This week's feature comes to us from Grand Cayman in The Cayman Islands! You've likely seen the beautiful underwater shots of freediver Shannon Schmidt (aka @tigersharklily) on our social channels. We're excited to learn more about a life lived underwater!
Why did you start freediving?
I started freediving because I love to be in and under the water! I also scuba dive, but I really wanted to explore a sport that is more physically challenging and lose all of the bulky equipment. I love the simplicity of freediving and the fact that it is all about pushing your personal limits. Plus you can get closer to the wildlife when you are bubble-free.
What motivates you?
Freediving with people who are better than me, and nailing cool shots. It's always good to go out with people who are more experienced that you can learn from, and even cooler when they congratulate you on a nice dive. Some of the shots take 5-6 attempts, and it just pushes you to stay calm and focused the longer it takes. A shot without a mask is also really tough because your nose fills with saltwater and your visibility is cut by about 50%-but wicked when you capture it.
What's your top tip for a beginner looking to get into your sport?
Be comfortable! How you perform underwater has a lot to do with what you are wearing. Being streamlined is very important, and having to deal with loose straps or swimwear that is designed more for laying in the sun can be a real distraction and even dangerous. Sure, it might look sexy or cool-but there is nothing sexy about your top or bottom coming off mid-dive!
"When you compromise the process, you compromise the gain."
Who or what inspires you?
People who follow their dreams. The year before I moved to the island, I saw the film 180 Degrees South, and it reminded me that anything is possible with the right mindset. That doesn't mean you won't have to make sacrifices or tough decisions, it just makes the reward that much sweeter when you get there.
What is your day job, and how do you manage work/fun balance?
My day job is Managing Operations and Horticulture for a Private Estate. It isn't always perfect, but I try to make sure that I manage my time wisely Monday through Friday to ensure that tasks are assigned for the weekends since my team operates 7 days a week. A big part of this was developing and training a team who I trust, and who trust me. That way I can spend more time playing and doing the things I want.
How do you cross-train in your downtime?
I joined an amazing gym last year that I absolutely love. I do Boxfit classes 3x's per week, and started personal training 2x's per week. I like structure and the motivation that group workouts provide-it's more like a family than your typical gym. I also like to run and swim some days after work.
What are your tips for dealing with injuries?
Rest, hydrate, and eat well. Things people should already do, but times that by 3! For those of us who like to move, it can be a really tough concept to grasp-but the sooner you do it, the sooner you will be back. You can also modify things you'd like to be doing. When I was recovering from a broken foot, I couldn't wear fins, so it gave me an opportunity to improve on my no fins diving.
What's something you're really proud of?
I've always wanted to live on an island in the Caribbean, and when the opportunity presented itself, I dropped everything and took it. I left my job, all of my belongings, and moved here with 3 bags. I was taking a job I didn't know a ton about because it is very private, and I didn't know a single person on the island. It was the most exciting feeling I have ever experienced and I have never regretted that decision.