WATCH: Umdloti mermaid on a mission

The ocean feels like home for Beth Neale and she is on a mission to help conserve it.

She effortlessly descends into the deep blue, her long blonde hair glistening as it catches the last rays of light.

This elegant manoeuvre is mastered by Umdloti mermaid, Beth Neale, who recently broke the South African constant weight no fins freediving record at Sodwana Bay moving the new mark from 43 to 47 metres in two minutes and 44 seconds.

Incredibly, 35-year-old Neale said she has never pushed herself to her limit.

So far her record under water has been more than five minutes.

“I stay safe and happy by increasing my diving depths and breath hold times gradually. I want to continue to come up from dives with a smile on my face.”

Being underwater has transformed Beth Neale and through Aqua Souls she hopes to share the joy and life lessons the ocean has given her.

In preparation for the record, the mermaid did everything from swimming apnea training, underwater yoga and even got her gangsta on with an underwater rapping performance.

“I like to keep my training fun! On land, I practiced freediving specific stretches to help with my breath hold and to increase my lung capacity. Meditation also helps me to achieve a calm, focused and still state of mind.”

Also read: Umdloti swimmer takes the ultimate dive at Commonwealth Games

Her passion for life under the sea was born during a post-matric family holiday in Mozambique.

“I had learnt to scuba dive, swam with dolphins and whale sharks for the first time and truly fell in love with the underwater world. It changed my life forever. It was the first time that I felt completely and deeply connected to something,” said Neale, who runs Aqua Souls – a company focused on empowering children and adults by building water confidence and developing freediving skills.

Beth Neale catching a quick selfie with her turtle friend.

She did her first freediving course while living in London in 2009 and despite her first real free dive experience being in a freezing quarry with zero visibility, she loved it!

Back in SA, she initially felt scared to freedive due to her fear of sharks.

“The fear completely disappeared when I encountered my first shark. I was in awe of its beauty.

“Now I try to spread awareness about these misunderstood fish. We need them to have healthy oceans and we have already lost too many of our sharks.”

Her most cherished underwater interaction was with a dolphin in Mozambique.

“One of the dolphins separated from the pod and dug in the sand with his nose while looking up at me. He swam towards me and I saw he had something small balanced on his nose. The dolphin then swam above me, tilted his nose down and dropped the object which slowly drifted right into my hand. My heart stopped. A wild dolphin had just given me the gift of a pansy shell! It was the happiest and most significant moment of my life.”

“I hope to help other people fall in love with this incredible, lifesupporting blue water world as I have.”

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  AUTHOR
Elana Wagner
Journalist

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