anything to get involved with the community around where you live? Quite regularly, people organise the cleanups, so random people. And also, of course,

quite regularly, people from Dahab community organize beach cleanups..

It all adds up, doesn’t it? Yes. But you might think you’re doing your part and then one day plastic pollution is still everywhere around you. Then you think, what’s the point? I mean, still, people have to start somewhere and keep doing it. I think the key is to educate the children. Making some real changes for the next generation.

Photo: Jean-Guy de la Casinière

Peace down the Depth

Do you have any upcoming special projects that you’d like to share? What’s next for you? At the moment, I’m a manager and co-founder of a freediving centre here in Egypt, so I’m quite busy with just running the centre and teaching every day. But I’m planning to start competing again later this year. I hope I can go to the world championships which is going to be in September, in Nice. I’m gonna start training again in April. I have to do a few competitions before June so I can get selected in the French team. If I’m selected, then I would go for the world championship in September. That’s the main project. Also, earlier today I was talking with a friend about a project on offering people suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) freediving retreats. It’s just something that I’ve been thinking about for a very long time.

A project that helps people with mental trauma using freedive? Yes, for people who are suffering from post-traumatic stress. I suffered from it myself before. It came after discovering freediving. I also had one freediving student one time who had been in the army. It kind of

convinced me that freediving can help with these kind of issues, it can help with stress and trust issues. It’s still early days but I really hope this project is going to happen, it would be very exciting.

Well, keep it up and keep us posted Lily! We always love it when people use their passion or what they do in everyday life as a cause to help and inspire others. It’s just fantastic! • • •

February 28, 2019 — Janaya Wilkins