I like the stinging cold mountain air on my face early in the morning, the so called ‘aria frizzantina’ (lit. brisk air): it electrifies me. Possibly, this may not be the best sentence to open an article in a magazine about water and freediving, but for me it all started from here: the pleasure I get from this crisp air, energising me and drying the pores of my skin from the city damp. I think that each one of us has an element that we recognise as ours, in which we feel a little more at ease and manage to be freer to move and to feel. My element had always been the air: of the open landscapes, of the mountains and of the woods on the hills, the one stirred by the cold streams, the one that touches snow and ice and that crosses the dense branches of pine and chestnut trees. Air, as a source of oxygen, an archetype of lightness and inconsistency. Until a few years ago, I was feeling distant from the water, an unknown element that did not give me any desire for contact. Water had always done a few simple jobs for me: quenching my thirst by drinking it at room temperature, and washing myself with very hot, nearly boiling water. Monica at the seaSometimes in the summer by the seaside I would experience some shy touches, some small fresh water cuddles to ease away the effects of the August heat. My visits to the swimming pools in Milan were also rare. Since childhood, for sure poorly motivated instructors and forced swimming courses must have contributed to my aversion to come into contact with water. You had to go swimming because it was good for you. It was good, like a cough linctus. But just like any other drug, swimming has its side effects: I got lots of warts, and I don’t know how many I have had to burn off, also, every time my silicon cap would tear my hair out, despite the heaps of talcum powder poured over my head, to the point that I was feeling like a pandoro in a swimming costume. One winter day, about six years ago, I was in the mountains and at the end of the night I was awakened by the umpteenth sleep apnea. I had been suffering from it for some time. I could not go back to sleep and it was about to dawn, so I decided to leave the house to get some fresh air. It would take me some time to recover from waking up from an apnea crisis: it was tiring, frightening, and making me feel completely vulnerable. The crisp morning bracing air brought me some advice, suggesting me to find a way to make those moments less frightening. So, shortly thereafter, I enrolled in a freediving course. I thought that conscious apneas could have a positive impact over my unconscious ones. Just a small inconvenience: freediving is done in water, but I accepted the bet and completed the course. The swimming pool water is freezing cold. During the first lessons I experienced all the bad feelings that were well known to me from before. Also, I did not understand anything about theory lessons. I was feeling numb just listening to obscure notions such as equalisation, kicking and weighing. It took me a while to understand what equalising meant, I did not know that the gesture that I had always done on a plane so as not to burst my eardrums was the same I could do in the pool. Monica at Y-40I did not even know there was a neutral point in the water, where you remain in perfect suspension, without resurfacing and without sinking, and trying it for the first time was really moving. I did not know that having fins on my feet would allow me to discover my aquatic abilities. I did not know that holding my breath in water, while floating in static motion, could give me feelings of real pleasure. I was moving in a completely new terrain, in an element that until then had been hostile to me. I was exploring, with the caution of an adult, but the curiosity of a child and, step by step, I was discovering new things about me, amazing myself with my small achievements. The first two years I used to freedive only by myself. It was just me and the water, and water was the means of communication between myself and me. While in constant weight, I was scared stiff, and I kept my eyes closed so as not to look, not to feel myself. Over time I became more conscious of my body and of myself, and I started to close my eyes to enjoy the path. Slowly I began to feel where I was and at what depth, and during the fall I became ready to accept the darkness and the pressure. Since then I changed my way of freediving. I moved my gaze and my attention towards the others, my buddies in the water with me.

Freediving taught me all this: to be patient, to be brave, to listen to myself and to others. But, more than anything else, every time I dive, I feel in touch with nature and the universe. And every single thing that worries me and tires me in everyday life, I see as a small thing in the face of infinity.

Monica Pacifici

Monica Pacifici

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