Farewell competitive freediving

One can only do so many things at one given time. To me that’s been a tough lesson to learn. I love keeping all my different ideas afloat, giving them a push every now and then and never quite saying no to the though of acting on them. It can be frustrating for those close to me and now I’ve come to terms with that it might actually be holding me back. For many years it was a functional and fruitful way of living, right now it’s not.

So.

I’ve decided to let one of my most long lived dreams go to rest: To be a professional freediver. To compete, get sponsorships and teach freediving. To have my life circling around the ocean through this sport.

I think that deep down it was never really something that I wanted to do, but the thought of it was so… alluring. To be that strong athlete, focused and calm, with a clear purpose.

After 14 years of on-and-off training and competing, ranking at best as 3rd in the world, participation in five world championships, setting Swedish records, completing dozens of competition dives and thousands of training dives, I’m now officially saying farewell to the arena of competitive freediving.

Just as freediving once was key to setting me free and setting me apart, giving me that edge I so strongly needed, it is now keeping part of me hostage. I want to keep diving, I just want to undo my ties to the competitive side. If the thought of training for another word championship is going to keep popping up in my mind, I’m going to keep toying with that idea, putting my energy into the field of freediving, when what I really want to do right now is to root myself even more in my chosen field of work as a food-growing gardener and steward of resilient ecosystems.

Thank you all, it’s been a splash, and I could never ever have done it without you ?

You can always invite me along as your mascot ?

Tio månader efter kollaps

Förstår ni vilken resa det här är?

Av en smärtsam anledning så har den 18e i varje månad blivit en dag att minnas.

Den 18e november 2015 var jag och bouldrade på Fabben. Det var ett roligt träningspass. Jag var stark och glad. Klockan närmade sig nio och det var dags att avrunda, men så skulle jag bara visa några andra ladies en beta på ett svart problem som jag nästan, nästan hade fått till. Upp med vänster tå här, korsa över där, skicka hit… Woosch! Där föll Klara. Där föll Klara och hon landade så fel att hon vek sitt knä bakåt. Fitt i helvete vad det var obehagligt! Jag vrålade till och rullade runt på mattan, djupandades på ren rutin för att hantera smärtan, klöste av mig skorna och rullade bort från väggen. Försökte känna efter, testade att böja, testade att stå, det gick asdåligt. Linkade in i duschen och spolade hela vänster ben med iskallt vatten.

Satte mig i trärummet och lät tårarna rinna medan Tim kramade om mig och snälla klättrare försökte hitta kylspray och lindor. Peter som just hade åkt hemåt fick rycka ut och komma och hämta oss med surfbussen och så rullade vi till akuten i Mölndal. Kring midnatt hade jag fått min första dom: Inget brutet men skador på ligamenten i vänster knä. Sjukskrivning i 2 veckor. Hem och vila, sedan återbesök hos sjukgymnast. Vi som skulle åka iväg i 15 månader om bara några veckor! Noooo..!

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Den 18e februari var jag tillbaka på Ortopeden i Mölndal för att bli opererad. Det var inte bara en liten stukning jag hade åsamkat mig själv. Efter att ha fått göra en MR-scanning innan nyår hade läkarna konstaterat att främre korsbandet var av och att det fanns skador på meniskerna. Jag läste på allt vad jag kunde hitta om korsband, pratade med mina vänner som var sjukgymnaster och ortopeder och konstaterade att jag ville göra en operation. Så där låg jag nu i en varm sjukhussäng, fick nålar i armvecken och droger i blodet. Räknade baklänges från 10 och fnittrade ”Det här är som att svimma när man fridyker!” Sedan stängdes medvetandet ner.

På uppvaket grinar jag igen. Jag har aldrig varit skadad på riktigt innan och nu väntar en lång rehabperiod. Jag är säker på att jag kommer bli bra, det här är ingen konstig skada, men det är tungt att vara en sprallapa och veta att de närmsta 8-9 månaderna kommer att gå i ett dämpat tecken. Jag vill ju klättra och springa och dyka och leka som vanligt. Jag vill ju alltid allt. Skit också.

