Ollech & Wajs has long been the choice of professional and sports divers. Siri Østvold fits into both categories. We caught up with her on the Island of Roatan in the Caribbean, to learn how she is pushing her own physical limitations to gain an even deeper affinity with the aquatic realm.
The ocean has for centuries been tempting humans to explore its depths, maintaining its allure by limiting our visits to only the briefest of moments. Perhaps now it is enacting a master plan to use us as its voice, in an attempt to reverse the devastation we have ravaged upon it. One such human it has chosen as its advocate is Siri Østvold. The Norwegian professional freediver and ocean explorer believes she was destined to help tell the ocean’s story.
The Norwegian fjords where the ocean coalesces with icy inland waters (Image: © Jonas Boström)
The tepid Caribbean waters of her current training base, on the Honduran island of Roatan, are a far cry from Scandinavia. But no matter where Siri is in the world, she is at home in the sea. For the next month she’ll be preparing for the Caribbean Cup world Freediving championship, undergoing a gruelling pre-competition conditioning programme. A typical day involves a morning of cardiovascular exercise, dynamic stretching, and strength training, followed by an afternoon of breath work in a pool, or on a static line in the ocean. After that come a couple of hours of meditation or yoga and maybe an ice bath before bed. Training a pair of lungs to do the job of a diving cylinder is gruelling, but that we have the capacity and resilience to go several minutes without breathing is testament to the natural capabilities of the human body.
Few are tuned into the environment more than the humble hunters. They are immersed in nature and recognise changes in the ecosystems. Spear fishers have long understood the importance of protecting their hunting ground (Image: ©Lael Aprieto)
‘I feel a connection with the story of the C-1000. Every time I dive with it, I feel like I am taking history with me, knowing that the watch descends from the historic Caribbean 1000, worn by some of the pioneers of competitive freediving. And I feel an extra connection to its history now that I am here with it in the Caribbean – its spiritual home.’
Siri is, of course, referring to the famous Ollech & Wajs Precision Caribbean 1000, which in 1963 became the first wristwatch certified to 1000 m, and to the record-breaking Italian skin divers who then wore it.
Being a competitive athlete is only part of Siri’s diverse resume. She is also an ocean expeditionist and explorer, her work ranging from researching microplastics in the North Pacific to close quarter study of predators of the Indian Ocean to ecosystem management off the coast of Dominica.
(Image: ©Eleanor Church)
Siri tends to go wherever the tide and the lunar cycle take her, listening to the ocean and relying on her inner compass. Every time she enters the sea, she learns something new and emerges feeling reenergised. Siri has experienced the ocean and its inhabitants in ways few of us ever will. Staring into the curious eyes of a ten-tonne Orca bull in the inky, cold Norwegian Sea, and sharing a temporal moment of deep mutual respect, changes your perspective forever. Feeling such a creature’s awesome scale and power but at the same time its desperate fragility – this is the type of encounter that reaffirms her mission. And part of that mission is to share her experiences and learnings wherever and whenever the opportunity arises, whether on the stage of a TED Talk, in documentary film making or by engaging the many remote island communities she comes into contact with.
‘I think just the simple act of putting a mask on and looking beneath the sea surface is something everybody should do once in a while, especially leaders in business and industry. If I am able to inspire someone to reconnect with the ocean in some way, I complete the circle.’
Siri Østvold is part of the OW Elite Professional Community and wears the OW C-1000. Full specifications here.