As part of our Q&A series we ventured down to Seacombe cliff in Dorset with freediver Ben Priestley to capture him at work, and of course, to put the Morar through its paces. This stretch of the Jurassic Coast, which is a World Heritage Site on the southern English coastline, is as imposing as it is alluring, and on this calm summer's morning it's the perfect spot for Ben to don his wetsuit and explore the depths.
As Ben was finalising the details of his dive, we took the opportunity to put a few questions to him about his underwater adventures and what drew him to this serene sport.
Why did you start diving? What or who attracted you to the sport?
Ever since I can remember I've always had a connection to the ocean. I'm intrigued by its vastness and unknown, thats why freediving became something I wanted to try, and with it being a sport with little equipment it was a no brainer to give it a go, and since then I've fallen in love with it.
What has been your most memorable experience and why?
My most memorable dive would be a recent one at Durdle Door as the conditions were perfect, clear, calm waters, with plenty of small marine life beneath the surface - its a difficult experience to verbalise, but the tranquility was palpable.
How much time do you dedicate to diving?
I'm constantly checking the weather forecast to be able to get the perfect conditions for a good dive. If the conditions are good enough I'll try to get out every weekend, and sometimes in the evening during the week if there's enough daylight.
Why is diving important to you and why do you like it?
The main reason I enjoy diving is because it's an escape, an escape from the busy everyday society. The precious few moments underwater on a single breath is just blissful, then resurfacing and getting that mass of oxygen is kind of like a little restart.
Besides physical fitness, how does diving benefit you?
Besides physical fitness, the benefits from diving for me have a lot of impact on my mental health, as diving is 80% mental and 20% physical, being able to remain calm in an unnatural environment is key to a successful dive.
What are the main differences between free-diving and SCUBA diving?
The main difference is freediving is on a single breath, whilst scuba diving you have a supply of compressed air on your back to allow you to ultimately breath under water for extended periods. One key restriction of scuba diving is that with a tank, it will require you to decompress from certain depths to avoid the possibility of decompression sickness, where as freediving you don't need to do this.
What extra techniques do you need for freediving?
I'd say the three main skills for freediving are equalizing, longer breath holds and remaining calm. Equalizing for me at the beginning was a struggle as there are many different ways to do it, but eventually I did some research and now I can enjoy my dives fairly trouble-free.
Do you have any advice for those looking to get into diving?
Take your time and don't push yourself too hard too soon, research some techniques and practice them over and over until you're comfortable. And last but not least, enjoy every moment of it.
A huge thank you to Ben for not only answering our questions, but also for taking the Morar Emerald through its paces. If you would like to ask Ben any further questions, or if you're interested in taking up freediving or scuba diving yourself, we hope you find the links below of interest:
Ben Priestley's Instagram - www.instagram.com/benpriestley
British Freediving Association - britishfreediving.org
Sub-Aqua Association - saa.org.uk
UK Diving - www.ukdiving.co.uk