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Den 18e april har jag avklarat min första vecka tillbaka på jobbet som trädgårdsmästare på Botaniska. Två månader efter operation är jag där och rensar, sågar, krattar, skyfflar. Jag är alldeles lycklig över att det går så bra, att jag trots en ghetto limp kan utföra mitt jobb och får vara tillbaka i trädgården igen. Ortosen har åkt av bara några dagar tidigare och vänster ben är illans spinkigt, men vad gör det? Jag får vara mig själv, ute i det fria.

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Fem månader senare, den 18e september, ligger jag och guppar i Medelhavet och asgarvar tillsammans med mina fellow vattendjur, Linda och Sofia. Vi har just avslutat våra sista, goa träningsdyk ner i det djupblå. Vi har gjort vårt bästa för att vara redo inför VM, och nu känner vi oss starka som satan. Jag har haft hela 7 träningsdagar här i Kalamata och har nått en platå på djupet kring 57 meter. Det känns helt absurt roligt. Hur kan en kropp fixa att gå från kvaddad till 80-90% funktionell på sju månader? Jag blir blank i ögonen när jag tänker på tiden som gått.

Jag har redan vunnit mitt VM.

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Allt som händer från och med nu är bara bonus oavsett hur det går. Jag är så jävla stolt över mitt psyke, att jag i samtal med sjukgymnast, fridykarvänner, Tim och chefer någon gång i maj kom fram till att jo, om jag bara tränar som jag ska så är det helt ok att åka på VM och tävla, även om mitt knä inte är helt återställt. Planen är satt, och jag verkställer den med iver.

Det är tio månader sedan jag skadade mig. Inte i min vildaste fantasi hade jag kunnat tro att det där klätterpasset skulle leda mig tillbaka ner i havs famn, men det var precis vad det gjorde.

Livet är bra fantastiskt.

Jag älskar att leva! Jag älskar att jag låter mig själv FÅ leva. Jag älskar att vara här, just nu, 200 meter från havet och med världens bästa landslag runtomkring mig. Imorgon ska jag ha en riktigt rolig första tävlingsdag!

 

Welcome back, Klara!

Hur det känns att få vara ett sjölejon igen?

Photo: Dan Verhoeven
Photo: Daan Verhoeven

Mina vänner, det känns bättre än bäst. Varje dyk ner i det bottenlösa blå är en mental neti. Varje dyker sköljer genom mig på fler plan än vad jag är medveten om, som om havet är det balsam som tillåter tanketrassel att redas ut.

imageDet känns enkelt. Jag vet vem jag är i vattnet. Jag vet vad jag har kunnat, och jag vet vad jag kan idag, och jag drömmer om vad jag kommer att kunna göra men lägger ingen press på mig själv. Djupen, tiderna och längderna kommer när de kommer. Jag övar teknik och avslappning. Faller utmed linan igen och igen, njuter av varje uppstigning, ler mot säkerhetsdykarna och skrattar vid ytan.

imageDet är skönt att inte sörja mer. Det gjorde så ont i själen att inte kunna dyka i havet i frid efter att jag hade glidit in på ett mentalt spår då jag började jämföra mina dyk med andras, sökte efter att bli bäst istället för att bara vara Klara. Jämförelsen förtog glädjen och avslappningen, vilket i sin tur förtog förmågan att dyka djupt, vilket i sin tur stängde av en bit av vem jag är.

