Freediver set to take on world record at Charlestown Swim Centre
Published on 16 November 2023
Perhaps Michaela Werner should have been a mermaid.
On land, the 44-year-old jokes she is “quite useless”, but in the water – especially the open ocean – she is at home.
“The ability to hold my breath comes naturally to me. I just relax and pretend to be a marine mammal, for at least a few precious minutes,” she says.
After almost 15 years of freediving at some of the most spectacular locations around the globe, Werner is poised to attempt an underwater swimming world record on Friday 17 November at Charlestown Swim Centre.
She will aim to swim 2.5km underwater in under an hour – 100 laps of the 25m pool without fins, and with only a short break at the end of each lap to recover and turn around.
“I actually only hold my breath for about 25 seconds during each lap, but multiply that by 100 and I will be holding my breath for almost 42 minutes in one hour,” she says.
“I think about my technique, feel the water on my face and focus on the meaning of one word, which we change every 10 laps.”
“Each word is something that inspires me to keep going. For example, ‘gratitude’, ‘compassion’, ‘grace’, ‘smoothness’.”
“I’ve done hundreds of laps like this. The focus word runs deep and becomes my superpower.”
Werner says the biggest challenges were mastering the technique to glide effortlessly underwater and building not only the physical endurance but the mental toughness to keep going.
“It’d be so tempting to just stop and breathe, yet I keep going,” she says.
“Dynamic no fins (the stye of swimming she will employ in her world record attempt) is the most technical discipline in freediving because it is so pure.”
“There is nowhere to hide and there are no fins to propel you forward, just your own body.”
While the underwater stroke looks almost effortless, Ms Werner said it took years of training to prepare for serious freediving feats.
She warned that people without training should not attempt it, due to the risk of blacking out underwater and drowning.
Lake Macquarie City Council Manager Leisure Services Brendan Callander said it was an honour to host the world record attempt at Charlestown Swim Centre.
“We’ve seen some amazing athletic performances and feats of endurance over the years in the pool, but this will be next-level,” he said.
Cheering Werner on during her 10.30-11.30am attempt, which starts at 10.30am, will be her husband, Jochen and their three children, Kristina, Thomas and Lukas.
She’s aiming to raise $10,000 from the world record attempt, with all money going to Take 3 For The Sea, a non-profit Australian organisation aiming to rid the oceans of plastic pollution.
The sport of freediving has been in the global spotlight in recent months with the release of the documentary The Deepest Breath on Netflix.
Werner plans to deep dive in the Blue Hole in Egypt next year – a freediving hotspot that featured heavily in the Netflix doco.
She said spectators were welcome to watch Friday’s world record attempt.
Go to mycause.com.au to donate and find out more.