Arrowtown’s Kathryn Nevatt, one of the world’s leading exponents of indoor freediving, can hold her breath for more than 7 minutes. She spoke to Guy Williams

What is the most memorable moment of your freediving life?

It's hard to narrow it down to one experience.

My first four-minute static, getting a world record and being published in the Guinness Book of Records, standing on the top of the podium at a world championships, diving with humpback whales in Tonga, diving with sea lions in the Galapagos and seeing the people I've coached improve and start breaking personal, national and world records.

Why do you do what you do?
Freediving is about balance. It balances the physical with the psychological. You have to be fit and have good technique so that your body burns less oxygen for maximum output, but you also have to be calm when under pressure and when your body is essentially going into shock.


Freediving teaches you about your body as you have a heightened sensitivity of what is going on, both physically and emotionally.

You learn to meditate, to let go of the little stuff and concentrate on the bigger picture. I've done so many long dives now that I know the different phases of struggle and how to relax through them with a level of acceptance.

The body is an amazing organism full of in-built mechanisms for your survival, and it definitely lets you know you're doing something with a level of risk. But it makes you strong and and the "hurt" isn't real pain; it disappears as soon as you breathe.

What is your earliest water or swimming-related memory?
Playing with plastic toys in the bath. I think I liked bubbles.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I always wanted to be an architect, and now work as a registered architect. Freediving is my hobby. I've thought about making a business out of it, but it's still really a fringe sport.

What is your most embarrassing moment?
I'm not that easily embarrassed, but my suit split along the bum while diving in the Bahamas and I didn't notice.

Another time I vomited - thanks to nervousness - about a minute before a competition dive.

Who would play you in the film of your life?
Nicole Kidman. I aspire to hair more like hers and less like a shaggy mop.


What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Pinot noir and dark chocolate, preferably together.

What would be your dream trip?
High on my list at the moment is diving with whale sharks in the Philippines. I'd like to spend a couple of weeks there with some of the other Kiwi freediving ladies.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
There are awesome people with loads of knowledge and experience who would be great to spend some time with - David Attenborough springs to mind - but I came back to Miranda Hart, Rebel Wilson and a small group of my closest girlfriends.

What single thing would improve the quality of your life?

My partner and I have been house-shopping in Queenstown for a year and a-half. I'd love to arrive at an auction with no other bidders.

But seriously, I'm ready to empty my stuff out of boxes, start some renovations and set up a vege garden that doesn't involve a whole lot of buckets.

What keeps you awake at night?
Freediving has given me the skills of good breathing, ability to let go of stress and relax, so not much bothers me enough to keep me up. The worst things are sugar after 7pm, dehydration and using a laptop before bed.

Kathryn Nevatt was voted the world's best female freediver in 2008 and runner-up in 2011. The 37-year-old, who took up the sport 12 years ago, is a former world champion in the static apnea discipline - where the diver lies face down on the surface of the water and holds their breath - and is a former world record-holder in the dynamic without fins event. She has held many national and Oceania records in all six freediving disciplines, and has taken part in international open water depth competitions. She has dived to a depth of 65m.