Jag önskar att jag har lärt mig nu, att jag inte ska behöva göra samma smärtfyllda resa utanför vatten igen. Även om jag gång på gång de senaste fem åren känt att nu, nu kan jag nog dyka djupt igen så är det inte fören dessa dagar i Kalamata som känslan till fullo tagit över hela mitt jag. Kanske är det för att jag äntligen är helt fri från andra krav och har nästan tar veckor till förfogande? Tänk att tre veckor kan läka ett själsligt ärr, få det att förblekna i solen och det sprittande blå. Tänk att få ge sig själv en sådan present, inte en bok om hur man gör för att må bra utan en tid och en plats där allt du längtat till åter är välkommet och tillåtet.

imageKanske är det för att jag har klivit av min djupa resa i moralens och etikens tecken och tillåter mig själv att leva igen? Det var inte bara tävlingsmentaliteten som dödade min fridykning, det var också min bild av mänsklighetens och världens förfall vilket gjorde mig illamående och rättfärdigt inspirerad, likt vilken inskränkt fanatiker som helst. Jag skulle vara en del av förändringen genom att också förändra mig själv, och då valde jag halvt omedvetet bort fridykningen – ty den var i grunden bara till för mig, för min lycka, och inte för andras.

Men när jag nu tittar på fridykarsfären så ser jag något mer än bara egoistiska behov. Vår gemenskap har alltid funnits där. Skälet till att jag över huvud taget har blivit en fridykare är att det fanns andra människor som också älskade att vara i vatten och som ville dela den upplevelsen med mig, och som därmed möjliggjorde ett utövande av en sport där individen presterar medan gruppen backar upp. Jag är inte en enskild mutation, jag är en del av ett kluster. När vi samlas för att dyka så tar vi hand om både oss själva och varandra. Vi varvar ner. Vi stressar av. Vi kopplar bort måsten och borden och bara är. Gruppen skänker möjligheten och glädjen i att dela detta. På så vis ökar vår resiliens som människor. Fridykningen stärker oss så att vi i andra stunder och delar av livet kan stå stadigt på jorden och göra det vi behöver göra. För min del är det att fortsätta förändringsarbetet mot ett regenerativt samhälle. För någon annan är det… något helt annat.

Jag har inget annat syfte dessa dagar än att vara ett glatt, modigt och balanserat litet sjölejon. Jag glider runt här i vår fridykargemenskap och plockar upp vänskapstrådar där jag lämnade dem för fem år sedan, njuter av att ingen ifrågasätter att jag har varit borta från tävlandet under så många år utan att vännerna istället bara kramar mig och säger ”Welcome back Klara, we’ve missed you!”

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A fulfilling, non-judgemental lifestyle

How hard can it be to find a fulfilling, non-judgemental lifestyle?

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An everlasting question, I suppose. It’s very hard.

Part of my answer is this, that every time I have devoted my time to a physically and mentally challenging objective, situated in nature, I have felt that I am doing e x a c t l y what I am meant to be doing. The question marks regarding the meaning of life still arise during the quest, but also fade swiftly and leave me content with what is.

I long for that feeling, cherish its simplicity.

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In daily life, setting myself up with work related challenges where the scene is a man affected landscape such as a city, I seldom feel that I am fully at ease with what I’m doing. There are so many moral aspects of life in the presence of other human beings. I find it hard to step away from the fact that I am a privileged person with potential power, thus morally obliged to search for A Better Way Of Living and to share the multiple answers with others. I am doing my best to be here and now and at the same time allow myself to continuously zoom out further and further, to be able to se more clearly what values have been instilled in me and which of these values I can choose to reject. This seems important to me; a hobby philosopher, deeply entrenched by a moral and ethical code which I can sense is out of date and probably of target.

I do not wish to be part of a destructive society today at the age of 32 anymore then when I first started to formulate my own ideas and thoughts on the subject at the age of 14, but thankfully the time passed has given me a more humble attitude in relation to the definition of a Destructive Society. The world really isn’t nearly as fucked up as I thought it was in my late teens. The world has probably never been fucked up and will never be fucked up. Who could objectively judge in that matter? Yes, we have gazillions of problems in our human society, but we are most likely not moving backwards even if the conservative right wing movement is strong these days.

Understanding at an ever deeper level the effect of being an organism which lives in an unfolding, evolving cultural flow, my mind keeps reaching for simplicity. For the greater picture. For the underlying patterns. For liberation.

Liberation. Ha!

Yes. I’ve never thought of that before. I wish to find answers to all my questions, to become liberated, free at last.

Foto: Aleksander Nordahl

Liberated from the human context? Hmm. No. More likely liberated from the cultural, historical context which pushes down on my mental sphere like a warm wool blanket, a muffling gray, made of thousands and thousands of separate strands of thoughts passed down by generations. A felted mess that I’m trying to untangle and rid myself of, because I can not stand n o t trying to do it. I aim for the stars, wish to have their far away perspective on this global society of ours.

The blissful here-and-now kind of mentality that I appreciate and can glide into when in nature, alone or with likeminded persons, can at other times make me furious when I’m interacting with random people. If they too are applying this mentality but in a way that displeases my moral self, my grand moral monster gets angry. If I have an underlying feeling that these persons are acting disrespectful towards the Earth and its ecosystems simply by not putting an effort into thinking new thoughts which allows them to widen their perception of life, of this magically interesting universe, I want to shake them and m a k e them think.

Come ON, think harder! Stop limiting yourself!

But I don’t do that. I can’t do that. I know the moral monster is not very good at judging others in an objective way. It’s so pumped up with fiery morally induced feelings that it itself is acting exactly like the persons in front of it, the persons it wants to shake. The moral monster is a rather stupid part of me. It does give me fire and strength to keep on looking for possible answers, but it also dumbs me down.

For now, one of my largest personal mental quests is to harness that part of myself, the moral monster, so that I peacefully can take another good look at society and the people creating it.

At the same time I’ll be enjoying the simplicity of freediving at an elite level for an extended period of time, attending the World Championships in a few weeks time. That’ll get me right into the flow of emptying the mind, so that afterwards I have made room for new philosophical endeavors.

 

As always, to be continued…

Back on the National Team in Freediving

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPhoto: Aleksander Nordahl, www.aleksandernordahl.com
Kielstraumen and Bekkasundet, Bergen, Norway, 2016

I’m a freediver.

Five years ago this was what came out of my heart:

And where was she? In a small fjord in Sweden, gurgling with happiness together with her freediving friends. She said: I too wanna go down with the weights! And so the rope got pulled up again by strong arms, the others watched her while she breathed in – and out – in – and out, and then with a big smile, she nodded and the rope was set free. So was she!
Soaring through the cold sea, down, down, her body vibrating from the speed, her eardrums going : pop : pop : pop : with every equalization, her eyes looking out into the darkness, visibility better than most days, she saw the thermocline passing by, the stinging jellyfish with their long tentacles spread out horizontally as if they were imitating the sun with beautiful rays shooting out from its centre. She saw the rocky grey wall, and thought – this is our own fantastic Green Hole, we don’t need to fly to blue holes in other parts of the world when we have this magic place to come to!
She hung down there for just a few seconds, then pulled once at the rope and started her swim towards the surface. Strong, smooth kicks, eyes semi-closed, just looking at the rope every now and then, and sensing the light coming back as she moved upwards. This was her world, right there and then, she was alone inside the most beautiful element on this planet: Water

Peace. Kick. Ful. Kick. Ness. Kick. Glide.
Breathe!
Alive! So alive!

Five years ago was the last time I was training for a World Championship. I had hubris. I had recently been crowned the worlds third best female freediver.

Five years ago I was crying at that WC because I couldn’t relax and reach my goals in the depth. Hubris…

Five years is not a very long time, yet it felt like an eon passed before I could go back to deep diving just for myself, for fun, for the bliss.

Something finally clicked inside me last year, allowing me access to myself and to the depth again. I calmed down like an excited electron coming back to an inner shell, after emitting sparks and energy further out. I had been spinning for so long… IMG_9792P1090246

This spring I came back to the competitive arena at the Swedish Championships, where I snatched a bronze medal in the only discipline me and my knee were fit to compete in: static apnea, aka ”holding-your-breath-while-lying-still-face-down-in-water”. That dive planted a first seed, a first thought of wanting to compete in the worlds this year with the women’s team. But I pushed it away, thinking my ACL, knee and leg wouldn’t be strong enough by September.

Still the seed grew inside me, and I joked about it with the ladies with whom I would like to have a team, and with the rest of my freediving crew here in Gothenburg. Then Tim said, ”you love freediving, you should go!” Thanks darlin.  So then I asked my physiotherapist what she thought and she said ”GO, you’ll be stronger than ever by then!” Oh. Wow. This lead to asking my bosses if I could have extra time of from the Botanical Garden and they said ”YES, that’s great for you, we’ll make it work!” Oh.

Really? I can go?
I can go!

HELLO! HELLOOOO SWEDISH FREEDIVERS! I WANT A SPOT ON THE TEAM!

I did another qualifying dive in the pool, not pushing it, just getting the score of a DYN, aka ”dive-as-long-as-you-can-with-fins-in-a-pool”. And that was that. Now the qualification window has closed and I’m in, back on the national team for the fifth time together with Linda and Sofia from Fridykarkommunen.se. I couldn’t have hoped for better comrades in this upcoming adventure! Come to think of it, these women are probably the first reason for me wanting to compete this year, because I trust them fully, I trust them with my life in the water, and I know we will rock together!13116245_516252981919290_7241338310897114731_o

I’m glad that my knee injury gave me the chance to grace myself with another shot at a playful, harmonious competition in freediving. Going back to compete in Kalamata, the same place as the last WC I was at in 2011, feels like closing a circle.

No crying this time 🙂

//ze zealion

Gardening the Planet

We all want and need things in life. The ”wants” can differ in all directions, wanting a job or a phone, wanting a girlfriend or a new life. Emotional needs like feeling special and wanted intermingle with physical needs such as food and shelter.

Having had the opportunity throughout life to figure out some of my own wants and needs, I tend to also go meta level to try to see the patterns of these wishes so that I can make them happen more easily and often.

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Just below Cerro Rincon, Silver Mountains, Argentina.

A huge need for me is to live my life in an adventurous way. Pushing my own limits is a constant source of energy, and the opposite – not pushing – is draining. That’s why I freedive. That’s why I climb. That’s why I surf, go long distance cycling, go paragliding, hike for weeks and do all kinds of personal athletic challenges. It’s also why I study, study and study some more – my brain is always in need of new facts, new input. That’s why I started a company and put myself in front of hundreds of students and listeners as an educator.

But, that last bit of starting a company is – in retrospect – also the point when things started getting a bit complicated a few years back. It turned out to be less of an adventure and more of an eroding experience. I turned out more stressed and less free. Sure, it gave me a huge chunk of experiences and new wisdom plus a weird, organically composed human network to tap into, but it also dragged me towards the center of the mass where I really don’t feel that I belong.

This, on the other hand, this is where I belong. In places in nature where most people would think they are about to die, because they’re out of air or just to tired to hold on.

I’m an edge person. I hate being stuck in the middle of something, be that a group of people or an area of science. The way I kindled my little company to life was very much in an edgy way, but in the end the entrepreneurial gravity started tugging at me, spinning me inwards. I was choking and leaking, unable to reset my navigation.

Here’s two important clues as to what happened:

  • I was working solo ==> Not feeding my brain enough, that is: To few deep work relations, to many shallow ones.
  • I was working odd hours ==> Not feeding my personal social adventurous life enough, but instead draining myself of energy.

So what do you do in that position? Keep on going, hoping that you’re soon over the hill and that on the other side you’ll be able to hire colleagues, get a work space and set a routine for your working hours so that you can also have some ”free” time again?

Nah. I did one of my meta level zoomed out analyses and figured it was better to go low key with the entrepreneurial stuff, get a job at an established workplace and start honing my skills and up my experience in the field where I have finally realized that I want to be (even though I have yet to discover on what step in the hierarchy I shall place myself).

That field could be called something like Gardening the Planet, in the most regenerative way possible. I am sure I will get there, and it will be together with others. Meanwhile, I will also hold a large space for adventure.

So here I am, about to start my second season at the Botanical Garden in Gothenburg. I actually feel like I own all my titles now, that I AM a gardener, an engineer, a permaculturist, and that even though I don’t have a paper stating that I’m an adventurer, that doesn’t matter because I’ve always been that. I’m still ranked as the best female freediver in Sweden of all times. I still biked all the way to Gibraltar to look over the strait at Africa while chatting with monkeys. I still moved to Argentina and became una andinista. Those experiences will never go away, and I will be forever grateful to myself for being so annoyingly stubborn that I keep on setting myself new, odd goals.

This summer, we will be swimming for 10 days in a fjord somewhere in Norway, our equipment stuffed on SUP-boards. I am so looking forward to this little adventure and the gardening season, before the larger 15-months adventure goes boom in 2017.

Oskar, Klara and Eric swimming with a longboard in Gullmarsfjorden, 2009.
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Forza! Norway, 2012. I had gotten stung by a wasp, my left foot supersized, unable to squeeze into a pair of climbing shoes. Hiking in flip flops was the alternative option.
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This summer, MounTim will come with me, the sealion, on an ocean adventure… yay!

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Unlocking water

(Press play before reading this)

Something important unlocked this weekend;

I got my ocean back!

When Emma and I sat out on our journey of creating Gemeko, I was simultaneously leaving another world behind. The world of competitive freediving. Since I first started diving on one breath back in 2003 I’ve been getting better and better, meter by meter and second by second. In average I added another 10 meters in depth every year, and in 2009 I reached my deepest most magic 73m – one of the loveliest dives I’ve ever had!

But after that dive which was during the World Championships of 2009, located at Dean’s Blue Hole in Bahamas, something shifted in me. I started pushing towards being the best, I started competing against others instead of competing against myself. And so, my ability to dive in a relaxed state of mind started to crumble…

However, during 2010 I gave myself some space, knowing I hadn’t trained very much in the water it felt OK to not add meters in the depth disciplines nor in the pool disciplines. And in the end, not pushing it to hard led to a very good total ranking of all six disciplines that year: 3rd best in the world!

Now, if you want to stay in the top league of whatever sport or profession you’re in, you’d better perform! If not – your out in the cold again. Or at least those were the facts my mind started accepting, and as my subconscious took it in I was struggling with wanting to only do nice dives for my own enjoyment compared to doing more forced dives to reach a high score.

In September 2011 I took the train from Gothenburg to Calamata, Greece, having decided that I was fit for another WC in the depth.

I was not.

I couldn’t get my head around why I was there freediving? I thought I did it because I loved the ocean, loved the pressure hugging me in the depth, loved soaring through the smooth water, loved being with my freediving tribe, loved pushing my body and mind… I wanted to dive for all those reasons but the truth was, I was competing to prove myself  to others.

Very – bad – idea!

That attitude will take you nowhere near the bliss of a perfect dive! I finished of the WC with a 50 m dive and went home. The process of straightening out the equation of [Klara + freediving + competition = Fun] started at once, and it’s still ongoing.

This weekend I have been judging the Swedish Mastership in Pool-Freediving, and guess what: It was FUN!

I did not feel a sting of angst for not competing myself, I was just happy for all the 40 athletes who did. It felt very, very good… I got my ocean back!

What has this got to do with Gemeko? Why am I writing about this topic here? Because Gemeko is a company which has a holistic vision of the future – and in that vision, one of the most important things is that the employees should feel great, be happy and live a fulfilling life. And for my part, freediving is an essential part of who I am and thus needs to have an uncontested space or place in my life.

Welcome back, water!